It is usually an event full of glamour and great anticipation! The Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board’s Starfest every year brings together young talent from the entire board territory all concentrated in a big concert co-hosted by the Sir Wilfrid Laurier Foundation.

Dimitris Ilias


It is usually an event full of glamour and great anticipation! The Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board’s Starfest every year brings together young talent from the entire board territory all concentrated in a big concert co-hosted by the Sir Wilfrid Laurier Foundation.
Starfest and Covid
Laurier Gala/Starfest would have been held this year on May 28th 2020 in its usual grande tradition. The Laurier Gala and Star Fest is an annual tradition that showcases and celebrates artistic talent through the performers that sing, dance, and play instruments on stage after an audition process that lasts a few months with often hundreds of students participating. From an educational aspect, even the audition process serves as a great tool for students to gain confidence through the panel’s constructive criticism and many students that do not necessarily make it on the first try, return to successfully perform in the Gala in subsequent years. This year COVID-19 almost destroyed this beautiful artistic tradition. Initially limited to an audience of 250 and after with the mandatory cancellation of all gatherings, the board had to find a way of saving the show that gives such pleasure to so many students and promotes diverse talents of its student population.
Birth of Hope-Fest 2020
Technology saved the show this year. Confined to their houses, the organizers decided to come up with a new version of Starfest aptly renamed Hope-Fest 2020. The new show would be an online live stream through Facebook and the students had to audition by sending in a video of their performance. “I spoke to the DG about what we could do to save Starfest. There were many challenges with the biggest one being that we could not coach the students as we did in the past. In the end we decided to just let raw talent show through, just as the students recorded from their homes” said Paolo Galati, chairman of SWLSB. The audition panel would select the best performances and everyone would learn who made it by watching the live-stream on May 29th at 7:30pm. 50 videos were submitted to the judges and 16 acts were chosen to be featured.

From left, Brianna Fasoli, Kaena Roy and Gabrielle Grenon all sung with beautiful energy.


Glued to the screen
On May 29th over 750 SWLSB community members were glued to their screens as the show started with the host, Cousin Vinny from Virgin Radio introducing the performers. Paolo Galati was instrumental in launching this massive musical undertaking. “Tonight, technology will bring the Sir Wilfrid Community together with the Hopefest. I am always so proud and inspired by the incredible talent we have at the SWLSB” he said. 16 singers, dancers and instrumentalists performed to a downpour of online hearts, emojis and encouraging comments. Although a live performance is a unique magical experience, being able to participate through your tablet or phone, saying nice things, encouraging the show and sharing with others your thoughts is a beautiful and valuable byproduct of a live stream. Not to mention that the show is available permanently online, including all the comments!

Maia Marino sung a heartfelt “She used to be mine” and Mia Guerrera, danced beautifully filmed routine.


Performers from the North Shore
Out of the 16 performers 5 girls from North Shore beautified everyone’s experience with their brio and colossal performing energy. Brianna Fasoli, a sec 3 student from Rosemere High opened the entire show singing “Over the rainbow” from the Wizard of Oz. What an appropriate opener given that the hopeful message adopted internationally for the fight against COVID-19 has a rainbow in the logo! Later on, Maia Marino, a secondary 2 student from Lake of Two Mountains High sung a heartfelt “She used to be mine” followed by Gabrielle Grenon also from Rosemere High sweetly singing “Someone you loved”. Mia Guerrera, a grade 6 dancer from Pierre Elliot Trudeau Elementary exploded on everyone’s screen with a beautifully filmed dance routine followed immediately after by the classic Barbra Streisand belter “Don’t rain on my parade” from “Funny Girl” sung with torrential vocal energy by Kaena Roy a 6th grade singer from St-Jude Elementary.
A rewarding experience
All 16 of the chosen performers got $100 each from the foundation as a gift as well as their act featured in its entirety during Hopefest. What set this event apart though, is that some of the audition videos of the 44 children that were not showcased in the main show were shown at the end of Hopefest. On top of that all of those children received a $25 each for the effort and excitement they showed producing and sending in their videos. All in all, the event was an unparalleled success so much so, that the organizers are thinking of incorporating a live stream permanently as part of future Starfests.