Ones to Watch 2016

Meet five aspiring artists and performers who are taking their talent to the next level

Charlotte Eriksen, AirdrieCharlotte Eriksen, multi-talented musician

Charlotte Eriksen was five years old when she watched her brother play in his high school concert band; the moment was pivotal for her.

“It was mind-blowing for me,” she says. “I just knew that music was something I wanted to do.”

This 18-year-old Airdrian, who recently graduated from St. Martin de Porres high school, is a gifted musician and definitely someone to watch.

She sings soprano, and plays several genres of music, handily switching between clarinet, trumpet, trombone and the more-difficult bassoon.

“Honestly, the main reason I chose to play the bassoon … was because my band teacher at the time was a bassoonist, and when she said it was a super difficult instrument to play, I was all for it.”

Eriksen has performed with the Alberta Honour Band, has won numerous school awards, including the Linda Bennett Memorial Music Award for Grade 12 student leadership and musical involvement, and successfully auditioned for the University of Calgary’s music program where she hopes to join the orchestra. As well, she’s joined the Ambrose University chamber orchestra, and plans to pursue her passion for jazz.

“I can’t wait to meet and work with many more talented musicians.”

Connor Wilde, AirdrieConnor Wilde, future jazzman

Connor Wilde began playing the trumpet in Grade 6 band because it was difficult to play.

“That’s how I am,” he says. “I don’t like not being able to do something.”

The 18-year-old Airdrian, who recently graduated from Bert Church High School, already has two firm career goals: perform and teach music.

He attributes these aspirations to his mother, who introduced him to piano when he was five, and to his trumpet instructor, Johnny Summers, director and founder of the Calgary Jazz Orchestra.

“He’s my inspiration. I saw him (play) and said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’”

Wilde is entering the University of Calgary’s music program this fall, specializing in trumpet. Though piano was his first instrument – he recently passed his Grade 10 Royal Conservatory exam – trumpet is his passion.

“I like the free-ness of jazz,” he says. “Classical, there’s one way to do it, but jazz, you make it up as you go.”

Wilde, who teaches piano, says he would like to also teach school band someday.

But for now: “There’s university … and I plan to find various jazz bands to play with.”

Keep your eye on this young jazzman.

Emma Gallagher, AirdrieEmma Gallaher, energetic actor

Ask Emma Gallaher how she got into acting, and she’ll tell you it all began at the age of 10 with a drama class in which she felt too shy to participate.

“As soon as I got up on stage, though, I felt incredibly confident. It just had one of those magical energies around it,” Gallaher says.

That energy led this 21-year-old, who grew up and lives in Airdrie, to spend a year in Los Angeles studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and then to join Calgary’s celebrated Scorpio Theatre.

While at Scorpio, Gallaher and several other actors formed the Arcturus Players, who recently toured the Canadian Fringe Festival circuit in places such as Ottawa, Toronto and Hamilton performing Searching for Party, their original play about gamer culture.

“It’s been a pretty wild couple of years,” she says.

Gallaher’s “end-goal” is not to be famous, but to perform on a local main stage, where acting is more about “the craft, the art and the people.”

Ultimately she wants to do acting workshops for kids who are shy and may feel they don’t have a voice or the opportunity to express what they feel.

“Acting brings out the magic in people.”

Michelle Orsten, AirdrieMichelle Orsten, exceptional visual artist

Michelle Orsten is a young, unpretentious artist with the ability to translate her interpretation of the world into stunning visual pieces.

Her art, which ranges from pencil to multimedia, from dark and emotional, to mystical and intricate, is largely inspired by her feelings and what she wants to say.

“I’m not sure when it began. I’ve always drawn,” she says.

This 18-year-old Bert Church High School graduate was 11 when she sold a piece of art for $700 as part of a fundraising auction.

Using that money, her father, who is an auctioneer, bought five prints from Okotoks artist Bernie Brown, and a year later, together with a piece from Orsten, they raised $15,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society.

“It felt really good, because I knew the money was going to a good cause,” says Orsten.

Several artists inspire her, but her fine arts teacher, Lisa Tschritter, has been Orsten’s mentor.

“She takes me to art shows and she’s always really supportive.”

Orsten would like to find work in the art industry, but for now she’s enrolled at the Alberta College of Art and Design.

“I’d like to experience more before I think about what I’d like to do for a career.”

Kieran Clarke, AirdrieKieran Clarke, a voice for the shadows

Kieran Clarke, a.k.a. rapper Shadow in the Dark, has received a lot of press lately, but he isn’t looking for fame.

“My goal is to help people. I could be a therapist, but this works a lot better,” he says.

Clarke, who is 16 and attends W.H. Croxford High School, says he has been bullied for years.

His experiences are reflected in his original lyrics as well as his rapper name, which came to him when a student was threatening, “to come find me and hurt me.”

Clarke thought to himself, “Good luck with that, I’m like a shadow in the dark.”

It’s a word play, he says, but it describes the issues of bullying, self-harm and depression that students often face alone.

“You don’t see a shadow in the dark, it’s invisible.”

His love of rap has led Clarke and a friend to create Airdrie Rap Battles, a performance venue for young rappers, and he’s also signed with Airdrie’s Patriot’s Art Group, where Clarke and rapper Delion Patriots are producing his first album.

This will add to his already impressive list of material, which can be found on YouTube.

“I never thought I’d be here. It’s a real confidence booster.”

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