High Notes

Buy 10th Anniversary Gala Tickets Now

Music can change the world because it can change people - Bono


Charissa Vandikas is a Unionville High School Class of ’15 graduate who is surrounded by music.

Second oldest of a musical family in Newmarket she somehow finds time to practice anything between two to six hours of piano every day, despite having to share the pianos with three brothers and a mother and father who both teaches piano. She even teaches 8-10 students herself every week!

We caught up with her between school and band rehearsal–she plays the trombone–on a cold but sunny afternoon in late February. She will perform at the second High Notes for Mental Health concert at Flato Markham Theatre on May 2.

“Anxiety is not pleasant and that is an understatement,” says Charissa when asked how mental health has touched her.  A couple of her friends have struggled with anxiety and she didn’t know how to help at first but eventually could. “I think it is something that should be addressed more in school.”

Although Charissa herself gets stage fright before performing, it is something she is learning to deal with. “I imagine that I am in my living room and have also been learning the Taubman technique which helps me relax.” The fear of making a noticeable mistake and that everything will fall apart has lessened as Charissa has had more and more experience performing. But, “Yes, I have felt like a complete failure and cried after performing, but participating in festivals and competitions have helped me move forward, to deal with my fears.”

It is encouraging that someone so famous as Vladimir Horowitz at times also doubted himself and his capabilities, but still made a name for himself. Perhaps it is healthy to be that humble so that you keep improving.”

Charissa says music helps her with her personal mental health because “it is something familiar I can always go to if I feel overwhelmed. Music is healing. It allows me to express myself, to convey things that you don’t get to express in daily life. It is an outlet.”

“I can not imagine a life without music. I will definitely be doing something creative,” she says when asked if she would consider a different career than piano. “I also like writing which is another way to express yourself.”

The 17-year-old, who won the Founders Award at the North York Music Festival last year as well as the Young Artist ORMTA competition, has already auditioned to the Eastman School and the Glenn Gould School of Music and has auditions with Juilliard and U of T in March. We are crossing our fingers for her and encourage you to come hear her on May 2, 2015 at the Flato Markham Theatre.

Amongst the stellar line-up performers are conductor and motivational speaker Boris Brott, world-renowned opera super star Richard Margison and his daughter Lauren who writes her own songs, Canadian Air Farce veteran Luba Goy as host and Alex McLeod on viola and Canadian accordion champion Michael Bridge. In addition, audience will be treated to spoken word poetry by mental illness survivor Julie Everson and also hear from Orlando Da Silva, president of the Ontario Bar Association and Dr. Rustom Sethna of Markham Stouffville Hospital. Representatives from a number of mental health organizations will be available to share information during intermission, which also offers up dessert, champagne and a silent auction.

To order tickets call 905.304.SHOW.

Stay Updated