Lauren Spencer-Smith in Hawaii during ‘American Idol’ tapings. Her elimination from the singing competition was the most read arts and entertainment story of 2020. (Lauren Spencer-Smith Instagram)

Lauren Spencer-Smith in Hawaii during ‘American Idol’ tapings. Her elimination from the singing competition was the most read arts and entertainment story of 2020. (Lauren Spencer-Smith Instagram)

Nanaimo News Bulletin’s top 10 most-read arts and entertainment stories of 2020

Nanaimo singer Lauren Spencer-Smith and her ‘American Idol’ journey well represented in top 10

1. Nanaimo teen won’t be next American Idol, but she’s excited about her future in music, May 3

A teen singer from Nanaimo didn’t win American Idol, but she’s nevertheless excited about what’s ahead in her music career.

The reality TV talent show whittled its top 20 contestants down to a top 10, and it was revealed that Lauren Spencer-Smith wouldn’t be advancing.

In a social media post, the 16-year-old thanked American Idol for the opportunity and also thanked everyone who voted for her to try to lift her into the top 10.

“Although some may say this is a disappointment, it is a huge accomplishment for all of me and my friends who were part of the top 20…” she wrote. “Everything happens for a reason and this was such a positive experience for me.”

Spencer-Smith, who grew up in Port Alberni and now lives in Nanaimo, said she’s excited to continue her own musical career.

“This is not the end for me and I’m so excited for what the future holds,” she wrote.

2. Nanaimo’s Lauren Spencer-Smith advances to ‘American Idol’ top 20, April 5

A teen singer from Nanaimo went to perform at a Hawaiian resort and came back as a top-20 American Idol contestant.

Lauren Spencer-Smith, on the April 5 episode of the hit reality TV show, was selected by judges to advance to the next stage of the competition.

Half of the 40 contestants were eliminated during the episode, which was filmed at Aulani Disney resort on O’ahu.

Spencer-Smith performed Aretha Franklin’s Respect and was able to engage the audience and impress judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan.

Former American Idol winner Maddie Poppe posted on social media that Spencer-Smith gave her best performance so far.

“I think she gained a lot of America’s heart with that one,” Poppe said.

3. Nanaimo barbershop quartet records musical tribute to Dr. Bonnie Henry, April 6

Mike Patterson was watching one of Dr. Bonnie Henry’s COVID-19 updates one day when he suddenly found himself composing a song for the B.C. health officer.

Patterson, a member of Nanaimo’s Tidesmen barbershop chorus, spent Valentines Day with his quartet Vintage Style delivering singing valentines like the traditional barbershop love song Let me Call you Sweetheart.

As Patterson watched Dr. Henry’s briefing it occurred to him that ‘Dr. Bonnie Henry’ has the same number of syllables as ‘Let me Call you Sweetheart’ and five minutes later A Tribute to Dr. Bonnie Henry was written.

Patterson then set his iPad on the work bench in his garage “because that’s where I had the best sound” and recorded a video of himself singing the song. He sent that video to the other members of Vintage Style – tenor Alex Grant, baritone Roy Sage and bass Glenn Harvey – challenging them to record their parts.

The quartet’s audio and video was then edited together by Tidesmen member James Chappell and posted online and “it kind of took off from there,” Patterson said.

4. Nanaimo actress cast in first lead role in Global TV series ‘Nurses,’ Jan. 13

Sandy Sidhu was on track to become a medical professional when she decided to switch her focus to acting. Now she plays a nurse on television.

Sidhu, who hails from Nanaimo and has a degree in cell biology and genetics, was studying to become a doctor at UBC when she realized she was unhappy with her program. At the same time she was acting “secretly” on the side because she was too scared to admit to herself that she wanted to become an actress.

“It started to dawn on me that, ‘Oh, shoot, I think I love this more. Uh oh, this is starting to become a big interest in my mind, in my heart and in my thoughts. This is really overtaking my focus,’” she said. “And eventually I had to have a real talk with myself.”

After more then a decade appearing in commercials and assorted TV series and TV movies, Sidhu was cast in her first leading role last year in the Global medical drama, Nurses, which she describes as a “coming of age” series following five rookie nurses in a busy Toronto hospital. The program made its debut on Global TV on Jan. 6.

5. Artists adding finishing touches to new downtown Nanaimo murals, Aug. 14

A trio of local artists spent a week painting new murals in downtown Nanaimo and talked to the News Bulletin as they worked.

Kara Dee Harrison, Russell Morland and Austin Weflen were the three artists chosen to add their art to downtown walls for the inaugural Hub City Walls festival, put on by the Humanity in Community Foundation.

Harrison’s mural, on Front Street below Vancouver Island Military Museum, depicts otters floating through cosmic waters, Morland’s piece, at the 95 Cavan St. parking lot, shows one of his surreal, cartoony characters lounging in a bed of mushrooms, and Weflen’s piece, in the Bastion Street parkade stairway, has the phrase ‘Harbour City Livin’’ emblazoned on a black and gold patterned background.

In each annual instalment, Hub City Walls will bring more murals to Nanaimo and this year’s participants agree that the city has much to gain from such a project.

“I think most cities have something like this going on and it’s about time Nanaimo got into that groove a little bit as well,” Morland said.

6. Juno-nominated Nanaimo teen Lauren Spencer-Smith to appear on ‘American Idol,’ Feb. 25

Nanaimo was excited to see a local 16-year-old singer and recent Juno Award nominee set to appear on American Idol.

Lauren Spencer-Smith auditioned for the televised vocal competition in Oregon in November 2019. She said the atmosphere was “super positive” and she made lasting friendships.

“The best part is not only getting to sing in front of the judges and getting critiques and getting help from them, but just all the people you meet and all the families,” Spencer-Smith said. “You just instantly have a connection with everyone because you all love music.”

At the time the News Bulletin’s article came out, Spencer-Smith was getting ready to be in her own audience and tune in to see her performance on her best friend’s “huge TV.”

7. Nanaimo woman to compete in new season of ‘Big Brother Canada,’ Feb. 26

The newest season of Big Brother Canada had a Nanaimo contestant to root for.

In late February, Global TV announced the houseguests for the show’s eighth season and among the 16 contestants from coast-to-coast was Carol Rosher, a disability caregiver and cancer survivor from Nanaimo. Rosher was one of four houseguests from B.C. and the only one from the Island.

Big Brother Canada is a reality program in which a group of people live in a house together under constant surveillance and are gradually voted out until only one remains. The winner takes home $100,000 as well as $10,000 worth of groceries and a “dream vacation,” noted a press release.

“I was born to play Big Brother,” said Rosher in her introductory video.

She said beating kidney cancer made her want to cross some items off her bucket list and have new experiences.

“When I survived I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone, take risks, have adventure, look for excitement.” she said. “It’s the age-old ‘you’ve stared death in the face and then you want to just go live life to the fullest.”

8. Nanaimo teen singer Lauren Spencer-Smith releases new EP ‘Mixed Emotions,’ March 25

When Lauren Spencer-Smith set out to record a new EP, the Nanaimo-based singer answered the call of her fans.

Mixed Emotions was Spencer-Smith’s first new collection of music since her Juno Award-nominated debut, Unplugged. On the record she picked five songs that she connects with and that showcase her voice, starting with a rendition of Elastic Heart by pop singer Sia.

“I chose Elastic Heart definitely to go on it just because I had a cover of it and everyone on my social media, like TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, everyone was just constantly commenting and asking for a studio version of it,” Spencer-Smith said. “And it was one of the videos that had gotten more views than I normally get.”

She said the title of the record refers to the different vibes and meanings of the songs.

9. Wellington jazz student gets $100,000 scholarship to attend U.S. ‘dream school,’ April 17

A Wellington Secondary School jazz student was offered a $100,000 scholarship to attend his “dream school” in New York City.

In late March Daniel Mottahedeh, 17, was accepted into both post-secondary institutions where he sought to continue his jazz studies: McGill University in Montreal and the New School in New York.

He was also excited to be offered an annual $25,000 scholarship for the New School’s four-year program, which according to its website has 250 enrolled students. Mottahedeh said the scholarship covers half the cost of tuition and he’ll be negotiating an appeal for a greater subsidy.

“I’m not sure if I can afford the whole $200,000, plus the cost of living in New York is also insanely expensive, so we’ll have to see how much I can get but right now I’m pretty set on going to McGill unless there’s some sort of miracle,” he said. “But McGill is I think rated the top music school in Canada so I’m pretty excited about that.”

No matter where he went, Mottahedeh said he hoped to hone his skills, meet people, make connections “and then see where that takes me.”

10. Rock for Relief benefit concert to aid Islanders struggling due to COVID-19, April 17

Vancouver Island musicians came together from the comfort of their own homes to present a benefit concert for those living on the Island who are struggling due to COVID-19.

Nanaimo resident and American Idol contestant Lauren Spencer-Smith was among the performers announced to take part in Rock for Relief: A Living Room Fundraising Concert for Vancouver Island. Among the other participating artists were Grammy Award-winning producer David Foster, Randy Bachman, the Tenors and Aaron Pritchett.

A press release noted that Rock for Relief was organized by the Nanaimo Foundation, the Victoria foundation and Chek TV.

RELATED: Top 10 most-read arts and entertainment stories of 2019

RELATED: Nanaimo News Bulletin’s most-read arts and entertainment stories of 2018

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