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Chantal Kreviazuk

e-dition - January 12, 2007

Collegiate Chart-Topper Chantal Kreviazuk

By Melissa Martin

You wouldn’t expect one of the world’s leading pop musicians to describe herself as being a "socially challenged" kid, but as she warmly and candidly reminisces about her teenage years at The University of Winnipeg Collegiate, that’s exactly what Chantal Kreviazuk (Collegiate ’90) does.

"I never felt like I fit in," the Winnipeg-born Kreviazuk recalls. Of course, social awkwardness is endemic to the teenage years... but then again, few teens had the prodigious musical talent that Kreviazuk did. "Of course on the inside I was bursting with energy and music," she says. "You’d think I would have put it out there as a means of acceptance, but I was shy of it."

She’s certainly not shy of her talent anymore. Since graduating from The Collegiate in 1990, Kreviazuk has become a superstar. She burst onto the scene with her 1997 debut album, Under These Rocks and Stones, and followed up with two successful albums: 1999’s Colour Moving And Still and 2002’s What If It All Means Something.

In 1998, Kreviazuk broke into the international market with her cover of John Denver’s "Leaving On A Jet Plane," which was featured on the soundtrack to the blockbuster film Armageddon. In recent years, she has also become a noted songwriter, penning tunes for artists such as Avril Lavigne and Gwen Stefani.

For all her international success, the roots of Kreviazuk’s career are grounded in Winnipeg. The youngest child of Krevco Pools’ owner Jon Kreviazuk and wife Carole, Chantal showed an early gift for music. Her remarkable piano and vocal talents were immediately apparent to her instructors at the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM), some of whom deemed her a bona fide prodigy.

In fact, music played a key part in Kreviazuk’s decision to attend The Collegiate. Until Grade 11, Kreviazuk was a Balmoral Hall student, but the private school wouldn’t count her RCM credits towards her graduation. Yearning for a new experience, she made the move to The Collegiate, where her musical credits were not only applied towards her graduation, but allowed her to graduate a year early.

Kreviazuk was immediately taken with The Collegiate.  The school offered her a sense of independence that she had felt lacking in her previous academic pursuits. “I left [Balmoral] because I wanted to experience that independence,’” she says. “I loved how The Collegiate was big and also warm. The school could accommodate a lot of different personalities... you could get as close to the kids and system as you wanted. It was up to you.”

Inspired by everything from the vintage architecture of the school to its staff, Kreviazuk started to explore her own individuality. She fondly remembers an English presentation where she was allowed to fill the classroom with candles and sing Pink Floyd’s "Comfortably Numb." "They were so open to how I wanted to express myself," she says.

These days, Kreviazuk still carries warm memories of Associate Dean Jo-Anne Doerksen, who she remembers as “a real character,” and Collegiate secretary Arlene Skihar.  “She is an amazing staple of the school,” Kreviazuk says of Skihar. “She cares so much about the students. With me, it was so cool because she has always been so caring prior to my career taking off, and she’s still supportive.”

Doerksen remembers the singer well. “She was an effervescent, bubbly student. We’re very proud of her,” says Doerksen, who taught Kreviazuk math. The teacher recalls listening to the teen perform one of her original songs at her graduation ceremony. “My husband, who plays music himself, said ‘she’s going somewhere.’ Even at that time, her talent was evident.”

And it will continue to be noticed. These days, Kreviazuk has her hands full balancing the twin careers of mother and musician. She currently lives in Malibu, CA with her husband, Our Lady Peace frontman Raine Maida, and their two young sons, Rowan and Lucca. “It’s very liberating to have children,” she says of how motherhood has changed her musical priorities. “The whole music industry breeds so much insecurity. Once you have kids, you just don’t have time to worry about that.”

Kreviazuk is also hard at work on a new album, which her husband is producing. She says that the new album will be more rhythmic than her past efforts, and describes working with Maida as an inspiring experience. More than anything, she is looking forward to using the album’s release as a platform to continue the human rights and poverty advocacy that she has been championing since early 2000. “Having children has heightened my desire to help this place out before I’m no longer here.”

At the end of the day, Kreviazuk credits much of her success to one lesson that she says she first learned at The Collegiate and the "it’s up to you" freedom that she had there. "The thing I always tell people now is that showing up is really what life is all about," she says. "Showing up and being present... engaging the things around you. I think that is half the battle."

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