A young Ponoka singer swept the Red Deer Festival of the Performing Arts competition on April 9, winning first place in six vocal solo categories.
Zuri Ayuno, 10, has been performing since she was four years old, singing the national anthem at local events such as the Ponoka Stampede and the 2020 PBR Championship in Red Deer. She has also taught herself to play the piano.
“I love to sing,” said Ayuno, who attends St. Augustine School in Grade 4. “My heart is joyful whenever I see my family and many people smile through my singing.”
The Red Deer festival was the largest competition she’s taken part in to-date. She’s been asked to participate in the festival in previous years but this was the first year her parents felt she was old enough to handle the pressure it came with.
Musical talent runs in the family. Both of Ayuno’s grandfathers are singers. Her paternal grandfather was a professional wedding singer. She also has an aunt who currently sings professionally in the Philippines.
“I like to follow my grandparents’ footsteps,” she said. “My dad sings in church. My mom sings too but not publicly. They inspire me.”
At the Red Deer festival, Ayuno performed pieces that were chosen in collaboration with her vocal coach Dr. Gwendolyn Munroe.
She topped the classical vocal solo categories for French art song (14 and under), own choice (10 and under), and sacred (10 and under) as well as the contemporary vocal solo categories for pop – 2000 to present, movie/TV and praise/worship songs for 10 and under.
Ayuno, who began singing in church at a young age, enjoys gospel, Disney, Broadway and R&B music. She now trains for one-and-a-half hours every week.
Ayuno will compete again on April 26 at the Red Deer Festival of the Performing Arts in the musical theatre solo category. The event is being held at Red Deer Polytechnic in the Margaret Parsons Theatre.
She is to perform Never Enough from the musical movie The Greatest Showman.
“Zuri strives to sweep all categories by going for it in next week’s competition,” said Arnel Ayuno, Zuri’s father.
Her future goals are to keep learning and practicing, and gain more experience performing at local events and across the province.
Aside from singing, she hopes to become a doctor one day — not doubt inspired by her parents who are both nurses.