A Yellowknife singer who recently graduated from the University of Alberta’s voice performance program spent time this week performing in the city.
Diana Rockwell spent Friday performing at local schools ahead of a Saturday solo recital as she prepares to represent the Northwest Territories in a national competition.
Rockwell grew up in the Yellowknife performing arts community before pursuing a Bachelor of Music and Vocal Performance in Edmonton. Come July, the classical singer will represent the territory for the first time at the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Associations National Voice Competition.
“A classical singer from Yellowknife is not something you hear every day,” she said.
“I’ve never been able to represent the territory, or even myself, at the national level in a musical capacity before, so it means a lot to be able to do that.”
One requirement of the competition is to perform two concerts beforehand. Rockwell says she decided to return to her home to “give back to where it all started.”
“It’s so special, especially with Covid and feeling so isolated, both when I was at school and when I came home. This means so much to me,” she told Cabin Radio.
“Being home and seeing people I haven’t seen in years, coming back to the schools where I grew up performing, and then performing for the students who are in the position I was, 10 or 15 years ago – and seeing the teachers that I had as a kid now get to see me doing the first steps towards a professional career, it’s really special to me.”
The first performances happened on Friday at three Yellowknife schools. Seeing the students’ reactions was a highlight for Rockwell, who said classical music was not something she was often exposed to as a student in Yellowknife.
“It was just jaws dropping, eyes bugging out of their heads,” she said of her Friday audiences.
“And I get it. I know first-hand that opera and classical music in Yellowknife is not something that’s super common for anybody to hear, especially students.”
Rockwell hopes her performances expose audiences to a diverse range of classical styles and languages.
“One of the teachers at a school I visited said to the students that I was taking them on a trip around the world,” she said.
“It features music by some American composers, but also some French, Austrian, German and Canadian composers, so there will be four or five different languages in a very dynamic and diverse performance.”
On Saturday, Rockwell will be accompanied by Shannon Hiebert, a collaborative pianist and coach from the University of Alberta.
The performance will take place at the Calvary Community Church at 7:30pm. Admission is by donation.