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Posted under: News Music

Opera Singer Who Supported His Dream With Janitorial Work Wins First Starring Role

Keanon Kyles never gave up on his dream. Now it is coming true.

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With sacrifice, relentlessness and hard work, your dreams can come true.

Keanon Kyles is living proof of this. The 29-year-old night janitor very soon be living his dream while sharing his extraordinary opera singing talent with the world.

After years of honing his craft and working to pursue his passion for singing opera, Kyles has been cast in a lead role in Rigoletto, a three-act opera composed by Giuseppe Verdi, the Chicago Sun Times reports.

Kyles told the paper that this has been a dream of his since he was a young boy.

“It started when I was seven. My mother signed me and my sister up with Chicago Children’s Choir. We worked our way up to the top concert choir,” Kyles said.

“We went on tours all around the world. That was my childhood. At age 13, I joined Gallery 37’s Operatics Ensemble. It was the first time I was part of an opera production. I realized I had a strong interest and love for it.”

That encouragement was enough to push Kyles to continue practicing his singing in high school.

“High school was when I really came to believe I had a chance at being an opera singer. For a state competition, my teacher picked me to perform an aria with two weeks to prepare,” he said. ” I won us an honor superior. That’s when I thought: ‘This could be something.’”

The conductor of Kyles' Gallery 37 program, Andrew Schultze, has become his mentor. Schultze said he still remembers his first meeting with the soon-to-be superstar, and that he couldn't be prouder of his pupil.

“It’s been really wonderful to see this kid who was always interested in music become focused on opera. He sings gospel. He sings jazz. He sings everything. But he just kept saying, ‘I want to do opera,'” Schultze said

Getting to do opera wasn't easy for Kyles. The singer studied music at Chicago's Columbia College, but after graduating, found that he couldn't support himself with his music alone.

He contacted a placement agency to help him find work so that he could pay his bills. They told him that they had something he could start at right away: a janitorial job.

“I was like, ‘Ummm … I’ll get back to you.’" Kyles said. "I needed a job but wasn’t expecting to be cleaning nothing up.”

Still, money is money, and Kyle said “after talking to my mother, I had a talk with myself. I realized this was just a job. And that’s when adulthood started.”

While Kyles worked by night as a janitor, he auditioned for opera jobs constantly, winning a few small parts here and there.

“He has this talent. It’s compelling him. It’s propelling him and impelling him,” Schultze said.

His perseverance began to really pay off in 2015, when Kyles was accepted into a young artists' festival in Italy.

That helped him win the role of Colline in the Clyde Opera Group's U.K production of La Boheme.

The good reviews Kyles recieved for that role, in turn, helped him to secure the starring role in Rigoletto.

Schultze said that he couldn't be prouder, even if he is a little jealous of his student. “He’s such an unaffected person, a really nice guy. I said to him, ‘Keanon, Rigoletto is the one role I’ve always wanted to play. I’ve studied that role but never gotten to do it. Now, you see, you are singing it for me!'”

Kyle's parents, William and Vivian Kyles, are equally proud of their son.

“When I realized his interest was classical music, I was thrilled because a lot of young African Americans who go into music are drawn to hip-hop,” Vivian Kyles said. “When he graduated from Columbia and did his recital, everyone was just amazed because he sings in three languages. He has this stage presence that brings music alive, even if you don’t understand a word. He has that same presence in character and spirit, just a bright light.”

Kyles leaves for Scotland on Tuesday to become the leading man that his hard work has prepared him to be.

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