Kingston’s Reed Whalen ready to take the stage at 2022 CNE

Kingston’s Reed Whalen is set to compete in this year’s Rising Star Talent Competition at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. Photo via Cathy Whalen.

Kingston’s Reed Whalen will be taking to the stage at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto next week, competing in the fair’s renowned Rising Star Talent Competition. The event gives the young singer a chance to perform on a national stage, competing against some of this country’s brightest young entertainers.

While it would be perfectly understandable if the 14-year-old were feeling some nerves ahead of the competition, Whalen said that is not the case. “I’m not that nervous. I’m excited to see other people’s acts and see what they have to offer and… enjoy the experience [of] just being there.”

Reed Whalen performing on stage at a recent gig. Photo via Cathy Whalen.

For his entry in the competition, Whalen will be singing ‘For the Nights I Can’t Remember’ by Canadian rock group Hedley. It’s a song Whalen is familiar with, having performed it “many times” over the years.

“I love how it connects with my voice… We rehearsed it over 20 times… I know it down to the [core],” Whalen said.

While the Rising Star event at the CNE will certainly be one of Whalen’s biggest performances to date, the Frontenac Secondary School student is no stranger to music competitions. This spring, Whalen won both gold and silver at the Kingston Kiwanis Music Festival. He also received an Honorary Mention in the Junior Popular Voice category at the 2022 Ontario Music Festival. 

Whalen said his experience at previous festivals has helped him prepare for the upcoming national competition. “It gave me a lot of confidence to go out there and just sing my heart out and stuff. It gave me a lot of practice,” he expressed.

The Kingstonian, who first started performing when he was 10 years old, said he has matured as a musician over the years. “I think I’ve grown as an artist. I’ve learned a lot of new songs vocally, and I like playing the guitar, as well,” said Whalen, who is also an accomplished drummer, having picked up that instrument before he began singing or playing guitar. 

Away from the stage, Whalen is a well-rounded athlete, participating in hockey, basketball, and swimming. Last year, he received his bronze medallion certificate, the second step on the road to becoming a lifeguard. While he is certainly making a name for himself as a talented young singer, the young teen has different aspirations where his full-time career is concerned — he noted that one day he wants to become a police officer. 

While he does not see a full-time career in music in his future, Whalen did indicate he hopes to continue playing. “I’d like [to have] a side job performing in local bands or something like that,” said the artist.

For now, however, Whalen remains focused on the upcoming competition, with his preliminary round performance set for Friday, Aug. 26, 2022, inside the Enercare Center at the CNE. If Whalen advances in the event, he will then perform in the semi-finals set for Wednesday, Aug. 31 or Thursday, Sep. 1, the final step before the youth finals, which take place on Sunday, Sep. 4, 2022. 

This year marks the 35th year of the CNE’s Rising Star Talent Competition, which showcases select singers, dancers, musicians, actors, magicians, and comedians. The competition is split into two age categories, with artists aged 6 to 12 competing in the junior class, while performers between 13 and 21 make up the youth category. Previous rising star winners include Canadian jazz vocalist Matt Dusk, and Blake McGrath of So You Think You Can Dance Canada.

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