Before this year, St Marys Senior High School student Ashley Dawes hadn’t heard of the Schools Spectacular.
But come November, the 17-year-old Penrith local will take to the Qudos Bank Arena stage as one of the featured solo artists for the iconic event which showcases the talents of students from public schools across NSW.
“I feel so lucky because it’s only my first year doing Schools Spectacular,” Ashley said.
“We just did our first whole run through a week ago. I was just so amazed, I can’t believe that in just over a month we’re going to be performing in a huge arena.”
The talented singer moved to Australia at the age of 11, and though she recalls home videos of four-year-old Ashley singing Aretha Franklin songs around the house, her confidence took a bit of a knock after moving from New Jersey to her new home in western Sydney.
“That’s when my shyness started because moving countries is a big thing, especially when you’re 11 and trying to figure out who you are,” she said.
It wasn’t until earlier this year – when Ashley was encouraged by her music teacher Fatima Deassis to get involved in a solo vocal camp – that things started to change.
“I really don’t think I’d be in Schools Spectacular if I hadn’t gone to that camp,” she said.
“It really boosted my confidence and I really found my love for singing and performing again.
“It’s easy to think ‘I’m never going to be as amazing as the people around me’, so it’s so important to have people who are willing to get behind you.”
Though the song list was chosen for her, in a funny twist of fate Ashley is very familiar with one of the tracks she will be performing.
“I remember when I was around 12, I was sitting on my bedroom floor and I was trying to sing this song and I was getting so frustrated that I couldn’t sing it,” Ashley said.
“I was thinking ‘I’m probably never going to be able to sing this song’, but five years later here I am, about to sing that same song in front of thousands of people, it’s just so crazy.”
The 2017 Schools Spectacular will be on at Qudos Bank Arena at Sydney Olympic Park on Friday, November 24 and Saturday, November 25. For more information, visit www.schoolsspectacular.com.au.