When Nicole Provost wanted to start a choir in her hometown of Abbotsford, B.C., in 2015, she had a few things working against her.
Firstly, she didn’t know any singers.
She was, however, willing to spend a little cash on coffee and promotional T-shirts and, sometimes, that’s all you need to kickstart a dream.
“I actually paid a bunch of little girls in Starbucks gift cards to put on choir shirts,” she said, laughing. “They posed for pictures so I could tell everyone, ‘Look, I’ve got this awesome choir.’ “
Four years later, the Mayday Club Youth Choir for Neurodiversity performs almost every weekend at festivals and community events — and is preparing to release its second album.
But it’s not their accomplishments that make Provost, 25, most proud.
She says there aren’t many programs available to people with disabilities that encourage, educate and empower them, so she created the choir to help fill that gap.
“I’m on the autism spectrum,” she said. “I just really wanted to use music to be able to teach people about inclusion and kind of reach out to them.”
The group now consists of more than 40 members between the ages of six and 25, all of whom have a disability.
The choir covers songs by everyone from Ozzy Osbourne to Lady Gaga. Their upcoming album Reasons to Dream was recorded in Vancouver’s famous Warehouse Studio owned by Canadian rocker Bryan Adams.
“It was incredible,” said Provost, whose dark hair is dyed bluish-green at the tips.
“All the parents, when they walked in, were like, ‘Whoa’ because this is where Bryan Adams recorded all their favourite songs.”
The group chooses songs with inspirational messages. When they perform, Provost serves as conductor, vocalist and hype person, bouncing in front of the choir as she belts out tunes at the top of her lungs.
“My favourite song is Million Reasons,” said vocalist Victor Smith, referring to the Lady Gaga hit. “It’s just a lot of fun.”
When Provost isn’t performing, she’s studying aviation, pursuing her dream of becoming a commercial pilot.
She started down that path to overcome her fear of flying.
“It got to the point where I was having nightmares about planes, so I decided to try an introductory flight just to see how it would be,” she said.
“I just really decided that I loved it and it’s just an amazing feeling to get over something that you’re scared of.”
The next challenge Provost wants to take on is organizing a national blood drive.
“It will be where people with disabilities from all over Canada go and donate blood to make a statement,” she said.
“What runs in our veins is the same, and everybody’s capable of making a difference.”