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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Not everyone is a fan of Italian opera, but one listen to Colin Aikins’ voice might change your mind. It’s a gift.

“My parents always say it’s a gift from God, and I really think he gave it to me because it came out of nowhere, you know,” Aikins said.

Born into a non-musical family in Lower Burrell, his life would change at the age of 10 when his grandmother played him Andrea Bocelli’s “Time To Say Goodbye.”

While other kids played baseball and tag, Aikins secretly began listening and singing to opera.

Aikins: “So nobody knew I was listening to this music because I would only play opera when everyone was out of the house.”
KDKA-TV’s Andy Sheehan: “Were you ashamed?”
Aikins: “Oh yeah, I would close all the windows. I was a very closeted singer, I guess you could say.”

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

But word got out when he was a freshman at Central Catholic and, to Aikins’ horror, the principal asked him to sing for the entire student body, known more for its love of football than Pavarotti.

“You know, I came here thinking it’s a macho school, sports and everything. It’s not only bad enough that I’m singing, but I’m singing opera,” Aikins said. “I’m just shaking, looking down, and I look up and then they all give me a standing ovation. It was just such an incredible experience.”

Central Catholic may be an unlikely training ground for Aikins, but it’s become his launching pad, and from here, it appears the sky’s the limit.

His high school years have been a parade of achievements and awards: first place in a national classical singers competition, a winner in NPR’s “From The Top” competition, and one of only four vocal students in the world accepted to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He credits all his achievements, in large part, to Central.

“I really say Central gave me the foundation I needed because, sure, it can’t offer me all these performing arts opportunities. It’s just not that school,” Aikins said, “but the thing that made it so special was the support I got.”

Aikins has already performed in Carnegie Hall and just last month, he tried out for the role of Tony is Steven Spielberg’s upcoming remake of “West Side Story” — a longshot perhaps, but one that could make him an international star.

But perhaps no performance meant more than his rendition of “Time To Say Goodbye” at his Central Catholic graduation ceremony at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial on Sunday.