At only 13- and 14-years-old, Carmelle and Cadance Janz have lived through things people thrice their age have yet to encounter: besides all the normal woes children experience growing up, the Janz sisters have watched their mother fight breast cancer twice and lost their father tragically less than two years ago. Yet despite feeling the weight of life at such a young age, both girls are highly optimistic about life and their future.
Participants in last year’s songwriting contest hosted by Chilliwack’s Optimism Club, the sisters competed against students years older who were more musically sophisticated but showed they were able to handle their own when they placed second and fourth, respectively. Writing and practicing together, the sisters consider themselves a musical duo, although they’ve entered the Optimist Club’s songwriting again this year, they’re participating as individuals again.
“It was really amazing,” says Carmelle. “These (students were) way more experienced than me, they’d been able to learn instruments, (and had) lived more, so to go up against them was quite intimidating.
“But to learn I got second place was amazing—and humbling,” she added.
Started last year, the Optimist Club’s songwriting competition is for students in grade seven to 12, and comes with a $1,000 grand prize that is accompanied by a professional recording session at Tractor Grease Studio. Open to the entire school district, the final date for registering in the competition is Feb. 28, with the contest wrapping up on Apr. 6, at the Acoustic Emporium.
Originating in the Unites States more than a century ago, the Optimist Club has been in Chilliwack for more than three decades. And for at least 25 of those years, Glenda Standeven has been a member, helping spread a cheerful countenance wherever she goes. With a mandate of providing hope and positivity, Standeven says the Club hopes to bring out the best in youth while helping them develop to their full potential.
“We believe all kids have excellence in them, but they don’t all have to be excellent at the same thing,” adds Standeven, who says that’s why the Optimist Club hosts so many youth activities in arts, academics and athletics. They’ve also sponsored the “Just Say No” campaign, a three-day event aimed at all grade four students in the district, for the last 20 years.
With optimism in their hearts and lyrics in their minds, the Janz sisters have crafted two more original songs for this year’s competition, and are again ready to take on other talented teens.
Cadence, who was only 12 when she first competed, says although she’s an introvert, she’s ready to step on stage and show the world just how bright her inner light shines.
“Getting on stage is a very brave thing to do because once you’re on stage, that’s pretty much it, there’s no turning back,” says the 13-year-old.
“Performing is a very nerve-wracking thing to do, so to overcome those nerves before I go on stage, I reaffirm to myself that I have practiced and everything will go okay, and when I get up on stage, all those nerves actually subside,” adds Cadence.
And although Carmelle and Cadence both hope to place in the competition, their ultimate goal is to share their music and give somebody the gift of comradery to get by with, even if they feel alone.
“A lot of the lyrics I write are very relatable,” says Cadence. “The lyrics are life and what life’s like, so when you relate your life to these songs, all of a sudden it’s like you’re not alone: it’s like you have this friend who has the same life as you and has gone through the same stuff.”
“We want to be encouraging and uplifting,” adds Carmelle. “(We want people to know) that even if they feel there’s no hope left, there’s always something they can continue doing.”
And with goals like, “To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet,” and “To make all your fiends feel that there is something in them,” included in the Optimist’s Club creed, the songwriting contest is the perfect place for Carmelle and Cadence to spread musical mirth.
As for the Optimist Club itself, “It makes you feel like your Santa Claus all year round,” says Standeven happily. “When we see a need … we help. And because we’re a smaller club—about 10 active members—everyone gets a hands-on job. It’s truly a wondrous experience.”