Some of country music’s biggest stars are set to take the stage at Big Valley Jamboree this weekend — but it’s a group of up-and-comers who are expected to shine.
“We have a stage that’s actually been featured for the last 20 years,” said Irma MacPherson, producer and director of the ACMA Horizon Stage, which features new and young Canadian artists.
“We’ve put a competition together that helps in mentoring and developing young artists under the age of 18 to help them progress to the next level.”
Kristin Grace, 16, is one of the 36 competitors who will get to grace the stage at BVJ.
“It’s my first year doing performances like this,” said Grace.
She only recently began performing in front of live audiences in February and was selected for the Road to the Main Stage Program earlier this year.
The Balzac native, who taught herself to play guitar, has been training with her fellow competitors for the last four months, learning the ins and outs of performing.
“I just love going out there and giving everything that I have and if that’s what people enjoy, that’s amazing,” Grace said.
Even if she doesn’t come away a winner this year, she is already grateful just to have had the experience of singing on a stage that has and will see some of the industry’s top talent.
“Being on the same stage that Lindsay Ell is going to be and Brett Kissel and Brooks and Dunn, that’s pretty, pretty cool!” exclaimed Grace.
Both Ell and Kissel came through the same program years earlier at BVJ.
“One of our alumni, Brett Kissel is going to be on the stage on Sunday night just before Brooks and Dunn and so we’re pretty excited about that,” said MacPherson.
She noted that Ell, Tenille Townes and Aaron Goodvin are among other recognizable Canadian talents to have done the program.
Calgary’s Kaleigh Jo Kirk also came through the program, first performing on the BVJ stage at 10 years old.
“I got in, I got to perform so finally I got to go camping with my parents and see all the concerts and have fun and stuff like that,” said Kirk, who comes from a country music-loving family.
“I did end up winning the competition, which kind of springboarded me into new opportunities, which was awesome,” added the 21-year-old.
She will act as the MC for the same competition she won in 2015.
Kirk recently graduated from Belmont University’s School of Music in Nashville and has opened for Lee Brice and Lady Antebellum. She is currently back in Calgary where she is continuing to pursue her dream of becoming a full-time recording artist and is a finalist in Country 105’s Rising Star competition.
“If it weren’t for things like Big Valley, I wouldn’t have the performing etiquette or stage presence that I have now because it really is practice, practice, practice that makes you the best,” said Kirk.