Former Canada's Got Talent competitor performing with Sistema Winnipeg kids
WINNIPEG -- His voice has won him acclaim worldwide, from audiences in his native Philippines to television viewers across Canada.
But now, Paul Ong is joining in song with the next generation, in the hopes of inspiring more kids to pursue a life in music.
The Canadian-Filipino singer organized Concert for a Cause, an event to raise money for Sistema Winnipeg, a collaborative partnership by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Seven Oaks and Winnipeg School Divisions.
It provides daily music education for kids with the fewest resources and greatest need.
"We provide free lessons, five days a week after school at two schools in Winnipeg, and these are music lessons in which kids learn to play musical instruments, but particularly learn to collaborate,” explained Sistema Winnipeg Music Director Naomi Woo.
But Sistema Winnipeg is only the latest of many to benefit from Concert for a Cause. The first was Ong himself.
Before immigrating to Canada in 2010, Ong had a thriving singing career in the Philippines on both the stage and screen.
He worried the move to Canada would bring it to an end.
However, Ong gained national attention after a successful stint on Canada’s Got Talent.
He was later chosen to represent Canada at the World Championships of Performing Arts in Los Angeles, a trip that was largely paid for by fundraising efforts of Winnipeg’s tight-knit Filipino community.
"When I came back, I didn't realize that someone had organized a concert for me, and all the people supporting me going to LA were there, so that's really where the concert series started."
Ong, a teacher by day, decided to make it an annual event, producing it himself and raising money for different organizations.
Over the years he’s raised funds for a high school’s mobile computer lab and the Military Family Resource Centre.
For this year's fundraiser on Sunday, Ong will sing with the Sistema students and will be accompanied by the WSO.
"I think it is particularly exciting because some of their teachers will be in that orchestra. So sharing the stage with their teachers in this professional context is pretty cool,” Woo said.
Ong chose Sistema because of his own passion for music, and the transformative effects it can have on children.
“When kids are given the opportunity to learn and to enhance their talents, then it blooms into something. It’s really able to change and impact their lives.”
Before the kids even had a chance to take the stage with Ong, they were already inspired from rehearsing alongside him.
"He sounds amazing!" explained Sistema student Anikka Pangilian.
"Like an angel,” agreed her classmate John-Cedric Deita.
His talent even inspired some healthy competition.
"I think that I'm also good too and then I heard his voice, and I realized that I was second,” said Sistema student Kiana Umveer.
Concert for a Cause is happening Sunday at Tec Voc High School. Tickets are sold out.