People of Georgian: Country singer goes from Lady Gaga tribute artist to nursing student
March 11, 2022

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The Georgian community is full of unique, inspiring perspectives —and we’re sharing them as part of an ongoing series.

People of Georgian: Meet Tonya Kennedy

When I was young I used to always say, “When I grow up I want to be a singer or a nurse,” and I was a professional singer. I did that for 20 years.

I had a pretty successful career.

Not successful to the point where I’m a household name and I’m filthy rich, but I have two albums and still have songs played on the radio across Canada. I also got to go to Nashville so many times and did songwriting with some of the top writers down there.

I had a really good run for an artist who wasn’t with a major recording label. I performed everywhere in Canada, all over the country.

It was amazing, but I also got into music at a time when people didn’t really buy music anymore. They could just go online and download it.

So many people I dealt with in the music business told me, “You know, if you had joined five years earlier your career would’ve been so different.”

It just became tougher and tougher and tougher.

For starters, it’s very difficult when you are not a superstar to get on the radio. I sang country music, and female country singers have a really tough time getting on the radio.

When I decided to leave music, I had just gotten to the point where it became more about the business and it wasn’t really about singing and writing songs anymore.

From country to Lady Gaga

Then two years later, in 2018, I saw A Star is Born with Lady Gaga, who I wasn’t a huge fan of because I was a country singer so I didn’t really listen to her.

But I fell in love with the music from that movie, and I really just wanted to sing those songs. It was the first time in two years I wanted to sing.

I started to dive more into her music, and I fell in love with all her old songs.

My kids were like, “Mom, you know that’s from 2009, right?” I was like, “I don’t care, it’s new to me!”

I put together this amazing Lady Gaga musical tribute show – costumes, dancers, everything.

Pandemic pauses plans

We had such a fantastic show put together, and we had just started booking it. We were looking at cruise ships and resorts; there was so much cool stuff happening… and then COVID-19 arrived.

My plans were done, gone, over. It was pretty devastating.

So then, I’m sitting around the house, I have no job, I have no music, and I’m watching the news 24/7 about the pandemic.

It started to really break my heart, all the trouble the long-term care homes were having.

It’s not in me to sit and let everyone else do the work; I’m a doer.

Tonya Kennedy

It’s not in me to sit and let everyone else do the work; I’m a doer. So, I called around to the nursing homes about volunteering. I had to do something.

I volunteered at Roberta Place long-term care home, and after about three weeks I thought, “I’m supposed to be here, but I’m supposed to be a nurse.” It was like a total calling.

It just sort of makes sense that I’m now fulfilling the other part of when I was the five-year-old kid saying, “When I grow up I want to be a singer or a nurse.”

Life has led me down this road to where I’m supposed to be.

Tonya Kennedy, student in Georgian’s Practical Nursing program.  

Georgian also launched a new stand-alone nursing degree program last fall, Honours Bachelor of Science – Nursing.