Ernie Clowes heard a familiar noise coming from across the street.
He said he thought to himself, “Wow, there must be a neighbor who loves opera like me. They have to play it on the radio.
He didn’t come on the airwaves.
The powerful voice was Colin Aikins, and it was the summer before he entered eighth grade.
“It just kept getting louder and louder and then I saw it,” Clowes said. “I look over and see Colin coming from behind a neighbor’s house (on a riding mower) and he’s singing opera songs. I’ve been listening to tenors for years, and I know a good tenor. I thought, my God, what a voice. I said to my wife, ‘This kid is going to go far.’ ”
He was right.
Aikins, 22, of Lower Burrell was accepted to the Juilliard School in New York this fall – on the Toulmin Foundation’s full scholarship in the Master of Music program.
Founded in 1905, Juilliard is recognized as a leader in performing arts education. It is located inside Lincoln Center and offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in dance, acting, which includes acting and playwriting, and music, which includes classical, jazz, historical performance and the vocal arts.
It hosts more than 700 performances annually at the school’s five theaters in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully and David Geffen Halls and Carnegie Hall; as well as other locations in New York, across the country and around the world.
“It’s surreal,” said Aikins, who is one of 10 students accepted into the Master of Music program. “I can’t believe this is happening. Attending Juilliard and being able to perform in New York is second to none.
Courtesy of Maria Aikins
Lower Burrell’s Colin Aikins is a recent graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
Aikins earned an undergraduate degree from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia earlier this month. He said Juilliard is the perfect complement to his studies.
Before leaving for New York, Aikins will give his main recital at 7 p.m. on June 8 at Carnegie Music Hall inside the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Oakland.
The free hour and 15 minute show is courtesy of benefactors Mary Louise and Henry J. Gailliot and John A. and Patricia D. Staley IV. The couples have supported Aikins’ music since he was in high school. Aikins’ mother, Maria, said she is grateful for the support of these couples, as well as all the love from everyone in her son’s life who has done something so he can continue. his passion for music.
Aikins will be accompanied by pianist Djordje Nesic, a vocal coach at Carnegie Mellon University in Oakland who played piano for Aikins when he took voice lessons.
“A good pianist is a game-changer,” Aikins said. “He knows my pace and there’s a trust between the two of us. It’s like a duet. I hope it will be a nice evening. It’s a fabulous space.
Aikins met Nesic through mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti, a Cabot native and artistic director of the Pittsburgh Festival Opera.
Talented at a young age
When Aikins was 14, he attended a Cornetti concert and asked if he could sing for her. It was Aikins’ first time singing in front of a professional – and when he sang, Cornetti started crying.
“He was so nervous,” said Cornetti, who has performed all over the world. “He started to sing and the tears flowed. He stopped and said, ‘Is it that bad?’ I said, ‘No, it’s so good. God has given you an incredible gift. ”
She said the talent can’t be held back – it will come out. She gave him some lessons and introduced him to Nesic and associate singing professor, soprano Maria Spacagna at CMU.
“He’s a good human being and in good hands at Juilliard,” Cornetti said. “He has all the pieces of the puzzle of what will be an incredible future.”
Courtesy of the Curtis Institute of Music
Lower Burrell’s Colin Aikins received a full scholarship to The Juilliard School in New York.
The audition process
The process to get accepted to Juilliard involved several auditions. Brian Zeger, artistic director of vocal arts at Juilliard, sent a note to Aikins about the full scholarship and said it was a measure of the value the school placed on Aikins’ talent.
“I look forward to seeing the growth of your work over the next few years and supporting it in every way,” Zeger wrote.
Aikins has said that classical music is his forte. His two favorite operas are “Carmen” and “Turandot”.
He said he aspired to sing like Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti and operatic pop tenor Andrea Bocelli. In 2018, he was invited to sing in front of Bocelli. The once-in-a-lifetime moment happened through a connection to Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Aikins’ alma mater. He attended a dinner before the concert and met Bocelli to sing a favorite song at PPG Paints Arena.
When Bocelli was in town last year, he said in a Tribune-Review article that Aikins was “a young man of great talent and a very promising voice.”
Aikins performed in various operas as an undergrad at Curtis. He won first place in the 2015 Schmidt Vocal Competition at the National Opera Center in New York. He has also performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, the New World Symphony Center in Miami, the Smith Center in Las Vegas and the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. He won the 2021 Hal Leonard Singing Competition.
Aikins spent the past week at the Grand Opera in Houston, learning about the business at the Young Artist Vocal Academy.
He said being able to perform live is definitely welcome after not being able to because of the pandemic.
His plan is to become a recording artist and also do live concerts and traditional operas.
“Singing at Carnegie Music Hall will be amazing,” Aikins said. “It’s a beautiful venue in a beautiful city. We feed on the energy of the public. I will be happy to be on stage.
And don’t sing about a riding mower.
Sainte-Marguerite-Marie Church in Lower Burrell runs buses for $35 each. A bus also carries residents of Longwood to Oakmont, where Aikins performed in high school.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, email@example.com or via Twitter .