Robert Fraser Burke, whose composition is one of two finalists to replace the \\"Hockey Night In Canada\\" theme, poses for a photo during an interview in Toronto. THE CANADIAN PRESS/J.P. Moczulski
TORONTO - Thirteen-year-old Robert Fraser Burke is being hailed as a prodigy by many who've admired his "Sticks to the Ice" tune that beat out thousands to make it to the Top 2 in CBC-TV's "Hockey Night in Canada" anthem challenge.
But the young, flaxen-haired Toronto composer, who wrote a song about subway trains when he was just five, gets bashful when he hears the word.
"I don't know if I'd go that far," the humble, bespectacled Grade 8 student said in an interview Friday after learning the night before, on live TV, that his song was one of two finalists in the running to be the new theme.
"This is basically my only big, big (achievement), so no, I wouldn't go that far."
"Sticks to the Ice" is facing off against the track "Canadian Gold" by Colin Oberst - an elementary school teacher from Beaumont, Alta. - in the high-profile contest in which the voting public picks a song to replace the original, iconic theme that CBC lost the rights to earlier this year. The original song is now the property of TSN.
CBC received nearly 15,000 entries for the contest. The winning anthem will be revealed on Saturday during "Hockey Night in Canada."
Earlier this week, members of the Canadian bands the Arrogant Worms and the Stills raved about Robert's brassy anthem, predicting it would win it all.
The teen, however, says he was surprised it even made it this far.
"You can't predict these things at all. I really had no idea," said Robert, who planned to head to school after doing interviews Friday morning.
George Rowell, the principal at Cosburn Middle School that Robert attends, says the young musician has always been highly dedicated to his studies and doesn't like to flaunt his newfound fame to his classmates.
"He's just a very quiet, unassuming young man," Rowell said in a telephone interview this week.
"With all of this uproar in his life, he comes in every day and it's just like another day in the office for him. He really is very calm. There isn't an ounce of ego."
The blue-eyed talent, who likes to play street hockey, wrote "Sticks to the Ice" for the contest at his parents' cottage in Prince Edward Island in the summer, using the only instrument that was there: an electronic keyboard. His uncle, Robert Fraser, filmed him playing the song and uploaded it to the CBC website.
"When I was thinking of something to do, I looked at the old song and I admired the power that it had," said Robert, who also plays trumpet, a bit of guitar and sings in a choir. His mother, Anne Fraser Burke, is a music teacher at his school where his 12-year-old sister, Madeline, is also enrolled.
"I thought of two things that made it so powerful, and I thought that those two things were: it was fast and motivational, and that it (built) up to something. So those were two things I wanted to accomplish when I wrote it."
The original version of "Sticks to the Ice" is a charming piano composition.
Renowned producer Bob Rock, who was hired to spruce up the Top 5 tracks in the contest, has added lots of horns and some electric guitar.
The composer of the winning anthem gets $100,000.
"I have everything I need right now actually, so I'll probably just put it in some bank account somewhere," Robert said when asked what he would do with the prize money.
For him, the biggest reward would be hearing his tune open hockey games that are televised nationally by the public broadcaster.
"I think that would be the most awesome part of winning for this - just hearing the song every Saturday," said Robert, whose other compositions include Christmas carols that he has submitted to a Toronto contest "a few years in a row."
"The money would be secondary."