Meet Clarissa Mae, the Lewisham school girl who has recently become the youngest winner of a London busking competition.
Clarissa, who attends the Bonus Pastor Catholic College in Lewisham, won the ‘Busker of the Year’ prize at the Mayor of London gigs event earlier this month at the tender age of 13. After spending three months performing at different venues around London and surrounding areas, she would have never imagined her summer would have ended the way it did.
“I didn’t expect to win the competition because there were so many professional musicians. So when I went to semifinals I thought – it’s okay if I don’t get in – and then I got in and after I won the champion. I was so overwhelmed,” she says.
She was encouraged to enter the competition by her music teacher to gain confidence and start performing in public. After going through the selection process not only did she win the youth category prize, but also came in ahead all the other competitors.
The competition was held earlier this month in Stratford and featured busking talents of different ages.
“My teacher told me about this competition and that I should look into it and that it’s good for confidence and everything. After that, I told my dad about it and we gave in the video and they chose a few people.”
As Clarissa says, her family strongly influenced her passion for music. Her dad Chris Ragrad had a family band called Nugroovz until 2013, while her trumpeter and saxophonist grandad Rudy Ragrag is commonly known as the ‘Miles Davis of the Philippines’.
“Actually, it’s my family who got me into music”, she admits. “When I was a kid, I did not really want to sing or play the guitar, I was more into dancing – even though I was bad at it – but my parents were like “come on you can sing.”
My family supported me, they came to all my gigs and they put effort into telling everyone to vote for me. So it was fun having all my family around,” Clarissa adds.
The Bonus Pastor Catholic College has been very supportive too. “I feel particular support from my school in Lewisham”, she said, “They have great talents and they express themselves a lot. We are given a lot more space especially with social media because we can put ourselves out there.”
Singing competitions can be nerve-wrecking no matter how old you are but it has been a great experience for Clarissa. According to her dad, the contest “was a good way for her to build confidence and gain experience.”
“Well, I did get nervous every time, however I did gain confidence during the gig which is good because for the next gig I know what to do and what not to do,” the 13-year-old explains.
Despite being a successful student at Bonus Pastor Catholic College in Lewisham, Clarissa has a remarkable history in performing. She took part in various concerts and festivals including Lewisham Live Voices 2015 & 2016 at the Catford Theatre and Summer Gala 2015 at the Royal Festival Hall.
At such a young age Clarissa’s achievements are impressive. When asked what advice would she share with fellow students and teenagers to encourage them to express and pursue their talent, she says: “If they have some sort of talent, whether its art or music, just grab every opportunity, don’t say “no” and don’t think people will judge you for it, because the more opportunities you get the better your career will be in future.”
Following her great success at the Mayor of London Gigs, even though she is torn between becoming a doctor and pursuing her musical career, Clarissa has already received a lot of invitations to events and other competition.