He’s drummed in Italy and Indianapolis, but none of Michael Levia’s concert band experience has quite compared to performing at the Juno Awards.
“It was unreal, amazing,” said Levia who, with fellow Red Deer drummer Riley Parker, shared the stage with singing sensation Alessia Cara during the Juno broadcast from the Calgary Saddledome.
The 18-year-old percussionists are both members of the Calgary Stampede Band. At a practice in mid-March, one of their instructors — who also works as a sound engineer in the music industry — called a special meeting of the drum line. The musicians were asked they were interested in performing live on stage at the Junos on April 3.
Levia remembers feeling astonished and thrilled at the prospect. “I said, absolutely!”
But the momentum had to build for Parker. Once he made sure the Junos didn’t conflict with his work schedule, he said, “I thought it would be cool to be on national television.”
The group of 10 young drummers from the Stampede Band learned a new piece of music to go with Cara’s song Wild Things. With two rehearsals and then a final dress-rehearsal the morning of the show, Levia concluded it wasn’t a difficult beat to pound out on multi-tenor drums (five different-sized drums mounted together). “It was for showmanship, really.”
The hardest part was playing for an audience of 10,000-plus in the sold-out Saddledome.
The jitters don’t usually affect Levia, a former member of the Red Deer Royals, who performed in umpteen parades, at the Calgary Stampede and in Italy and then Indianapolis, Indiana, with the Stampede Band.
But when a stage screen was raised, revealing the packed-to-the-rafters arena stands, he recalled, “I’ve never been as nervous… My knees were shaking, and I could hardly feel my feet… ”
Parker, who’s also a former Royal, said “It didn’t really hit me until I was on stage and saw the size of the crowd that the Junos were a really big thing.”
The young drummers didn’t get much chance to fraternize with stars, such as host Jann Arden, but they got to meet Cara, who gave them signed photos. They also enjoyed the rest of the concert, which included such high-wattage Canadian entertainers as Bryan Adams and The Weeknd. “The Weeknd was great!” recalled Levia.
The whole experience was a once-in-a-lifetime thrill.
Neither Levia, a Grade 12 student at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, nor Parker, who graduated last year from Thurber, intend careers in music. Levia plans to attend the University of Alberta for business and psychology courses in the fall, and Parker plans to go to Red Deer College to study commerce.
But both drummers say they will continue making music in their spare time. Parker is also considering becoming a teacher with the Red Deer Royals.