JAM | Sep 18, 2023

A medical doctor’s unexpected journey to winning medals at the World Championship of Performing Arts

Tamoy Ashman

Tamoy Ashman / Our Today

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Dr Kayla Stewart, medallist at the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA). (Photo: Contributed)

In a remarkable twist of fate, medical doctor Kayla Stewart captured the hearts of audiences and judges at the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA) to take home two medals for team Jamaica.

Stewart, a dedicated healthcare professional who caters to children, had always enjoyed singing casually for family members and friends. However, it had never occurred to her that sharing her talent with a wider audience on social media would lead to her performing in a global event for performing arts, taking home a silver and bronze medal for her vocal performances in the categories of Jazz and Gospel.

She admits in an interview with Our Today that she had never sung in a competition before. However, when she was approached by Antonio Dennis, the WCOPA national director of Jamaica, his request to sign up for the competition was one she did not deny.

“At the time, having never sung in a competition before in my life, I really questioned ‘Should I do this?’ However, I said I wanted to develop. I want to see what I can really do. So, I decided to take on the journey and pursue it. I was definitely not going to an easy journey, but I decided that if I wanted to try and compete, I would compete in the world championships,” she shared.

Stewart competed in three categories at WCOPA, namely Jazz, Gospel, and Broadway. However, she medalled in two. The medical doctor and singing enthusiast won silver for her rendition of Everybody Needs A Best Friend, a Jazz song by Norah Jones. She also won a bronze medal for her performance of It Is Well, a gospel cover by Tori Kelly and Kirk Franklin.

Journey to the championships 

Initially sceptical due to her lack of professional singing experience, Stewart decided to pursue her passion seriously. After auditioning for the Jamaican team and making the cut, she enrolled in singing lessons provided by KaDon Musical Academy, where her singing coach Susane Love played a pivotal role in improving her vocal skills.

The journey was challenging, with countless hours of practice and dedicated efforts to refine her singing abilities. However, Stewart’s determination and resilience pushed her to explore the untraversed waters of professional singing.

Dr Kayla Stewart, medalist at the World Championships of Performing Arts (left) and her vocal coach Susane Love. (Photo: Contributed)

“The aim of it was really to show what you’re capable of doing as a singer, which is why they always encourage you to enter more categories. I also can say it was challenging because that is how I ended up at KaDon. I told myself if I’m going to compete, I want to do my best,” she told Our Today.

“I truly saw how my coach helped me and how I grew. I thought that I could just go up there and sing the song, but no, I could not. I had to train and practice. I really learned so much. I was able to challenge myself. I didn’t realise these things would be as challenging as they were, but I was able to tackle them with her help,” she continued.

Unexpected medals

When the competition rolled around, the medical doctor and her other team members ventured to Los Angeles at the Hyatt Regency, Orange County, where they represented team Jamaica at the global event that had 36 countries participating.

Stewart says that she went up against fierce competitors, which caused her to doubt her abilities. However, despite her doubt, she delivered a mesmerizing performance that captivated the judges and audience.

Dr Kayla Stewart, medalist at the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA) during medal presentation at the global event. (Photo: Contributed)

“Initially, I was really worried, because the way that the competition is you have the medals that you can get, but you also have semi-finals. I hadn’t made it to the semi-finals, so I was concerned because we didn’t hear about medaling until further down,”

“On the day when they started announcing the medallist, and I heard my name, I was so shocked because this was new to me. I had expected to do my best, but I had seen the competition, and they were incredibly talented people. In total, it was 36 countries that took part, and singing was the biggest category, especially for my age group. So, it was tight,” said the Jamaican singer.

The recognition of her talent and hard work at the medal presentation is a moment the medical doctor says will be engraved in her memory. She admits that she is excited and proud of herself for taking a leap of faith and is extremely happy that it paid off.

While at the competition, she says she had the opportunity to meet multiple producers and directors. Additionally, other members of the Jamaican team had the opportunity to get scholarships to film academies and meet with prominent people in the music industry.

(Left to right) Team Jamaica at the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA) show their medals. They include: Dwight Gayle, Jillian Gayle, Lee-San Gayle, Kayla Stewart, Renee Robertson and Fred Robertson. (Photo: Contributed)

“You never know where God will take you. You never know where this will go, and so I’m excited to see it. My aim right now is just to continue to grow in my confidence, continue to grow in my exposure, and see where it goes,” said Stewart.

She is also encouraging others to pursue their dreams because they never know where they could end up.

“I think it is very important in this day and age to go all in into the things that you feel you are passionate about. Had I not taken that step with a lot of prayer and thought, I would have never known that I would have left that competition with a medal,”

With championship medals under her belt, she shares that a professional music career is not farfetched and it is an idea she is seriously considering. However, until then, she will continue to be of service to her patients.

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