Sheridan student featured in new TVO documentary



Sheridan Music Theatre student Dean Deffett performed onstage with the Wexford Gleeks at the third annual Show Choir Canada National Championship last April.

Since the debut of the popular American TV series Glee in 2009, glee clubs have been forming in high schools throughout North America.

Now, Unsung: Behind the Glee, a new TVO documentary that features first-year Sheridan student Dean Deffett, showcases two Toronto high school glee clubs, Wexford Collegiate School of the Arts and the Etobicoke School of the Arts (ESA), as they prepare to compete at the third annual Show Choir Canada National Championship.

Although any skilled student performer might jump at the chance to highlight their talents on television, Deffett had another purpose in mind: he wanted raise awareness of bullying.

“I’m an artist, and I went to a public school that was sports oriented, and I’m anything but a sports person,” Deffett said. “So I got bullied a lot for being the kid who didn’t like to play soccer at lunch, and who didn’t love gym class.”

Deffett, who’s openly gay, said being bullied was like a nightmare.

“It was like walking into hell every day. It was terrible,” he added. “Kids have a preconceived notion that homosexuality is bad, it’s wrong, it’s gross and it’s something that you can make fun of somebody else for. So I was made fun of a lot. I was beat up.”

Deffett was bullied from the time he was around eight years old until he turned 14 and enrolled in the Wexford Collegiate School of the Arts, where he was finally able to celebrate his love for the arts.

“I got into Wexford, and it was like a whole new world. It was all these other artists, and I was in the Music Theatre program and it felt like I was at home finally. And then I started to have a safe place, and feel comfortable with myself,” he said.

It was during his last year at Wexford that the school show choir was approached by TVO with the idea of being filmed for the documentary.

“They came in and they explained what it was, and they explained Glee the TV show, how it was a big hit and how people are getting interested in show choir now,” Deffett said. “They talked about how they were going to introduce specific people and have people featured in it, and have their backstories and why they love show choir, and why they love the arts.”

Knowing Deffett’s history, the head of the school program suggested that he participate. And Deffett, wanting to get his message out, agreed.

“Bullies make you feel like you’re not worth it. And they make you feel like you’re a waste of time and a waste of space and that you don’t deserve to live,” he said. “I guess my reasoning going into the documentary was that if I could help someone else find the arts, and if someone else could survive through the arts the way I did, the way the arts kept me alive in many cases, at the end of my life I could be happy with what I’ve done.”


Former Wexford student Dean Deffett shared his personal experiences with bullying in the TVO documentary, Unsung: Behind the Glee.

His mother, Leah Deffett, said that she’s proud of her son’s participation.

“I think he has a very interesting and inspiring story, so I was really pleased,” she said. “He’s a wonderful, kind, decent person with integrity. That is a gift he gives his family, but we’re also so blessed that he gives us his other gift of being in the arts and being such an interesting, talented person that we all get to go and see these wonderful things that he’s been doing since he was nine years old.”

She added, “He has many passions, and I think that has also helped Dean to survive.”

Deffett, who will soon turn 19, is enrolled in the Music Theatre program at Sheridan. Feeling positive, he has a bright future ahead of him.

“The way I feel is so blessed. I’m not a religious person, but I feel so blessed at whatever power is moving me forward in my life. I’m getting an amazing education here,” he said. “It’s a lot of running to classes and stuff, but I couldn’t be happier. I’m learning so much, and I feel so blessed to be here with such amazing people.”

And, of course, he’s also looking forward to watching the documentary.

“I think the documentary’s a fantastic look at the inside of show choir and the discipline it takes, because it’s not easy to do what we do. And we wouldn’t be able to do it if we didn’t love it. A lot of the time, people are like, ‘Oh artists, they do what they love and they have it easy,’ but it’s one of the most difficult things anyone can ever do and put yourself through” Deffett added.

“If people watch the documentary, they’ll get an insight into how hard it is. And people should watch it for sure.”

Unsung: Behind the Glee will premiere at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4 on TVO.

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