It was a Selkirk College reunion that played out before millions of television viewers across Canada and the United States on Wednesday morning.
Selkirk College Contemporary Music & Technology Program Instructor Gilles Parenteau and program alumna Kiesza performed together on ABC’s Good Morning America, the number-one rated morning news program in the US that broadcasts to more than 5.1 million homes a week south of the border. Kiesza was at the New York City studio to perform “Stronger,” the lead single off the new Finding Neverland musical soundtrack. Accompanying Kiesza on stage was Parenteau who provided the one-man band with his Virtual Symphony rig.
Selkirk College Contemporary Music & Technology Program instructor Gilles Parenteau on his Virtual Symphony rig which he brought to New York City where he performed on Good Morning America with program alumna Kiesza on the Wednesday morning. (photo courtesy Gilles Parenteau)
It’s the latest chapter in Kiesza’s meteoric rise to fame in the pop world that began early in 2014 with her breakthrough single “Hideaway.” The Finding Neverland project sees the 26-year-old included on an album that has pulled together artists such as Jennifer Lopez, Jon Bon Jovi, the Goo Goo Dolls, Christina Aguilera, Nick Jonas and John Legend to perform the songs from popular Broadway musical.
“I was really shocked when I saw all the artists that were singing… I was like ‘wow all of these people,’” she said before taking the stage earlier this week. “I was very honoured that I was included.”
Kiesza then introduced her “special guest” who was brilliant on his multi-keyboard set up that allows the veteran Selkirk College instructor to play all the instruments on the track.
Getting Off to a Great Start in Nelson
Kiesza graduated from the Tenth Street Campus-based music program in 2009. From there she went onto to Berklee College of Music in Boston which allowed her to make inroads into the New York music scene.
While attending Selkirk College and living in Nelson, Kiesa Rae Ellestad—as she was known at the time—developed a strong bond with Parenteau.
Kiesa Rae Ellestad (front middle left) graduated from the Selkirk College Contemporary Music & Technology Program in 2009 and has since gone onto to an explosive pop career.
"Gilles was a huge influence on me, he really pushed me,” she said. “Music is a tough world and that’s the first thing they tell you… the odds are against you. And it’s true. But Gilles really believed that I could do this and he pushed me above and beyond what you expect an instructor to do.”
The feeling of respect was mutual.
“She’s smart because she knows you need to be well-rounded in this industry,” said Parenteau, who has taught at Selkirk College since 1990. “It’s not about being able to dance, sing and look good… you need more than that. To be able to write songs like she can, that helps your career in such an important way.”
Most importantly, Parenteau said that the rising star is a solid human being.
“She is a very generous person and that can’t be underestimated,” he said. “It’s a huge key element for musicians to have a generous personality and she has totally got that.”
An Incredible Journey to Stardom
The infectious sounding “Hideaway” was released in February, 2014 and the impressive single-take video that accompanied the song propelled Kiesza to fame. The video currently has more than 26 million views on You Tube and that was just the beginning. In October 2014, she released Sound of a Woman which spawned even more hits.
Kiesza and Selkirk College Instructor Gilles Parenteau performing on Good Morning America on June 10.
This past spring, Kiesza captured three Juno Awards—Video of the Year, Breakthrough Artist of the Year and Dance Recording of the Year—and has been touring non-stop where she has played venues of all sizes including the Cochella and Sasquatch music festivals. In between she has become a spokesperson for Fendi, written songs for an upcoming album by Rhianna and continued to build an impressive fan base.
Finding Neverland is a new Broadway production based on the Academy Award winning film which is the story of how Peter became Pan. It follows playwright J.M. Barrie “as he summons the courage to become the writer—and the man—he yearns to be.” Barrie finds inspiration when he meets the beautiful widow Sylvia and her four young sons Jack, George, Micheal and Peter.
The musical is one of the most popular shows in New York City and was recently part of the 69th Tony Awards where Kiesza had the opportunity to introduce the musical number which featured the two Broadway leads, Matthew Morrison (from Glee fame) and Kelsey Grammer.
With her latest stop on Good Morning America, there’s no sign of Kiesza’s rise through the music business slowing down.
“She is probably the most determined person I’ve ever met… nothing can stop that girl,” Parenteau said. “She’s the kind of person you don’t forget.”