The Highlands Buckslide Blues Society held its high school competition throughout May and June – for music students to compete in the genre for a chance to win an all-expenses paid spot at the Grand River Blues Camp at the Kitchener Blues Festival.

The student musicians were judged in areas such as originality, content, vocals, instrumental and stage presence. The judges were Mark Riemenschneider, of the HBBS board, Rich Anton, a local harmonica player, and CanoeFM Blues radio show host, Judy Timgren, who sings and plays the guitar. They were joined by Penny Randall Mowbray, a host with CanoeFM, and another local musician on ukulele and guitar.

Austin Bacon finished first, and Viliya Ianovskaia second, while Lillie Fendley got an honourable mention.

What set the winners apart was “definitely their skill,” said Louise Ewing, chair of the HBBS.

“Austin also sang when he played, which is a really difficult thing to do, so we recognized that was more challenging than just singing or just playing,” said Ewing of Bacon’s first-place win.

Bacon said, “it means a lot to me [to win first place], because music’s had a big influence in my life. I’ve always loved music, and music’s been a big part of my life.”

Ianovskaia said, “I was very happy when I realized I got second place. I didn’t expect it. I liked the competition. I had fun while participating in it. I love music. It gives me reassurance in my passion and my skills, and I want to pursue music in the future. So, it does mean quite a lot.”

Ewing added, “we’re all about encouraging youth into the genre so that it can continue on.”

The blues society promotes blues music culture, education, and supports youth and artists through venues and projects that unite blues societies worldwide.