The past year has been productive and most satisfying for Tajja Isen.
The young actress and singer/songwriter graduated from the University of Toronto’s Victoria College with the Prince of Wales Gold Medal awarded to the student with the highest academic standing in a Bachelor of Arts degree.
She also wrote two songs – Joyful Christmas and On Your List – for Juno-award artiste Divine Brown which was released on a Christmas compilation; won a Malahat Review Open Season Fiction Award and passed the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
“I plan to go to law school, and it will definitely be in Canada, after pursuing some creative endeavours,” said Isen who studied English Literature in university. “I love languages and reading and I am very analytical and someone who loves to argue, so law seems an ideal path for me to pursue. Before I get to that, however, I will take a few creative writing courses in the next few months to enhance my practical study in song-writing while expanding my creative repertoire.”
Isen, whose Trinidad & Tobago-born grandfather Ken Simon is a part-time Humber College lecturer, said criminal and entertainment law are areas of study that interest her.
“I am in the entertainment business so that aspect of law is very appealing and will be a natural transition for me,” she said.
Established in 1967, the Malahat Review is among Canada’s leading literary journals featuring contemporary national and international works of poetry, fiction and non-fiction as well as reviews of recently published Canadian poetry, fiction and literary non-fiction.
Isen’s short story, The Anxiety of Influence, caught the judges’ attention.
“The story explores ideas about identity, how one’s selfhood can be manipulated for better or worse by a stronger ego,” said award-winning writer Yasuko Thanh who has a Master’s degree in creative writing from University College. “Complicated, complex and probing, this story fundamentally explores the question of what makes people who they are by implicating stagecraft, the field of cognitive development and English Literature. It’s complemented by a finely-honed structure with such balances and checks that would make any researcher proud. Its language certainly deserves our attention.”
The talented Isen, who played the role of Young Nala in the Toronto production of Disney’s The Lion King, has been a winner most of her life.
Five years ago, she captured a Gemini award that recognizes the best in Canadian television for her role in Atomic Betty.
The Canadian animated TV series followed the adventures of Betty – portrayed by Isen – who is a little girl with a big secret. She’s the sweet and brainy girl to her friends, but sheds her “humdrum person” and becomes Atomic Betty, “Galactic Guardian” and “Defender of the Cosmos” when the galaxy beckons.
She also secured the Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a Voice-Over role in the cartoon that premiered in August 2004 and was nominated for an Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television & Radio Artists (ACTRA) Award of Excellence in 2007.
Artistic talent runs in Isen’s family.
Her great-grandfather, Morris Isen, played the trumpet with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in the 1950s and her grandfather, Mel Isen, is a piano teacher.
Isen wrote the songs and provided piano and vocal accompaniment for her debut album which she describes as “piano centred with a jazz element”.
Paul “Six” Wickens, Paul McCartney’s musical director, and Jon Kelly co-produced the 16-track album.
“The material is finished and we are trying to secure a major label,” said Isen’s father, Dr. Jordie Isen, who is her business manager.