G’Day Nivet!!

Here’s a trivia question: Can you name a five-year New West Theatre alum who was born in Trinidad, raised in Australia and consistently wowed audiences with his exceptional singing voice? If you said Mark Nivet you get a free pass to every performance at the Yates from this September to May of next year. (The Yates will be closed for renovations at that time but it’s the thought that counts.) I caught up with Mark via internet to find out what he’s been up to.

How did you first get recruited to come to New West Theatre?

The year was 2005. I saw an audition notice through e-drive. I was in my first year of theatre school at Sheridan Institute in Toronto at the time. I sent a video and samples of my vocals to the artistic director and he called me. I was then offered a contract and subsequent contracts over the next five years.

What were your first impressions?

Everyone was very nice to me and very inclusive. It was one big happy family.

How long did you end up staying and performing in Lethbridge?

I returned during my breaks from theatre school over the next few years, then fell in love with Lethbridge & decided to stay for a year and a half when I was finished theatre school to write music.

What were some of your highlights of your time here?

I have to say my favourite song to sing was Desperado, which was also the first song I sang in the show, Gettin’ Rowdy.

My favourite show was the show we directed ourselves when the director was let go by the board during rehearsals. It was a 60’s show and we sang lots of Beatles songs.

The biggest highlight is the close friendships I made that I haven’t found since. Friends that became my family and love me as their own blood. These friendships have continued and are so rare. Friends that supported and helped me grow both professionally and personally.

Get us up to date. Where did you go after leaving Lethbridge?

I decided to return to Toronto to do some TV and appeared in a SyFy show called Paranormal Witness and a couple of commercials. After that, I was offered a job back in Australia and have been in Sydney since then.

What do you do there?

I am a vocalist in the Royal Australian Navy Band Sydney and live with my partner Kurt and my dog Dexter.

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Do you ever want to come back to Canada?

Funny you should say that! My partner and I and our dog Dexter are returning to Canada next year! Vancouver to be precise. I am hoping to return to New West to do some shows.

What’s on your bucket list?

Do a Broadway show, visit Nepal, have a European holiday, have a child or two and get another dog.

Do you have any brush with celebrity stories you can share?

I attended The Grammy’s in 2001 and ran down to the front row to give my demo to Celine Dion and her husband. They were really lovely and generous.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Doing shows and running a coffee shop making really good and strong Australian coffee.

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Any regrets about the path you’ve chosen?

I’ve learned from my mistakes and reveled in my successes.

Top 5 favorite male vocalists of all time.

Donny Hathaway

Luciano Pavarotti

Luther Vandross

John Farnham

Stevie Wonder

Top 5 movies of all time.

The Wizard of Oz

The Sound of Music

American Beauty

Gone with the wind

Titanic

Top 5 albums of all time.

Thriller – Michael Jackson

Whitney Houston – self titled

Songs in the key of life – Stevie Wonder

Faure Requiem – Ensemble Musique Oblique

Graceland – Paul Simon

What advice would you give to kids wanting to choose the arts for a living?

Don’t do it! Jokes. You have to love it. Really love it. It needs to be your happy place.

Can I stay at your place if I come to visit Australia?

Of course but you better hurry because I won’t be there much longer!

Check out Mark’s music and performances.

http://www.youtube.com/user/ozsinger

The Funny 5

It’s a Tuesday. A few things went running through my mind so I wrote them down. Here now is today’s  Funny 5

  1. Something you hate to hear first thing in the morning from your wife: “Do you care that your golf clubs in the shed smell like skunk?”
  2. You know you’re a big time rebel when you walk into Tim Horton’s and order a Venti coffee.
  3. Beware of a handyman named “Stubby” Stadinsky.
  4. Trump has to quit firing members of his White House staff. They can’t all be on Dancing With The Stars.
  5. If you’re thinking about running for City Council and you think that curb-side recycling is where people recycle their curbs, maybe you shouldn’t run.

The Bulls 2017

As I look back on my first Bulls season in the marketing department there were a number of highlights for me. Right off the bat (pun definitely not intended here) I was assigned the task of picking up Blue Jay World Series manager Cito Gaston from the Calgary airport. He was part of the annual Legends of Sports dinner. To my delight Cito agreed to turn it into a Cool Cars, Interesting People episode. He couldn’t have been more gracious. We even stopped at the Claresholm memorial for Tanner Craswell and Mitch Maclean which was a rather poignant moment. I got to spend a lot of time with Cito and even drove him back up to Calgary when the banquet was over. It was pretty cool and a big thrill for me to get to talk baseball with the guy who led the Toronto Blue Jays to two World Series championships. Hell I would have done it for free. (Don’t tell the boss that.)

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I feel it’s important for a baseball team with a short 24-game home schedule to be part of the community. I wanted to get people to come to a game who perhaps wouldn’t necessarily be interested in baseball. That was the motivation behind the Tug of War Charity Challenge. I contacted over 50 charities and asked them to come up with a team of 5 people to participate over the course of the season. One or two matches would be held before every game. There would be an entry fee of $100 with the eventual winner taking home the entire jackpot for their charity. While the money was a nice incentive, I really wanted the charities to come to the game to inform the general public about who they are and what they are all about. So often we hear about an organization but really don’t know what it is they do. The charities were encouraged to get the biggest and strongest people they could find. They didn’t have to be part of their organization. For example, AAWEAR had Pure Power Wrestlers on their team, Covenant Health got Action Gym and STARS managed to get five of the biggest Bulls players. We got 28 charities to participate and set up a tournament schedule. It came down to STARS and ARCHES on the final game of the season. It was an epic battle of strength and endurance with ARCHES prevailing and taking home $2800.

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Also during the season three businesses got on board with our Strike Out ALS campaign: Holmes Ecowater, KCL Cattle and Rogers Sugar. For every player a Bulls pitcher struck out during the season money would be donated to the ALS Society of Alberta. Thanks to 382 strikeouts and a bit of a top up $3292 was raised. It was a poignant moment as accepting the cheque on behalf of ALS was Adam Thom who’s father had been at the ball park to witness the ALS team Tug of War match and passed away the following week to the effects of the disease.

AdamThom

Our Pink In the Park night featured the Bulls wearing special pink jerseys. Fans could bid on them with proceeds going locally to the Jack Ady Cancer Center. Another $1845 was generated with that event.

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At the end of the season a total of $7937 was given out to three different charities.

A goal I had for the season was to get 24 different anthem singers for each home game. With the diverse pool of talent we have in the city it actually wasn’t that hard to find people from various genres of music. We had rockers, musical theatre people, jazz, blues and opera. It was an eclectic blend of performers which I was thrilled about.

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(Entertainer Cal Toth)

I also wanted to create a 7th inning stretch atmosphere like they do at Wrigley Field in Chicago where celebrities who don’t necessarily sing like an opera star can provide a little entertainment with their unique version of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” We definitely had people who didn’t sing like opera stars. (Liam Nixon) But I loved it when our singers got into the spirit of the moment. I quite enjoyed that part of the evening.

Liam

Getting people to throw out the first pitch is another fun part of the job. While we had big-time athletes like 4-time Olympian Joe Meli we also had Fran Rude from the arts community. Fran took the job very seriously and trained for a couple of weeks. To my surprise she stayed for her game and enjoyed it so much she came to almost every game after. I wasn’t expecting that.

fran

One of my favourite moments of the season was on July 4. We had asked one of our American-born players, Darius Carter to sing the Star Spangled Banner as we had heard he had a great voice. He declined to go solo but he would do it if all the other U.S. players on the team sang it. When it came time to sing the anthem before the game unbeknownst to me Darius called over the U.S. members of the other team to join in. Loved it.

USAnthem

Baseball has that ability to bring people together. Whether you’re a pure baseball fan or you just like to be at the ball park and enjoy the atmosphere it’s a great night out. People from all walks of life can enjoy the evening.

One of my favourite quotes of the season came from singer Ken Rogers. He’s another member of the arts community who has spent his whole life in music. As he was getting high-fived by members of The Bulls after his rendition of Take Me Out To The Ball Game he smiled and looked at me and said, “That’s the closest I’ve ever been to a jock.”

RogersK

Another cool moment for me was when we contacted Lethbridge Family Services Immigrant Services and asked if there were any new families to Lethbridge who would want to come to their first ball game. Three Syrian refugee families accepted the invitation and it was heartwarming to hear a nice applause from the crowd when they were introduced.

Syrians

Who knows, maybe it’ll take a baseball game between nations to solve the world’s problems.

The Bulls had a decent season finishing 2nd in their division and lost to Medicine Hat in five games in the best of five playoff round. Their season is done but there’s a lot of optimism for next year as the new stadium renovations should begin very soon. Here’s to next year.

Cool Cars, Interesting People: Brent Kisio

(Photos by Wayne Dwornik -45pictures.com)

This episode of Cool Cars, Interesting People is with Lethbridge Hurricane coach Brent Kisio. His team had a great run in the playoffs last season before losing out to the Regina Pats in the Eastern Conference final. We caught up with Brent before he headed to Europe to coach Canada in the Ivan Hlinka tournament.

Brent Kisio2

Our car is a 1964 Daytona Studebaker which is owned by Ralph Bruinsma of Lo Cost Propane. He sent his associate Rick Hessling, a Studebaker aficionado to give us the low down on the classic vehicle. Due to insurance reasons we weren’t able to take it anywhere past the Enmax parking lot. (I may have gone over the speed bumps a little too fast. Please don’t tell Ralph.)

stud

We ended up at Tony Romas for coffee. Here now is Cool Cars, Interesting People with Brent Kisio.

Update on Danhue Lawrence

I had the privilege of meeting Danhue Lawrence during the recent Tug of War Charity tournament that was held all summer long during the Lethbridge Bulls season. My colleague at the time at Global TV Paul Kingsmith did an outstanding feature on him a few years back talking about Danhue’s difficult life in a violent area of Toronto. A basketball scholarship brought him to Lethbridge where he starred with the U of L Pronghorns. It turned his life around. I thought it would be of interest to many to get an update.

You came to Lethbridge on a basketball scholarship in 2008 leaving Toronto where you were surrounded by crime. You said in an interview with reporter Paul Kingsmith at the time that basketball saved you. Do you think much about where you could have been had you not made that decision?

I would definitely be in jail, maybe dead. I might be planning my release from prison at this moment as that is what most of my friends from that neighbourhood are currently doing but it is hard to predict as that was not the path I chose.

How did you enjoy your experience with the Pronghorns?

I was coached by two amazing, respectful coaches. They pushed me to be the best player I could be and I was grateful for the opportunity to play the sport that I love. The fans were very receptive and supportive as well.

Danhue

 

How big of a culture shock was it for you to come to Lethbridge and how were you able to adapt to the small town life?

It was a huge culture shock to say the least. At the time, Lethbridge was not an overly diverse community so I stood out a lot. The slow pace of smaller city life and the different smell were two things I remember most. Adjusting was not too difficult as I never expected to stay here so I never got too comfortable or put too much effort into adapting. When I decided to stay, I had been here for a number of years so it just happened naturally.

You also did some coaching with the Kodiaks. How do you like that side of basketball?

It was fun to win a Championship as a coach with the Kodiaks. I enjoy the intricate part of the game more so as a coach then I did as a player. I got to see some of the mistakes I made as a player and was then able to assist other players in correcting those mistakes.

You got a degree in social work. What made you decide to go in that direction?

Where I came from was a huge factor in my decision to pursue Social Work. I love helping people, specifically at-risk youth. Experience is your greatest teacher. My mother and my grandmother were always helping people so it was a natural fit.

How fulfilling has it been?

It has been very fulfilling. I have spent the first few years of my Social Work career working in the Livingstone Range School District and School District #51 as a Family Liaison Counsellor. I also, through my Youth Basketball Intensity Training (YBIT), frequently provide mentorship and guidance to future athletes and at-risk youth.

You basically gave up a pro basketball career in Europe to be with your son. Talk about that.

It was an easy decision. The choice was not difficult because I never grew up with a father and I always thought to myself that if I ever had kids I would be there to watch them grow, walk, and play ball with them. Basketball has an expiry date and being a father doesn’t. I would make that decision over again. I am involved in my son’s life and that is more important than basketball. I thought it was very important to play that role and be a present father and I felt like I couldn’t do that playing basketball overseas. It was the greatest decision I’ve ever made.

You’ve lived in Lethbridge for a decade. Have you totally embraced your life here?

Yes, this is where I call home now. My son and my career are here. Everything I have achieved has happened here. I have lived here the longest of anywhere I have been so this has definitely become home.

You’ve mentioned to me that there are still issues of racism in Lethbridge. How do you deal with it?

How do you deal with racism? Try to educate. If they are open to discussing it, I will happily have a conversation but if not, there is nothing more that I can do so I just walk away. I don’t entertain the ignorance of other people nor do I feed into the stereotypes that pop culture has created. Self-love is the most important thing. When situations have arisen with my son, I have asked him if he likes who he is, if he loves himself because that is what matters.

You operate a youth basketball intensity training camp. Tell us about it.

This came about from pure love of the game. Playing at a high level and knowing what basketball did for me, it was important that I give back to the sport. This resulted in the creation of YBIT. My goal is to help kids to dream bigger than their reality. There are many opportunities for them to play in and outside of Lethbridge.

If you had Michael Jordan over for supper what would you ask him?

What was it like having 6 championships and to have the world at your feet? And can I get a ring? Sign me up for a Sneaker deal? And I would want to play him one on one.

Who’s your favorite NBA team now?

My home team is my favourite, Toronto Raptors. Outside of the Raptors and the Golden State Warriors, LA is my next favourite.

Who should play you in the movie about your life?

ME or Denzel Washington (but I still pick me).

Who should write the theme song for that movie?

50 Cent aka Curtis Jackson

What’s the biggest piece of advice you would want to impart on your son?

Let failure be your biggest teacher and anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

What’s the biggest piece of advice you like to give to your basketball students?

Dreams don’t work unless you do. If you want something you got to work for it, it isn’t going to be handed to you.

Do you still have a massive collection of Air Jordans?

Um, define massive? I have over 200 pairs of Air Jordans.

Is Lebron James in the discussion for being the greatest player of all time?

I would put Lebron up there as one of the greatest players to touch a basketball in the NBA, however, that being said I would not put him in the same category as Koby and Michael. Michael won too many championships back to back and they both played different positions. Lebron has holes in his game and has lost more championship opportunities than he has won. I would put him top 5 though.

What’s the biggest thing you miss about Toronto?

My family, the food and the culture!

Any regrets?

Regrets are for suckers. How can I regret mistakes that made me who I am as a person? I can’t regret the lessons that I have learned.