For the second year in a row, Sylvan Lake local Ainsley McCallum – who goes by Ainsley Elisa when performing – was a contender at the Calgary Stampede Talent Search.
The 16-year-old performer made it to the semi-finals of the competition, a step beyond the preliminary stage she made it to last year.
“It was awesome,” Ainsley said. “I felt like I had grown and they saw that.”
It wasn’t just her performance capabilities that have grown since last stepping out onto the Stampede Search stage. She says she was also much more confident in her singing and in herself.
Her professionalism also grew and developed over the year, she says. Which came in handy when speaking with the band during the dress rehearsals.
“I was really uncomfortable talking to people [last year], especially when it came to the band and telling them what I wanted,” she said.
Learning to be more decisive and professional helped during the very short dress rehearsals, when she had between 10 and 15 minutes to figure out what she wanted for the one song she would sing.
“You got 10 minutes with the band for a dress rehearsal the morning of the show, so you had to know what you wanted and how to get it.”
Ainsley sang an original song for the competition, one she says she has been working on for the past year.
Playing with a band is a little different than usual for Ainsley. During a performance it is normally just herself on stage, often with an instrument.
For the talent search competition, Ainsley sang and played the piano along with the accompanying band.
“It adds another level to the performance, and something else I could potentially screw up,” she said with a laugh.
Both Ainsley and her mother Elisabeth McCallum can remember what started Ainsley life-long affair with the stage and performing.
They say it all started with Jacob Hoggard, lead singer of the band Hedley.
It started with watching him on Canadian Idol back in 2004.
“It’s always been Jacob. It Jacob everything just about,” said Elisabeth.
That same year the mother-daughter pair watched the 58th Annual Tony Awards as saw Idina Menzel perform “Defying Gravity” from the musical Wicked on stage.
It was like something clicked, and Ainsley was now set on the path of being a performer.
“My dad was like, ‘Be a NASCAR driver’ and I’m like 3-years-old so I’m like “Sure”. And then I think it was like a month later Mom and I were watching the Tony awards and I was like “Just kidding, I don’t want to be a NASCAR driver. Nope,” Ainsely said.
Since these life changing moments, Ainsley has worked to become a better singer and musician.
She has taken dance lesson and music lessons while working to improve her songwriting.
“I am so proud of her. So very, very proud,” said Elisabeth.
Elisabeth says it is amazing to watch her daughter’s talent “bloom”. Watching her take to the stage is an amazing experience, she says.
“Sometimes I just cry when I see her, but they are happy tears,” Elisabeth said.
Attending H.J. Cody in the fall for Grade 11, Ainsley hopes to be able to audition for the school’s production, as she hasn’t had the opportunity to do so in the past.
She would also like to put out an EP of her original songs, but hasn’t figured out what she needs to do to get that done.
“I want to one day play on stages in cities across the world,” Ainsley said, adding she would also love to appear on Broadway.
This summer she has a few performances lined up, including singing at Stampede. On July 19 she performed at Heritage Park in Calgary and in a couple weeks she will be singing in Edmonton.
Before performances get to out of control, Ainsley plans to take a few moments for herself.
“I plan on taking a nap first, and then I’m going to look for more performance opportunities,” she said.
More on Ainsley can be found through her various social media platforms including Facebook and YouTube where she is AinsleyElisa, and Instagram as ainsleyelisaoffical.