For five years the Roadhouse Live Youth Talent Search provided local young people (up to 19 years old) an opportunity to showcase their musical talents – in any genre – in friendly competition.
It’s been the place where such winning Semiahmoo Peninsula performers as Tommy Alto, Alanna and Brianne (now known as Fionn) Curtis Heimburger and Josh Bogert made a first local splash before going on to further triumphs.
Originally known as Diamond in the Rock, the contest early on found a nurturing home at the eclectically decorated Roadhouse Grille restaurant on King George Boulevard, where it was a natural project to express the community-mindedness of owners Dwayne and Sharon Jacobson.
Sadly, Dwayne passed away on Feb. 16 after an eight-month battle with cancer.
In the aftermath of the family’s loss one might have expected the youth contest to have fallen by the wayside, or at least been suspended for a year.
But that’s not going to happen, said the couple’s daughter Lise Houweling, who’s taking up what she terms the “honour and huge challenge” of restaging the contest for 2016 – with the help of long-time organizer, Dennis Peterson, also known as the Peninsula’s ‘King of the Open Mic’.
It’s a tribute to Dwayne – who loved the idea of offering a helping hand to support young people in the arts – and a fitting memorial for him, Houweling said.
“The competition was (dad’s) baby. I wasn’t going to let it go.”
Starting April 6, the Roadhouse Live Youth Talent Search will be back at the restaurant every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. until May 25.
Semifinalists selected at each session will compete for top and runner-up positions at the final concert, June 12 at Blue Frog Studios.
Prizes will include gift certificates for musical equipment from Tapestry Music, studio time, career development sessions and a chance to appear at both White Rock’s Canada Day and Sea Festival events.
“There’s no bottom age for contestants,” Peterson said, noting that, aside from the age limit of 19, the only other requirement is that contestants live south of 40 Avenue and west of the Surrey-Langley border (at 196 Street).
One of four daughters, Houweling was the only one who worked with her parents in managing the restaurant. Together with her husband she’s plunged into continuing day-to-day operations of the business, while Sharon stays with an older sister back east.
The contest also coincides with a long-planned expansion of the business – the launch of the Roadhouse 2 Go take-out offering artisan pizzas and frozen entrees – but Houweling says she doesn’t mind.
As the mother of four daughters, three in their teen years – and a son just 13 months old – as well as having one grandchild, she’s used to juggling responsibilities.
And she’s proud to continue the vision of her dad, who imprinted every aspect of the restaurant with his own lively and imaginative personality.
“He built it, he designed it,” she said, noting that as owners of the strip mall where it is located, Dwayne and Sharon took over a pre-existing restaurant business in 2004, ultimately building new premises for it on the property.
It became a labour of love for her dad, and he threw himself into every aspect of creating a unique and unusual decor, she said.
“Everything is him – he’s still there,” she said. “In one way, that’s very comforting, but in another way there’s a huge hole, because he’s not there. It still feels like he’s away on a business trip.”
Evidence of the fondness with which Dwayne was regarded by competition contestants can be seen in a song tribute past winner Heimburger posted on his Facebook page.
What distinguishes the contest as an opportunity for young performers to learn and grow, Peterson said, is that unlike similar competitions, it doesn’t rely on YouTube submissions to select finalists.
“We’re the only one where everyone gets to go on stage. There’s something about getting up and doing it live – there’s a whole risk element, and they learn how to deal with all kinds of audiences. And because it’s live, they have to practise.”
What is consistently amazing is the talent that emerges from the contest, he said, adding that even non-winners have found it a valuable showcase.
“We have great new kids coming up all the time – there must be some great music teachers in the schools.”
Houweling knows all about that – she was once a student of famous Semiahmoo Secondary band guru Dave Proznick and has fond memories of band contest trips to Kamloops and Idaho.
Although she didn’t continue in music, the experience informs her understanding of the importance of fostering the arts in the community.
“Let’s face it, we’re not doing the contest to make money. It doesn’t bring us a lot of business – and we have a lot of coffee and water drinkers there. But by doing something that benefits the community – in the long run, that is good for business.”
And she knows that by continuing Roadhouse Live, she’s doing right by her dad.
“He would be so disappointed if it didn’t go on,” she said. “He was a workaholic – if I hadn’t done it, he would have told me pull your boots up, get going.
“And the contest is a beautiful legacy.”
For more information on the contest and how to book performances, email Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 604-728-9334 or visit the Roadhouse Live Facebook page.