This Burnaby family's out to win Canadian Family's Got Talent

The Maddock family of North Burnaby has been selected for the semifinals of a new national competition, and you can vote online to help them make the finals

The Maddock household has pretty much always been full of music.

There’s dad Steve, a professional jazz singer, pianist, choral singer and musical theatre performer who’s been known to throw in some trumpet playing. There’s mom Siri Olesen, a professional singer, music director, educator and pianist. There’s daughter Aubrey, who sings and plays violin. And there’s son Kai, who offers up drums and saxophone.

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Now the North Burnaby foursome is out to prove they’re one of Canada’s most talented families.

They’ve been chosen as semifinalists in Canadian Family’s Got Talent, a new contest that’s being run by Citytv’s Breakfast Television and America’s Got Talent.

Families across the country were invited to submit videos showcasing their particular talent – from music to dance to magic – and semifinalists are being featured on Breakfast Television out of Toronto each morning until May 13. The Maddocks were featured on May 5.

Entering the contest happened on a bit of a whim.

Maddock notes the family has been jamming together pretty much every day since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, when both Maddock and Olesen found their lives as professional musicians put on hold.

“Gigs just can’t happen right now,” Maddock pointed out. “Even if I was scheduled to be performing with a duo or a trio in a small café, not even that can happen. … I have a lot of colleagues in the musical theatre industry whose shows have been cancelled; entire seasons have been cancelled.”

Their lives as choral singers have also been put on indefinite hold. Maddock currently sings with the 12-voice professional ensemble musica intima; Olesen is on leave from the same group.

But musica intima, as with all other choirs, is also on hiatus – and possibly for an extended period of time.

“The Vancouver choral community is reeling right now,” Maddock said, noting a recent international webinar that explored the near-term future of group singing and came to the conclusion that choral singing is one of the most effective ways to spread COVID-19.

“Singing is one of the worst things you can do,” Maddock pointed out. “You’re emoting all these droplets while you sing.”

Though musicians have continued to make music virtually, using a variety of online tools to merge individually recorded parts, it’s not like making music together.

“The problem with online is there’s no web conferencing platform, Zoom or Facetime or Skype or whatever - there’s no platform that allows you to do things from different locations in real time without there being latency and time lag,” Maddock pointed out. “People can’t play music together in real time.”

That, he said, has been hard on people in the music world.

“A lot of musicians are really hurting,” he said. “There are a lot of heavy hearts right now.”

Take all of that as a backdrop, then add in the fact that the household has two teenagers at home – 13-year-old Kai, who’s about finish his elementary school career at Montecito Elementary, and 18-year-old Aubrey, who’s set to graduate from Burnaby Mountain Secondary.

“Neither one of them get to really enjoy the grad festivities,” Maddock said. “It’s been a real drag for our kids in that way. They’re doing their schooling online. It’s going OK, but even Kai is saying, ‘Man, I really wish I could just go back to school and have things the way they were.’”

Their saving grace? Music.

“We’ve done little family jam sessions from time to time, but as soon as the quarantine isolation started, we were doing something almost on a nightly basis,” Maddock said. “We would just kind of take turns playing different instruments and singing.”

He’s been whipping up arrangements of a variety of songs for those nightly sessions and then recording them on his phone. One of those videos was an arrangement of the Louis Prima jazz classic Banana Split For My Baby, featuring Maddock on piano and lead vocals, with backing by Olesen and Aubrey, and percussion by Kai.

Maddock shared it to Facebook, thinking family and friends might get a kick out of it – and, overnight, it unexpectedly “kinda exploded” on his page. Friends of friends of friends were sharing it, and in no time it had 1,000 views.

People Maddock doesn’t even know were commenting on the video, with a whole host of comments along the lines of: “Please post more of these; you have no idea how you have affected my day” and “That was three minutes where I didn’t have to think about the fact that I’m not working or how I’m going to pay my rent.”

The reaction was a reminder to Maddock of the incredible healing power of music – and of people’s yearning for positivity and hope in a world that’s full of negative stories.

“It made me realize, with the climate right now on all the social media platforms, people are just aching for live content and anything that’s going to give them even a brief diversion from all the anxiety and uncertainty and all the gloom and doom,” he said.

When a Facebook friend alerted him to the Canadian Family’s Got Talent contest, Maddock decided, “Why not?”

So he sent in the video, and within a couple of days, he’d heard back from a Breakfast Television producer in Toronto inviting them to appear on the show.

Their video is now live online with the other semifinalists’ entries.

Starting May 14, audiences across Canada will have a chance to vote for their favourites, and three finalists’ videos will be seen and judged by none other than Simon Cowell of American Idol and America’s Got Talent fame.

Maddock has never been a big follower of the reality talent shows, so he knew of Cowell’s curmudgeonly persona only by reputation. But if the family could hit the finals and have their video judged by Cowell?

“It’d be fun to get to that point and be able to hear what he has to say, for sure,” Maddock said.

Regardless of the outcome of the contest, though, he wants his family to keep making music together.

“Once COVID is over and we get back to whatever the new normal is, … I hope that my family continues to have these regular jam sessions in our living room,” Maddock said. “It’s definitely been good for us.”

 

WANT TO VOTE?

Watch the Maddocks and cast your vote for them at https://www.breakfasttelevision.ca/contests/canadian-familys-got-talent/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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