BY BRANDY FULTON
On Nov. 4, a Conestoga College alumnus returned to his hometown to give singing another shot.
Jeff Wilkinson took part in The Shot, a singing competition that was started in 2014 by C.J. Allen. Its goal was to unify schools in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge but, after three seasons of success, organizers decided to open it to everyone over the age of 16.
Wilkinson was born and raised in Kitchener and attended Conestoga College’s journalism print program in 1974. At the time that Wilkinson was in the program, if you graduated you were not a good student or journalist. During the second year of the three-year program students had to complete a work placement. To students, this internship was everything. Students would try their hardest to get hired onto their placement after their hours were completed. If successful they would continue working instead of returning to school, thus never graduating.
Wilkinson did a summer placement at the Windsor Star, where he was later hired on as a full-time sports reporter. In his Conestoga days, Wilkinson travelled to practically every game with the sports teams. He recalled one week he was sent to Windsor, Montreal and then turned around to go to Chicago for four days. Being a sports journalist was something Wilkinson had strived for since high school.
He was at the Windsor Star from 1976 to 1982 when the recession hit and Wilkinson and other writers at the paper were laid off. He continued doing smaller jobs afterwards.
It was 1994 when things really took a bad turn for Wilkinson. He was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, or water on the brain.
“Everything came to a screeching halt,” he said.
Wilkinson had to have brain surgery that year to try and reduce the amount of water on his brain. This caused a lot of companies to see Wilkinson in a different light, as a liability more than a valued member of their journalism team.
While in recovery Wilkinson decided to pursue his passion for singing while also occasionally working as a strike breaker for a number of companies. Starting in 1996 he performed in cabarets in Kirkland Lake, where he now lives. As the years went on he had 13 shows under his belt and even more desire to follow his passion.
Searching the Internet, Wilkinson was able to find a number of singing competitions, including The Shot.
“They asked me if I want to sing as a career,” he said. “I said no, because I do this for fun, there is no singing career for a 66-year-old.”
Wilkinson went into the competition keeping the name of it in mind. He said there is so much talent in this group of people that he planned to just walk into the audition room and give it “a shot,” as simple as that.
“To make it would be something, but I am not going to go home and say I did horrible.”
The final show for The Shot is on Nov. 26 at the Theatre Auditorium at Wilfrid Laurier University. Tickets can be purchased at www.singfortheshot.com.