She came. She saw. She shredded.
The only female contestant in this year’s Music! Not Mischief sixth annual concert at the Virgin Mobile Mod Club, Jessica Leslie outplayed 15 other guitarists to clinch the top prize.
The Grade 10 Niagara region student also made history by becoming the first winner to secure a perfect score.
“This is the best day of my life,” said the Lakeshore Catholic High School student. “I was very excited to come to Toronto. I felt at home here and very comfortable on stage. Music is my life and this is a dream come true.”
Leslie, who started playing the guitar six years ago and is the second Niagara student to win the competition in successive years, performed Led Zeppelin’s Rock N’ Roll.
“They are my favourite band and I like playing them,” she said.
This year’s participants included Jesse Cook, Jin-Bae Young, Fernando Tedesqui, John Minerva, Ronan Ua’Siaghail, Julian D’Souza, Tristan Rice-Kimberly, Kyle Robinson, Nicolas Barsoum, Steven Outar, Tim Connors, Matt Shank, Caleb Copps-Steinberg, Anthony Gaetano and Tenzim Zaman.
Each participant was presented with the guitars they played.
With the support of ProAction Cops and Kids, Constable Robert Tajti collaborated with Mike Carparelli of Carparelli Guitars and Canadian rock band Tracenine to start the program that provides high school students with lunchtime guitar lessons and pro-community, anti-crime and anti-drug messages.
ProAction Cops & Kids, a charity that funds initiatives pairing youth with police, sponsors the program while Carparelli Guitars provides the musical instruments.
“It’s very satisfying to see the kids moving through the process,” said Tajti.
A popular venue for live performances and concerts, the Virgin Mobile Mod Club was rocking for about two hours as the students exhibited their artistic talents for an enthused audience and celebrity judges Platinum Blonde lead singer and drummer Mark Holmes and Dan Todd, city councillors Mark Grimes and Sarah Doucette and Superintendents Mark Fenton and Heinz Kuck, of 43 and 11 Divisions.
“The atmosphere was absolutely electric. Just imagine the sense of accomplishment that a young person feels after practicing hard for months, coached by a police officer and then plays a complex instrument and stand up on a stage with all the strobe lights, massive speakers, a cheering crowd and accompanying professional rock band,” Kuck said.
“This is where all the time, energy and effort that Rob has put into the program over the past six years have come to fruition. It was clear in the eyes, faces and smiles of the entrants and on how passionate they were in their performances and that this was their moment, their day and their time. The conclusion of the event didn’t mark the end of the process. It marks the beginning of a new trajectory for these young people to craft a better life, thanks to Rob and all his contacts, friends and associates.”
Tajti, who works out of 11 Division and was introduced two years ago to Holmes who co-owns the Mod Club, dedicated this year’s concert to the memory of Pro Action Cops & Kids executive director Virginia DiRoma who succumbed to cancer two weeks ago.
“She was very instrumental in helping us to shape this program,” said Tajti.
CTV News police and crime reporter Tamara Cherry was the MC while Tracenine and Little Sunday provided musical support for the student guitarists.