Artist Profile: Robert J. Sawyer

by Jonathon Resney

The world’s science fiction fans know Robert Sawyer as an award-winning novelist. Immigrants living in Mississauga may know Sawyer as the man who swore them in as Canadian citizens.  Since being inducted into the Order of Canada in June 2016, Robert Sawyer has been serving as a Volunteer Presiding Official at monthly swearing-in ceremonies.

Sawyer is amazed by how few Order of Canada recipients accept Canadian Immigration’s invitation  to preside over these ceremonies.   “At a typical ceremony, I’ll be swearing in large groups of people – from children to people in their nineties.  I get a spring in my step for days afterward!  To see so many people embrace Canadian values is very moving.”

Sawyer and his wife, poet Carolyn Clink, moved to Mississauga from Thornhill seventeen years ago.  They instantly fell in love with the city, especially the cultural scene.  “It’s not every city that has something like the Living Arts Centre!” he praised.

As a major writer of science fiction, Sawyer is the only Canadian writer, and one of only eight writers worldwide, to win all of the top three awards in the genre: the Hugo (International), Nebula (USA), and John W. Campbell Award (USA).  This year, Sawyer won Mississauga’s 2017 MARTY Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Robert Sawyer accepting his 2017 MARTY for Lifetime Achievement.

Although his novels are set in Canada, they are popular overseas and have garnered literary awards in France, Spain, China, and Japan.

“I just visited a book club in Shanghai,” said Sawyer.  “They were doing one of my stories: ‘The Stanley Cup Caper’, about Quebecois separatists trying to steal the hockey trophy.  They loved it! 

“We tend to think that nobody else in the world understands Canada.  But everyone understands the struggles of uniting disparate people.” Sawyer believes Canadian values of optimism and multiculturalism attract international readers.

In previous interviews, Sawyer has suggested that his twenty-third novel, Quantum Night, may be his last.  He will continue to write for television and film.  This year, he contributed to the History Channel’s documentary series, The World Without Canada.

That said, during my interview with Sawyer, he hinted at writing another novel over the summer.  “We’ll see if it comes to light,” he said slyly.

For more information about Robert Sawyer, visit his website at

Featured image by Christina Frost.

Artist Profile: Annie Medling at Studio.89

The Tasmanian hip hop/R&B artist Annie Medling’s career began with a near-death experience.  When she was twenty years old, Annie suffered a heart attack while jogging and was found unconscious.

After being fitted with a pacemaker, Annie decided not to let her condition stand in the way of her dreams and opened her first dance studio.

“I’ve had a lot of extreme health issues over the last ten years consistently, and that’s definitely had an impact on how I’ve run my life,” said Annie.  “It’s made me lose my fear of failure.”

Over time, Annie’s hip hop dance studio expanded to four locations across Australia and Malaysia.  “It was a massive part of my life,” said Annie.  “I had a no formal training or business experience when I started, so I developed a lot of skills on the job.”

It was at the encouragement of her dance students that Annie began posting videos of herself singing online.  “I had started doing a little singing here and there.  I originally didn’t want to go public with it, but my dance students threw back advice that I had given them: ‘You’re always telling us to be confident and put yourself out there!’” 

Annie uploaded her version of Alicia Key’s “Fallin’” onto Facebook, where it attracted the attention of New York rapper Chase Baker.  When Baker contacted her with the idea of pursuing a career as a vocalist, Annie insisted that she wasn’t a singer. 

“You’re wrong,” replied Baker.

Annie Medling’s 2016 debut, Elusive

At Baker’s encouragement, Annie moved to Melbourne, where she made a name for herself in the city’s thriving independent music scene.  Eventually, Annie decided to devote herself entirely to music and left her dance studio to a former student.  She released her debut album, Elusive, in 2016.

Annie moved to Toronto this year.  “There’s a really amazing music scene here that a lot of people from Australia follow,” said Annie.  “I’ve accomplished more in the past two months here than in the whole last year.”

Moving to Toronto has been another challenge in a life of taking risks.

 “I’ve had lots second chances, which I’m thankful for.  Even if it’s not a guarantee, I feel it’s worth it.  When I’m on my deathbed, I don’t want to feel I didn’t try.  To the point where I was able to pack a couple of suitcases and move to another country.”


On Thursday, June 29, Medling will perform at Studio.89 as part of its monthly Coffee House open mic night.  Starting at 7 PM, a diverse array of musicians and spoken word artists will perform, including three vocalists who took part in MAC’s Teen Got Talent Vocal Competition: Sophie Byrd, Cmagic5, and third-place winner Maame Gyiwuo.

Emceeing the event will be former Limelight artist Matthew Stellinga, a singer/songwriter who has performed throughout the GTA.  Stellinga is also a photographer and filmmaker pursuing a degree in Digital Communications at Humber College.  For more information, visit his website at

There is no admission fee for the evening.  If you would like to learn more about Coffee House night, or if you’re interested in performing, e-mail Nansy Khanano at

Artist Profile: Alissa Skorik

Alissa Skorik combines the old with the new.  She plays a traditional First Nations flute accompanied by modern backing tracks.

“I still love traditional First Nations flute music,” Alissa explained, “but it’s not my favourite music.  Most traditional music is ambient.  It’s difficult to keep a crowd’s attention with that music, especially younger audiences, so I incorporate more synthesizers, more drums, and faster tempos.”

The backing tracks are designed in collaboration by Alissa and her manager, Marc Nadjiwan, a singer and songwriter in his own right.  “Marc is really, really skilled,” said Alissa, “not only from a performance perspective, but from a compositional perspective.”  It was Marc who created the background tracks for Alissa’s 2014 debut album, Eluna.

Alissa Skorik’s 2014 debut album, Eluna

Alissa began playing the First Nations flute in 2009, when she was 12.  She was inspired to take up the instrument after seeing the Canadian film Where the Spirit Lives in history class.  As she taught herself to play, Alissa listened to flautists like David Maracle (with whom she would later perform), Carlos Nakia, and Pedro Eustache, as well as the Peruvian band Alborada.

“I’m self-taught, so my music theory isn’t amazing,” said Alissa.  “It can be challenging when other musicians are spewing theory at you, but luckily my ears are good enough to hear what other musicians are doing.”

In September, Alissa will begin her degree in Music Industry Arts and Performance at Centennial College.  Because there is no one on faculty who teaches First Nations flute, Alissa will either study privately with the saxophone instructor or the Dean of Music.

“The instrument is dying out,” said Alissa.  “If there is anything I can do to inspire more people to take it up, I want to do that.”

Alissa Skorik will perform at TEDx Mississauga on July 22.  She will be also be appearing at Studio.89’s Coffee House open mic night on June 29.  For more information about Alissa, visit her website at  You can also follow her Twitter page @alissaskorik for upcoming performances.

Artist Profile: Vandana Vishwas

When Mississauga-based Indo-Canadian vocalist Vandana Vishwas moved to the Greater Toronto Area, what impressed her most about the city was its diversity.

“Toronto’s wonderful!” Vandana gushed.  “We never feel not at home here.  Because everyone here is an immigrant, we share each other’s emotions, art, food, and culture.”

It is this spirit of cultural sharing that infuses Vandana’s third and most recent album, Parallels.  The album comprises five songs, each performed twice in different musical styles.   “Mai Beqaid”, which opens Parallels as a flamenco tune, is reprised as a country song later in the album.  Parallels combines everything from traditional African music to 1970s rock.

The foundation of the album is Vandana’s background in Hindustani music, the classical tradition of northern India.  “It was initially a challenge,” she said.  “It was not very clear how I should proceed, which genres would go best with Indian music.”

Despite Vandana’s initial uncertainty, the album has been a success, topping RMR World Charts and Earshot Charts.

Growing up in Chhattisgarh, India, Vandana started singing when she was four.  By sixteen, she had completed her music degree in the Hindustani tradition and was singing her compositions on All India Radio.

Simultaneously, Vandana studied architecture.  Her career as an architect took her to Dubai, where music took a back seat to her work, and later to Toronto.

The multicultural music scene in the GTA reignited Vandana’s artistic side.  She released her first album, Meera the Lover in 2009.  In 2012, Vandana won a MARTY in the Established Performing Arts category.  A year later, she released her second album, Monologues, followed in 2014 by a promotional track for the novel Samarsiddha by Sandeep Nayyar.  Vandana then left her architectural work to focus on music.

Now, Vandana has become one of the most accomplished world musicians in the GTA.  In 2016, she won a Toronto Independent Music Award for Best World Artist, as well as a silver medal for World Music & Female Vocalist at the Global Music Awards.

In her spare time, Vandana enjoys sampling the multicultural cuisine of Toronto and Mississauga.  While she enjoys Mexican, Italian, and Thai food, Vandana has a special fondness for Ethiopian cuisine.

On July 7th, Vandana Vishwas will be performing at River Walk Commons in New Market for the Culture Bridge Festival.  On July 8th, Vandana will be performing at the Barry Zukerman Amphitheatre in Toronto for the 4 Worlds Festival. Both festivals are free family events.

Artist Profile: Sherry Prenevost

Sherry Prenevost has only worked as a photographer for a little over a decade.  In that time, however, she has had one of the most successful second careers in the Mississauga art scene.  Sherry has exhibited her work internationally, presented her work to Queen Elizabeth and David Suzuki, and worked with NGOs throughout Africa, Asia, and the Americas.  In 2012, Sherry won a MARTY for Emerging Artist of the Year.

Sherry’s passion for photography began in 2007, during a trip to the Amazon basin.  There, Prenevost visited an indigenous tribe that had previously been thought to be extinct.  The experience inspired Sherry, who at the time was running her own company in Mississauga. 

Upon returning home, Sherry sold the company she had owned for 22 years and began working with local, national, and international NGOs.  It was these organizations that brought Sherry to Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Guatemala, Cambodia, Myanmar and Belize.  In addition to using her work to bring awareness to impoverished and war-torn communities, Sherry taught photography to adults with intellectual disabilities, youth at risk, and women and children escaping violence.

by Sherry Prenevost

Particularly affecting was Sherry’s experiences in fly-in indigenous communities in northern Ontario.  There, Sherry worked with Ryerson University researching social determinants of health and documenting residents’ way in life.  Sherry found the level of poverty in these communities comparable to that which she witnessed overseas.  She was deeply moved by the experience and continues to work with indigenous populations in northern Ontario.

Sherry’s parents always made sure she was surrounded by nature growing up in Mississauga, and nature remains an important part of Sherry’s life.  When she isn’t working on her photography, Sherry can be found walking the trails of her home city.

Yellow Morning
by Sherry Prenevost

From June 30th to August 20th, the Living Arts Centre will feature Sherry’s work as part of the Canada 150 Photography Exhibit.  Opening reception is July 6th, 7-9pm.  For more information about Sherry, visit her website at

Artist Profile: David O’Hearn

For most people, fear can be a deterrent.  For MARTY Award-winning musician, actor, and producer David O’Hearn, it’s a motivator.

“I wanted to do it because I hadn’t done anything scary in a while,” said O’Hearn of his first foray into acting in 2004.  At the time, O’Hearn had made a name for himself as a multi-instrumentalist in rock, Top 40, and folk bands.  On a friend’s recommendation, O’Hearn auditioned for a role in City Centre Musical Production’s version of Guys and Dolls.  Despite having no acting experience, O’Hearn got the part.  He loved the experience and has gone on to act in over 40 theatrical productions.

Similarly, O’Hearn had no experience composing for film when he asked his friends, director Dany Geshan and producer Morgan Muscat, if they needed someone to score the short film he was producing, 2010’s Severance.  O’Hearn was hired, and since written music for five other films.

When asked what drives him, O’Hearn mentions his love for trying new things.  Different aspects of his multifaceted career fulfill him in different ways.  O’Hearn loves the “instant gratification” of performing in front of an audience and “feeding off the energy in the room”, but he equally enjoys the perfectionism and meticulousness of recording and composition.

O’Hearn also loves producing other people’s music.  “You end up going places the songwriter never imagined,” he says.  “You have more input in the process – you’re adding ideas and making suggestions.  Saying things like, ‘I love this part – can we move it over here?’”

O’Hearn plays in four different bands, performing everything from R&B to classic rock.  “For musicians, it helps to be versatile,” says O’Hearn.  “You need to be versatile in thinking of ways to put forward your art.”

Mississauga Legends Row

On June 3rd, 2017 Mississauga Legends Row unveiled their “Walk of Fame” located at Celebration Square by the Jubilee Garden. Twenty-seven inductee plaques were unveiled with many of the inductees in attendance.

Guests were invited to a reception in City Hall’s Great Hall where they mingled with the inductees in attendance. Among those happy to engage with the guests were Johnny Bower, Paul Henderson, Tommy Hunter, Gil Moore, Chuck Jackson and MAC founder Laurie Pallett, to name just a few.


Once outside, guests were entertained by Taylor Made Music with Lady Son before the festivities began.

The official ceremonies began with a Parade of the Alumni, ushered in by Bagpiper Alan Comley and Mayor Bonnie Crombie along with Chancellor Hazel McCallion.

Nikki Shawana, First Nations Hoop Dancer, performed a beautiful Indigenous hoop dance blessing to open the ceremony.

And as always when hosting, Jake Dheer was a wonderful Master of Ceremonies.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie gave a moving speech on how Legends Row began and thanked Ron Duquette, President and Founding Director, for his vision, dedication, and resolve to the project. The Mayor proceeded to present Ron with a certificate and Legends Row Chairman of the Board Norm Loberg announced that Ron’s efforts would be recognized with a commemorative plaque on Legends Row “Walk of Fame”.

Visibly moved, Ron Duquette spoke of his vision and his hopes for the future of Legends Row, encouraging fellow Mississaugans to nominate a deserving individual. Legends Row recognizes accomplished Mississauga Citizens, celebrates our heritage and he hopes it will inspire tomorrow’s leaders. He then revealed that Chancellor Hazel McCallion would be inducted into Legends Row this coming November. This announcement was met with resounding applause and great excitement from the crowd.

After a Legends Row Board ribbon cutting ceremony, Mayor Bonnie Crombie and Chancellor Hazel McCallion, along with Ron Duquette, cut open the banner and officially opened Legends Row.



Legends and their guests were invited to wander the newly opened Legends Row “Walk of Fame”, take pictures, and share stories.

Teens Got Talent

On Saturday afternoon, MAC held its first annual Teens Got Talent show at the Streetsvile Founders’ Bread & Honey Festival.  The competition was open to singers from 13 to 19 who passed an online audition.  Sixteen singers competed in front of an audience and a panel of three judges: MARTY Award-winning guitarist David O’Hearn; MARTY Award-winning vocalist Heather Christine; and MAC Director of Outreach Derek Luis.  MCing the event was MAC executive director Mike Douglas.

MAC executive director Mike Douglas
Photo credit: Mary Khanano

Each contestant brought something different to the table.  From classic Disney songs to current pop hits, from Broadway musical numbers to covers of Nina Simone and Ed Sheeran, there was a wide variety of music for audiences and judges to enjoy.

Metalworks Studios co-sponsored the event, awarding as first prize a free recording session worth $1 000.  Metalworks also gave the top three contestants a subscription to a free music course of their choice.  Education counselor Alex Andronoche gave an impassioned speech in defence of music education and pursuing a career in the arts.

Education Counselor Alex Andronoche from Metalworks Studios
Photo credit Mary Khanano

The first prize was awarded to Kendra Charest-French.  Stylishly dressed in a beret, Charest-French wowed the judges with a cover of Drake’s “Hold On”.  Charest-French is currently studying Vocal Performance at Sheridan College; her performance at Teens Got Talent proves her career is off to a promising start.

First-prize winner Kendra Charest French

In second place came Melanie Cabral, who entertained the audience with a lively rendition of Elle King’s “Ex’s and Oh’s”.  Cabral’s dancing and singing especially impressed judge Heather Christine, who praised Cabral’s stage presence. 

Second-prize winner Melanie Cabral

The third place contestant was University of Guelph-Humber student Maame Gyiwuo, whose wide vocal range shined in a performance of Evanescence’s ballad, “My Immortal”.

Third-prize winner Maame Gyiwuo

MAC thanks all contestants for participating!  Interested young singers should visit next summer to check out audition deadlines and processes.

First-prize winner Kendra Charest-French with Metalworks Studios Education Counselor Alex Androchne
Photo Credit: Mary Khanano


Teens Got Talent judge and MARTY Award-winning vocalist Heather Christine with second-prize winner Melanie Cabral
Photo credit: Mary Khanano

Teens Got Talent judge and MARTY Award winning musician David O’Hearn



Coming up we’ll have even more youth events to help budding artists hone their talent and show off their skills! 


  • June 15this our last Open Mic Live event held at the LIVE! Restaurant at the Living Arts Centre
  • June 29th is our Coffee Night at Studio.89 featuring our host Matt Stellinga and the up and coming artist Annie Medling, don’t miss your chance to meet her! Check out her instagram @anniemedlingIf you would like to perform at this Coffee night, please sign up here:
  • July 20th is the next Coffee Night! Please follow ourFacebookTwitter and Instagram to find out when the new sign up form is available! 
  • August 2, 9, 16, 23, & 30 (That’s every Wednesday in August) we have our amphitheater performancesat the beautiful Celebration Square! Open to musicians, singers, spoken word artists and more! Make sure to keep an eye out on our e-newsletters: “MACtivities” for more information in July!