What started as a wish to help poverty-stricken children in the Dominican Republic has continued as a dream to become charitable rockstars.
When Blake Smith-Daniels, 12, and his family were vacationing in the Caribbean about six years ago, Blake noticed a group of young children kicking around a stone and wondered why they weren’t playing with toys.
“I asked my mum … ‘Mum, where are all their toys?’” Blake says. “And (her answer was) they hadn’t got any toys.”
After returning from the trip, Blake, who was six at the time, celebrated his birthday by asking not for gifts for himself, but for money to donate to children living in the Dominican Republic.
“We were kind of appalled by the living standards (there),” says Blake’s brother, Brett Smith-Daniels, who plays lead guitar and vocals.
Since then, both brothers, who form half of the local band Endurance, have dreamed about being able to help children living in developing countries.
“I think helping people through music is an important thing because people forget about the third world (countries) and the struggles that people go through there every day to survive,” Brett, 15, says. “We take money for granted here in Canada.”
Brett and Blake formed Endurance about two-and-a-half years ago with their friend Michael Tessier, 16.
The Oak Bay based-band was invited to represent the SOS Children’s Villages, an independent social development organization helping children and their families in poverty-stricken regions, by playing at Massey Hall in Toronto, as part of its A Night at Massey Hall fundraiser in 2010.
The band has stuck together since, and brought aboard bass player Trevor Kidd, 17, in March of this year.
Endurance describes themselves as a rock-and-roll-blues band.
Inspired by a mixture of musical styles, each member brings a unique flavour to the band, drummer Michael says.
“It’s like cooking,” Blake, who plays keyboard, interrupts.
The boys poke fun of each other and laugh.
Although Trevor is the newest member of the band, all four boys act like brothers.
The group’s focus is clear: to become rockstars. But not stereotypical ones.
“(Our goal is) to be making a living off playing music,” Trevor says. “Not the standard rockstar persona – having a mansion, fancy cars – just enough to have a regular suburban house, comfortable living, and then with the excess money, we’d be able to help people who have nothing.”
Endurance seems to be getting a little closer to its dream.
The band auditioned for the CBC-TV show, Dragons’ Den, in mid-March during the producers’ stop in Victoria.
“We figured that we needed an opportunity to help us get off the ground and the coverage of national TV is a great, great thing,” Brett says.
The band found out about the casting call two days before it was held in Victoria and quickly scrambled together a pitch.
“It was very scattered and kind of rushed to get things together,” Trevor says. “I thought the idea was absolutely crazy, and I had no hope in it at all.”
They “lucked out” and were invited to perform in front of the Dragons at the CBC studios in Toronto on May 12. The episode should air sometime next season between September 2012 and March 2013.
“We can tell you that it was a very, very exciting experience,” Michael says.
The band had a month to prepare for its pitch in Toronto and put together a proper business plan, an experience they call “stressful and terrifying.”
“For the music (part), we thought, ‘OK, we have this sort of covered,’” Michael says. “But it was the pitch (that made us nervous).”
But like the band’s name, inspired by a Nelson Mandela quote, they remained strong throughout the process.
To the band, endurance means staying strong in tough times and being committed to the industry.
“There’s not all too much money nowadays in the music industry,” Brett adds.
“Obviously you can make a living out of it, but we’re doing it for the love of it.”
For more information about the band, look them up on Facebook by searching Endurance.