Sakiko Kanamori Prize Recipient 2008
Isaac was brought up on a small farm in Mason, Michigan. He sang in his local church choir and played trombone in the Mason High School band. But he had no formal musical training before he entered Hope.
Once there, however, he quickly made his mark as a vocal soloist and actor. He studied voice with Linda Dykstra and was a member of Chapel Choir. He sang the role of Papageno in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte at the Opera Workshop and starred in Hope Theater productions. He received scholarships and awards for both voice and theater, and was twice a finalist in the Grand Rapids Opera Competition. He also played trombone in the Hope College Jazz Band, the Wind Symphony, and the Orchestra.
Following graduation from Hope, Isaac joined the ensemble of the Michigan Opera Theater in Detroit. After one year there, he began graduate study at the University of Northern Iowa and completed his Master of Music degree in 2011. Then came a summer internship in the Opera New Jersey Young Artists Program, after which he entered a Doctor of Musical Arts program at the University of Michigan. He received that degree in 2014.
While at the U-of-M, Isaac appeared in lead roles in several opera productions: Nick Shadow in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, Leporello in Mozart's Don Giovanni, the Musiklehrer in Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, Figaro in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, and Figaro in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia. He also sang Monterone in Verdi's Rigoletto with Opera New Jersey and Falstaff in Verdi's Falstaff at the Bay View (Michigan) Music Festival.
In between his studies and opera performances, he participated in the Motor City Opera "Outreach Program" that brings children's opera to underprivileged schools.
Isaac is now on the faculty of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, where he teaches courses on world music, western opera, and the art of singing. While there, he has appeared as the Mandarin in Puccini's Turandot and has given several concerts (often accompanied on piano by his wife, Natalia Tokar). He and Natalia have also performed together in recitals in her native St. Petersburg (Russia).
For 2016 and beyond, Isaac is hoping and planning for opera performance opportunities in Europe.
Updated: January 2015