Drumheller musicians are shining at this year’s Calgary Stampede.
The Calgary Stampede Youth Talent Contest is in full swing, and after the first elimination, four of the top 28 acts going into the final stretch of the contest are artists from the area. They include, David Epp of the Hussar area, Courtney Morse accompanied by Kyle Gerlinger, Misha Maseka, and the Russell Brothers, featuring Matt and Alex Russell. These four acts will know by the weekend if they are selected to be the top talent entered at the Calgary Stampede.
“The experience was even better than last year,” said Courtney who was in the contest at the last Stampede. “The calibre of competition is unbelievable. It’s very intimidating being surrounded by so many very talented people. It makes you want to perform better and give it all that you have.”
Morse and Gerlinger performed their rendition of 'Break Even' by the Script.
“It’s a fantastic song, and popular so we thought we could get the audience hooked into it, but still make it our own,” she said.
All of the Drumheller acts were able to use a house band at the performance to back their performance. Misha performed 'Glitter in the Air' by Pink, and was blown away by the calibre of the backing band.
“It was so good, these guys have been playing for about 30 years,” she said.
This might have been one of the biggest stages that David has played on. While he has shared the stage with his father since he was little, he stepped out on his own with his guitar and performed Johnny Cash’s 'Folsom Prison Blues'.
David grew up on a farm in the Hussar area, and has decided to finish his high school at St. Anthony’s School. He was inspired to enter the competition at a DCHS grad fundraiser where last year’s talent contest champion Calum Graham performed. He urged many of the local artists to try out. It was a long process.
"There were a few days of auditioning, and I went on the last day," said David. “There were 200 people that tried out, and 70 made it into the first round, and out of that, 28 made it to the semi final.”
The Russell Brothers also pulled out the Cash; Johnny, that is. They performed their own arrangement of 'Ring of Fire'.
“The audience was totally into it,” said Matt of their rendition of the country classic.
Stage presence is also important, and Matt, who performed with an upright bass, got the crowd going by climbing his bass and jumping off while the instrument spun.
The Russell Brothers, Misha and David performed on Thursday, and Courtney is performing on Friday. The top 14 from these two showcases will move onto Saturday’s show where the top talent will be selected.
Misha attributes the success of the Drumheller performers to a strong, supportive music scene in the valley, especially in light of cuts to music programs.
“There is something in the water in Drumheller, it’s kinda weird, but it is really, really exciting though,” she said. “I think with the absence of it (music program) people want it more…without access to an outlet people are kind of doing it on their own.
“There is a pretty vibrant music scene here. Musicians know musicians and we get together and support each other.”