Victor Micallef of The Tenors (second from left) got his musical start singing at a church in Toronto. His bandmates are Clifton Murray (to Micallef’s right), Remibio Pereira on his left and Fraser Walters. Photo by Edith Held

Supportive Catholic community helps Toronto singer become a star with The Tenors

By 
  • November 3, 2012

TORONTO - Victor Micallef, a member of the internationally acclaimed singing group The Tenors, began his successful musical career with a stroke of good fortune.

“I was always attracted to music,” says Micallef. “My sister was taking piano lessons when I was about three or four years old and my family couldn’t afford both of us taking lessons, so I just watched her take lessons and she hated it. She just couldn’t stand it,” he laughs.

“One day she turned to our parents and said she didn’t want to take lessons any more… that was victory for me!”

After his fortuitous piano incident, Micallef was led by his late father to the opportunity that would one day become his career and passion: singing.

“I was a very shy boy… I didn’t like singing in front of people. One day (my father) went to my parish priest (at St. Paul the Apostle in Toronto) who was Fr. Jimmy Zammit, and he just said: Vic wants to sing. I did a double take! I was petrified,” says Micallef, who soon afterwards began working as a cantor at the church.

“That was my early childhood education… Fr. Jim and my father influenced me to sing. It was good because, from a young age, I was singing in front of a large audience.”

Now, Micallef sings with The Tenors (formerly The Canadian Tenors) in front of much larger audiences that have included Celine Dion, Oprah Winfrey and Queen Elizabeth II. Much of his success, attests Micallef, comes from his Toronto upbringing in his Catholic parish and high school, Michael Power-St. Joseph in Etobicoke.

“MPSJ always seemed like an arts school,” says Micallef. “It was a great school to be at. The memories that were the fondest for me were the after school and the pre-school things… it was something that I loved to do — to stick around after school with my friends and make music.”

Micallef credits his experiences and teachers during his high school years as an integral factor in his current success. And the Toronto Catholic District School Board has since honoured Micallef, awarding him the TCDSB Alumni Award last year.

“I was totally blown away. I was absolutely honoured to be recognized in that way,” says Micallef. “Singing for the Queen and meeting all of these stars and being in those circles — it has its drawbacks too. I love my family, but I’m away a lot. When they came to me and said we recognize you as being a good representative, I was like, really?” he laughs.

“I do practice going to church and educating my four-year-old son in the same way… even more than that just trying to be a good person… As an alumni winner, you have a responsibility to be a good example,” says Micallef.

“Even with the other Tenors, they know me as the family guy who goes to church,” he laughs. “I try my best to be an example. I’m still that shy boy — we’ll be at a big event somewhere… and they’ll be like, ‘OK, Vic, lead us in prayer, we love when you do that!’ ”

Despite his grounding in faith and family, Micallef and the other members of The Tenors are in the midst of a whirlwind tour across North America as they rebrand not only their name, but also seek to create a strong image on which their group is based.

“Part of the rebranding was learning about what we represent as a group, and part of that is inspiring people and trying to give a message,” says Micallef, who also noted that dropping Canadian from the name was not a matter of being unpatriotic, but was done to retain their international appeal.

The Tenors released their newest album on Oct. 30, and that will be followed up with a December DVD release of the group performing live from Las Vegas.

“We’re really excited about this album — it’s like the next step. We have writing credits on it, and we’ve written with world-class writers,” says Micallef.

Particularly evocative of their image and mantra is the name of the album, Lead With Your Heart, which almost came too late.

“This one song came to us really late in the game and we already had all of our songs for the CD. It was written with us in mind and it was called ‘Lead With Your Heart,’ ” says Micallef.

“It appealed to us right away and the words were just so right… that’s what we represent. So we called the album that.”

Looking forward, Micallef hopes that the same programs that nurtured his love of music and performance will continue on in high schools and create opportunities for other TCDSB students.

“I’ve been very, very fortunate, because it could have been the exact opposite where people didn’t care… or if I didn’t have teachers who persuaded me to go sing in musical theatre,” says Micallef. “The people around me, like Fr. Jim and my teachers at school and my father, they all fed me and led me to doing what eventually would become my life.”

For young people and any others hoping to pursue a career in the arts, Micallef offers a simple piece of advice.

“Always follow your heart… it does tell you a lot. It’s that instinct. When you’re singing, or making these choices always try and ask yourself who you are and what do you feel happy doing.”

For more on The Tenors go to www.tenorsmusic.com.

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