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Photo: Isaiah Bell won first place in the Voice Category this past weekend – Photo courtesy of Janice Closson

A former Fort St. John resident won the top prize at a prestigious classical music competition in Saskatoon this weekend.

The Federation of Canadian Music Festivals National Competition pits some of the country’s best up-and-coming classical musicians against each other, representing their provinces, in seven different categories.

Earlier this year, 24 year-old Isaiah Bell was chosen to represent B.C. in the voice competition.

The tenor says he was shocked when he earned first place over the weekend.

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Bell prepared a 45 minute recital, and sang the selected pieces comprised of four different composers. His recital also earned him a Jan Simons Award for Song Interpretation.

Bell was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and grew up in Fort St. John. He started singing at a young age, and began appearing in musical theatre productions at the North Peace Secondary School. He joined the Northern Lights Youth Choir when he was 17. His classical voice director, Beverly Barradell, recognized his early talent and encouraged him to pursue music at the University of Victoria.

Now, he has been recruited by the Calgary Opera to be part of their Emerging Artist Apprenticeship Program, which includes intensive training in all aspects of opera.

Bell says he plans to come back for a performance in Fort St. John once he establishes his career.

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He says he’s not entirely sure what the future holds for him. He does say, while trained as both a singer and composer, he wants to focus on his voice.

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