10-year-old wins local singing competition

The ultimate goal is to be a pop star but for right now there's a local 10-year-old ukulele strummer who's pretty happy taking top spot during the recent Limelight Quest singing competition.

Isabelle Houghton, a Spruceland traditional elementary student, rocked the finals with her version of a classic - Dolly Parton's Jolene - and a newer pop hit - Vance Joy's Riptide - that cemented her win Friday night at the B.C. Northern Exhibition mainstage.

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Isabelle started out singing with family when she'd visit Papa, her grandfather Steve Houghton, during the holidays.

The ukulele came later as Isabelle started Kindergarten and her teacher, Mr. Scott, played. Because Isabelle showed interest, the music teacher, Mrs. Roy, helped teach Isabelle after she showed interest in the quirky instrument. During her first couple of years at the elementary school, Isabelle longed to be part of the Grade 3 choir and finally the day came and she shone as a soloist, something her current music teacher, Mr. Goodwin, always encouraged.

During Limelight Quest, Mr. Goodwin showed his support by accompanying Isabelle during the competition by playing guitar while Isabelle played ukulele during her performance.

"Mr. Scott and Mr. Goodwin have always recommended that Isabelle perform and have always given her that little push," Meghan Buehler, Isabelle's mom, said.

"And courage and confidence," Isabelle chimed in.

Another student of Mr. Goodwin's, Eva Gobbi, 13, also made it into the top eight of the competition and performed during the Friday-night finals.

During the finale in front of the large audience at the BCNE mainstage, Isabelle found herself a little overwhelmed.

With her back to the audience and her ears plugged, she la-la-la-ed her way through her own introduction so when she heard her name being called, she was calm enough to approach the microphone.

As she faced her audience, Isabelle quickly became happily aware that since the spotlight was on her, the crowd faded in the bright light, leaving her sighing with relief, pretending there was no one there to be anxious about.

Isabelle belted out Riptide first, then followed with Jolene, that by all accounts brought the house down.

"There were tears and an explosive response from the audience," proud mom Meghan said. "I don't think she ever performed it better. It was just amazing and I was just shocked. She was calm and cool the whole way through and it was just awesome to watch."

For the top four performers, including Chris Potts, Fizza Rashid and Kiziah Arias, and, of course, Isabelle, there was a whole host of prizes like cash, trophies, live performance opportunities including festival performances at Robson Valley and Coldsnap and a radio feature, recording studio time, a photo shoot, vocal lessons to hone their skills and superstar gift packs including all kinds of swag.

Part of the perks of winning for Isabelle is that she'll be able to get an electric ukulele she can plug into an amplifier and she'll use her prize money for that. She's also looking forward to the studio recording time.

She now wants to try her hand at writing her own songs.

It's going to be a big leap for Isabelle, said Limelight Quest organizer Dawn Boudreau.

"She's got two music festivals to perform in and she'll have to figure out what she wants to record in the studio," Boudreau said. "Isabelle is very good, with perfect pitch. She's got a very pure, sweet voice and she plays an instrument. I think her confidence just floored people and it was surprising."

The whole contest is a process for singers to improve, get an opportunity to sing and gain confidence, Boudreau said.

"Many of the contestants are looking forward to entering the Limelight Quest next year," she added. "And I'm looking forward to working with them again."

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