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Ethel Tibbits Awards: Elena Steele wins Arts Award

Elena Steele founded the Festival of Voice. - Rob Newell
Elena Steele founded the Festival of Voice.
— image credit: Rob Newell

With a positive and encouraging personality, Elena Steele has a gift for bringing out the best in people.

At Friday’s 2014 Ethel Tibbits Women of Distinction Awards, Steele was honoured with an Arts Award.

A classically trained vocalist, who for many years was a professional singer, Steele’s greatest gift is her ability to draw out the natural talents of others.

Principal of Elena Steele Voice Studio, her students range in age from four to over 65. Under her tutelage, hundreds of people have honed their vocal abilities and discovered their potential. She’s also the woman behind Festival of Voice—an annual concert at Gateway Theatre showcasing the talents of her students.

Steele said she arrived in Canada 22 years ago from Ukraine with her husband and two children. She was a singer and teacher, but considered herself lucky to land any job in Canada. In that first job, she worked as a dishwasher.

“I was always thinking I was the lucky one, because I was washing dishes all my life and nobody pays me, but Canada pays me.”

After that she improved her education and opened her voice studio.

“To be a teacher is a privilege, and is a big honour. I consider myself very fortunate,” she said, before singing Barbara Streisand’s “Here’s to Life” for the crowd.

Also nominated: Marina Szijarto, creative director of the Richmond Maritime Festival.

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