Local Musician Nikita Afonso to Open for Paul Brandt

By Steve Kidd – Penticton Western News

Nikita Afonso has been playing music and writing songs since she was five years old.

Now, before she has even completed high school, the young musician will be opening for Canadian country superstar Paul Brandt when he plays the South Okanagan Events Centre on March 1.

“I am not huge and famous, but I am going to do my best to put on an amazing show,” said Afonso, who will doing a 20-minute set with five original songs. She’ll backed up by the Offramp Ensemble, featuring Justin Glibbery, Mike Fic, Scott Gamble and Jeff Queen.

But it wouldn’t have happened, Afonso said, without the support and encouragement of a lot of people in the community. Her music instructor, Dr. Don Grant, was a huge part of making the show happen, along with the SOEC management promoting local talent. Then, she said, she has to thank Brandt for taking a chance on letting an unknown musician open for him.

“Just for her to have an opportunity, being from a smaller community, to get this kind of exposure and be on the big stage under the bright lights is pretty unique,” said Grant, music director at Penticton Secondary School. “I am not sure there are many places in Canada that an 18-year-old would have these kinds of opportunities. Nikita makes the most of them.”

It won’t quite be the first time on the SOEC stage for the young singer-songwriter, however. Last year, when Keith Urban played the SOEC, he stunned Afonso by pulling her out of the crowd to sing a duet with him on stage.

“We couldn’t be happier to have Nikita be a part of this concert. We love the fact that one of Penticton’s best is going to be on stage with one of Canada’s best,” said Dean Clarke, general manager of the SOEC.

While Paul Brandt is billed as the most awarded male Canadian country artist in history, Afonso also has an impressive list of credits. Over the past year, Afonso was crowned Miss Penticton Princess and released her debut CD, The Sweetest Things, then played Cleland Theatre for a sold-out show. To cap it off, she was also named Young Citizen of the Year by the Penticton Chamber of Commerce and, just last weekend, competed as a top 10 finalist in the Variety’s Got Talent show in Vancouver.

“It’s really funny, because after the Nikita concert at the Cleland a lot of people were saying, ‘next stop is the SOEC.’ In my mind, I was thinking maybe in the next few years, I’ll work towards that,” said Afonso. “Little did I know that it would be in the next few months.”

Getting through the next few weeks of excitement before the concert is going to be tough for Afonso, who said she isn’t going to let anything get to her head.

“I want to stay as grounded as I possibly can,” she said. “Just focusing and practising and working hard on what I want in the future and sticking to that.”

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