Jan Nato, the tenor who won the 2012 Rose Bowl trophy for the top senior vocalist at the Winnipeg Music Festival, sang in every possible choir and musical while attending Sisler High School.
But Nato, 22, went on to enrol in political studies at the University of Manitoba. Then, during his second year, he visited a friend in the U of M music building. He heard the sounds coming from the practice rooms and had a sudden, profound change of heart.
"I thought to myself, 'Why am I not a part of this world? What have I done?' So I decided to change course," he says.
Nato, who was born in the Philippines and immigrated here as a two-year-old, auditioned for the music faculty and never looked back. Now finishing his final year of music studies, the resident of The Maples hopes to be accepted into the University of Toronto opera program for next year.
"If I could spend my life in music, that would be a dream come true," he says.
On Saturday at Westminster United Church, Nato beat out seven other singers for the Rose Bowl with his performance of a French aria and an Italian art song. He felt at home on the stage because he's the tenor soloist with the church's choir.
The opera enthusiast says his immediate family is science-oriented. "My dad loves music, but it's more like heavy metal and rock," he says with a laugh. "It's an inverse relationship between our generations."
Nato also took home the Reg Hugo Memorial trophy for best performance of an opera aria and the Herbert and Audrey Belyea trophy for best performance of an art song. He sang in Sunday's afternoon gala concert that wrapped up the 94th annual festival.
The runner-up for the Rose Bowl was Jessica Kos-Whicher.