The Voice grand finalist Thando Sikwila credits a Canberra music teacher for her amazing turnout | Central Western Daily

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Thando Sikwila, The Voice’s grand finalist, may now live in Melbourne, but she spent most of her school years in Canberra, where her music career really took off. On Sunday, the 29-year-old mother-of-one will take on three other singers in The Voice’s grand finale, all of whom will compete for $100,000 in prize money and a record deal with Universal Music Australia. Fellow ACT local Dickson College year 12 student Xanthe Campbell also came painfully close to the grand final, dropping out in the semis despite Gayle’s powerful rendition of abcdefu. Thando secured her big final berth with a whirlwind interpretation of Ariana Grande’s POV. And if Thando wins on Sunday, she’ll think of Joella Keech, music teacher at Lake Ginninderra, who she says is the reason for her singing career. “She was just always very encouraging. She always knew I had something to offer the world,” Thando said. “At that age you don’t really expect anyone to believe in you, but she always barracks me. Any opportunity for a performance, she would push me onto a stage.” Joella Keech was instrumental in convincing Lake Ginninderra College to sponsor Thando to attend an industry-run singing workshop in Melbourne when she was still in school. “I owe literally everything I have in terms of music to her struggle for me,” Thando said. “If I didn’t have that, I don’t know if this would happen to me.” But it happens. Big time. All four grand finalists released a new original song ahead of the grand finale. The singles were selected in collaboration with each artist, who teamed up with high-profile producers and songwriters to make their voices heard. Thando, who was mentored by country star Keith Urban, has released an uplifting tune called The Other Side, about taking risks and “no longer fighting your destiny”. Thando arrived in Australia with her family from Zimbabwe in 2001 and settled first in Canberra, where they stayed for ten years. She also attended Macquarie Primary and Canberra High. Life was hard sometimes. “At the time, people weren’t used to seeing people like us, especially in Canberra,” she said. “I think a lot of people who migrated went to other cities. Canberra was very sheltered. So some people just didn’t know how to react to someone who was so different.” And I think I’m the only one who grew up and realized that used to be. There were some incidents, but nothing that I didn’t grow out of and get a thick skin as a result. You just know things like this happen because people are ignorant and they don’t realize we are all human.” IN OTHER NEWS: She is now mother to Charlie, who is almost three, her daughter with former partner Henry. Charlie’s grandmother is a professor Kathryn Robinson of the Australian National University. Due to the severe COVID lockdowns in Melbourne, the young family temporarily moved back to Canberra. “Melbourne was cancelled, so we stayed in Canberra as everything was still open, so we played gigs and Charlie was here at the nursery and it was a really nice way to be Canberrean for a while,” she said. “I hadn’t been back to Canberra as an adult in a long time. I had just visited and we had moved almost permanently because we honestly didn’t know what was going to happen. Whatever happens on Sunday, Thando has big plans for her future. to this stage of the competition. I think I’ve been able to show Australia that I can do many different things with my voice,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to play Eurovision. I would love to represent Australia on the world stage and I think it would make such a statement about how vibrant and how multicultural our country is, to have a visibly diverse woman represent Australia on such a platform, I think it’s incredible would be. †

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