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Music FestivalBy MYRON LOVE Elliott Lazar and Josh Bellan were among the major winners in the 98th annual Winnipeg Music Festival (which ran from February 28 to March 20).

Vocalist Bellan, the 19-year-old son of Murray Bellan and Robyn Zimberg scored in his age group with songs in French and  German as well as in the English Art and vocal solo, Musical Theatre Ballad categories. He won the Alma Wynne Memorial Trophy; the Mary Campbell Memorial Bursary; was co-winner of the Musical Theatre category; was a runner-up for the Rainbow Stage Trophy;  and was recommended for  provincial competitions in the vocal intermediate and Musical Theatre categories.
Bellan has been studying voice (first with Kelly Robinson, more recently with David Klassen) for five years and has competed in the Winnipeg Music Festival for the past four years. He says he was inspired to pursue a career in song by musicals he saw at Rainbow Stage and the Manitoba Theatre Centre. He attended Grant Park High School, which is well known for its performing arts program.
He is currently studying voice at the University of Manitoba School of Music.
“I enjoy performing and look forward to opportunities to perform,” he says. “I hope that I will be able to pursue a career on stage and perhaps as a voice teacher.”
Elliott Lazar competed in six different categories: Oratorio Aria, Opera Aria, French Melodie, 20th and 21st century English Art Song, German Lieder and Musical Theatre (the last in a duet) and finished first or second in each category. He was runner up for the Rose Bowl this year.
Last year, he says, he was first in the provincial competition in the senior voice category.
Lazar is graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Manitoba Faculty of Music.
The son of Michael and Cheryl Lazar got his start in musical theatre in Gray Academy shows. He has appeared in Winnipeg Studio Theatre productions and also been involved behind the scenes assisting Steven Shipper in directing Camp Massad’s 60th anniversary gala three years ago.
Lazar has a busy spring and summer ahead, including roles in Dry Cold Productions’ “A Little Night Music” at the end of May and the Manitoba Underground Opera’s production outside on the grounds of the St. Boniface Cathedral. In July and August, he will be in Edmonton for six weeks playing Leo Frank in a new opera being mounted by Opera Nuova. (Leo Frank was the young Jewish man who was lynched by a southern mob in Georgia about 100 years ago.)
He will also be entering a Fringe production with friends Erin and Erica Schwartz. The threesome are the founders of Creative Mind Productions, a musical theatre company for university age performers.
Lazar’s goal is a career in voice and the theatre.
Alyssa Cohen’s instrument is the classical guitar. In the festival, she finished first in Classical Guitar Solo, Romantic Composers and 20/21st Century Composers, Grade 6 Levels. She was also runner-up for the Institute of Chartered Piano Tuners of Manitoba Trophy (which, she notes, is quite an accomplishment for a classical guitar player) and won a Winnipeg Classical Guitar Society scholarship. Her next stop is the upcoming provincial competitions.
The H.C. Avery Grade 8 student (and daughter of Robert and Sandy Cohen) took up the guitar at the age of six. “My father plays guitar and I wanted to be like him,” she says.
She found though that she wasn’t comfortable using a pick. Her teacher therefore recommended that she try classical guitar. She reports that she has won several gold medals over the years at the Winnipeg Music Festival in her categories. She has performed numerous times at her school, has made appearances at the Planetarium, Eckhardt Grammate Hall at the University of Winnipeg and at Congregation Etz Chayim (for a Women’s League program).
She says that she would like to pursue a career in classical guitar.
“I just got a Jesse Perry guitar,” she says happily.

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