WEST KELOWNA - A 19-year-old audio engineering graduate from Okanagan College is poised to play alongside Canadian greats at Country Music Week in Halifax if he wins a province-wide competition.
West Kelowna resident Ben Klick is among the top three finalists of the British Columbia Country Music Association’s (BCCMA) Spotlight Performance Contest. The winning artist, to be announced June 19, will perform at the Canadian Country Music Association’s celebrations in Halifax, from Sept. 10 to 13, and take home more than $10,000 in cash and prizes.
Klick will be a familiar face around the Interior this summer as the guitarist and singer-songwriter performs at festivals ahead of the launch of his band’s new EP, which will be recorded in Nashville in July and released in August.
“The summer months are extremely busy,” Klick says. “I definitely live in the now. I’m hoping when the EP drops in August it will start a little buzz, and I’m going to get a cross-Canada tour going.
“It would be a great career boost to win this competition.”
The country singer, who recently completed an Audio Engineering and Sound Production (AEMP) certificate with Continuing Studies at Okanagan College, has a dozen performances lined up over July and August, including West Kelowna’s Music in the Park on July 3, the Country, Beer and Barbecue Festival at Big White Ski Resort on July 4, and Rockin' River Country Music Festival in Merritt, July 30 to August 2. Peachland’s Canada Day festivities will mark one-year since Klick and his band began performing, although Klick has been playing guitar since he was six years old.
Klick credits the College’s music recording program for accelerating his career as an artist.
“I came into the program with little to nothing except knowing the guitar and how to be an artist,” Klick says. “What the program taught me was how to be the business guy, the manager, the promoter.”
Klick wanted to learn every aspect of the music industry, and found AEMP instructor Corey Bell, a local producer and audio engineer with 12 years of industry experience, to be a huge help.
“The College has a phenomenal reputation with the music industry around the Okanagan,” Klick says. “The knowledge I’ve gotten through the program has allowed me to get gigs, saved me money recording and helped me be more self-sufficient.”
Bell, who has helped four classes graduate from the eight-month certificate program, said the College’s curriculum is at the forefront of music production in Canada. Thanks to Bell’s industry contacts, numerous graduates work at music festivals and production companies across the Okanagan. Graduate Evan Ferguson, who opened Empire Sonic, Kelowna’s largest recording studio, a year ago with his father, is another example of the program’s success, Bell says.
“What sets our grads apart is the hands-on experience they get in the program and their attitude,” he says. “We provide a realistic view of what the industry is and help students find their place in it.”
Bell encourages students tailor their studies to meet their individual goals. He helped Klick, for example, develop a business plan to support the up-and-coming country music singer’s dream of success.
“Ben’s an incredibly likeable person and his work ethic is second to none,” Bell says. “He’s very passionate.”
Klick, meanwhile, hopes to become a household name in country music, much like his idols Shania Twain, Keith Urban and Brad Paisley. In July, Klick will follow in their footsteps and head to Nashville to work on the second half of his next EP, which he began recording in March.
“Country music is all about life story and true everyday life,” Klick says. “That’s what got me hooked.”