Support from northerners like you keeps our journalism alive. Sign up here.

NWT classical singer wins national competition in Edmonton

Diana Rockwell (left) and her mother, Susan Shantora, at the CFMTA National Voice Competition. Photo: Dina Pollock

Yellowknife’s Diana Rockwell has won a national vocal competition, two months after graduating from the University of Alberta’s voice performance program.

Rockwell travelled to Edmonton at the beginning of July to represent the NWT at the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Associations’ national vocal competition, where she competed against four other female singers representing British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec.

She told Cabin Radio qualifying for the final at MacEwan University’s PCL Hall, let alone winning, was unexpected.

Her selections included performances in English, French, Italian, German and Ojibwe. Her goal, she said, was not to win but tell a story through song that the audience could connect with.

“It’s insane, actually. I felt like I was my little high school self again, because in high school I had gone down to Edmonton and performed in that hall for the Alberta Provincial Music Festival, and I did my best, but it was never enough. I never felt like it was enough,” Rockwell said.



“I felt like I had something to prove to my younger self, and I just thought to myself, ‘You have a knack for this, you love it so much, so just go out there and show what you’ve done over the last four years of your training.’ And that’s what I did.

“By the end of just the semi-final round, I felt I had already made my younger self proud. I thought, ‘Wow, you’d be really happy to see what I’m doing right now.'”

Listen to Diana Rockwell’s full performance at the National Voice Competition final.

The singer went to Edmonton with vocal coach Shannon Hiebert, with whom she has worked for the past four years. Experiencing a win with a coach who had been there since day one was a “wonderful achievement” for both of them, said Rockwell.

As the first person from the NWT to compete at the CFMTA competition, Rockwell said representing her territory was a special experience, especially competing against others from bigger cities.



Competitors at the CFMTA national vocal competition. From left: Paige Kaps (British Columbia), Marianne Bertrand (Quebec), Diana Rockwell (NWT), Zoe McCormick (Alberta) and Sonia Campbell (Manitoba). Photo: Dina Pollock

“I had people coming up to me who would congratulate me but then want to hear my story, because I’m from this far-off territory,” she said.

“And then I went and won it, so that was really fun. I had a funny little smile in my head because the rest of Canada is so big, and they have so many talented people, so being able to go and represent the place where I grew up – and the place that nurtured my love of music – was really special.”

Rockwell will move to Winnipeg in the fall to pursue a Master of Vocal Performance degree at the University of Manitoba.

From there, she hopes to work as a performing singer and perhaps teach others who have the same love of classical singing.