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Vocal students share their voices

“Their success is my success,” said accomplished Canadian musician and teacher Douglas Rice after hosting the first annual Quinte Cocktail show on Sunday.

The event took place at St. Matthew’s Church and featured about 28 of Rice’s 35 vocal students singing baroque, opera and theatrical music.

Rice has loved music since he was five years old, and said he knew he wanted to make a career out of it in his teenage years.

He studied in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, and according to his website, Rice has performed for Queen Elizabeth as well as at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Now, Rice teaches vocal and piano lessons in Belleville and Toronto, and continues pursuing his own musical career on the side, such as the CD he is currently working on.

He was introduced to Belleville two years ago when he adjudicated the Quinte Rotary Music Festival, Rice said.

"I purchased a home here (one year ago) and I love coming here. It’s a very cultural community. There’s obviously a lot of active interest in the community for the arts. And I think that this city has so much potential to grow,” Rice said.

Doug Ankenmann, 55, is from Toronto, but fell in love with Belleville upon retirement. He said he’s loved music since high school and has been taking vocal lessons with Rice for one year.

“After high school things just sort of dropped off and I stopped singing for about 30 years. Got married, had kids, got a job, had to do all that. Always wanted to take music lessons, but other things –had to pay bills and stuff – that took priority. So I waited until I finally got retired… and decided to work on my voice, (which) is something I’ve wanted to do my whole life,” Ankenmann said.

He said he never pursued music as a career because he didn’t think it would be secure enough, whereas Rice said he never even considered that.

“I didn’t think too much about that,” Rice said. “I was only thinking about the fact that I knew it would take a lot of work and a lot of determination, and probably a lot of time. And it did. But that doesn’t matter. It’s all paid off and it's all very, very worthwhile. I love what I do and there isn’t one day that goes by that I don’t think twice about what I’ve accomplished and what I want in life,” Rice said.

Ankenmann said his lessons with Rice have taken him a long way.

“He has a way of connecting, and getting the best out of you and the best out of what your voice can do.”

Eighteen-year-old vocal student Will Graham agreed.

“I think he’s a really, really good teacher. It’s a very nurturing environment. It’s a very good learning environment, you learn a lot, and it’s just really great. It’s just so open and friendly,” Graham said.

At Quinte Cocktail, Graham said he sang in a group, plus a solo and duet.

“I’m nervous,” he said before the show. “It would be weird if I wasn’t nervous I’d say. Because who wouldn’t be nervous? But I feel like I’m the right kind of nervous. It’s not going to impede me.”

However, Rice said Graham had a right to be anxious since his duet was with a stranger.

“They both learned their music separately. I coached them. And then (Graham) arrived in the city from Toronto and they met at 6 p.m., an hour before the concert, and that was it. They did a good job,” said Rice.

Mayor Taso Christopher and many others attended the event – on a Superbowl Night– Rice added, which sang greatly of success.

“On behalf of the performers, I thought it was a wonderful experience for them. And I think from my point of view, I was pleasantly surprised so many people came out and supported the event,” Rice said.

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