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Music

Lower Burrell tenor accepted to prestigious Curtis Institute, booked on NPR program

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Sunday, April 15, 2018, 9:00 p.m.

His voice moves people.

When he opens his mouth, the sound captivates an entire room.

Colin Aikins can sing.

His amazing talent has been recognized by the best schools and music venues in the United States. and beyond.

The Lower Burrell resident and Pittsburgh Central Catholic senior has been accepted into The Julliard School in New York and The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Being accepted into both is a rare feat.

He plans to attend Curtis Institute.

In his acceptance letter from Curtis, Chris Hodges, director of admissions, says "you stood out as one of the most talented and promising students in one of the most competitive applicant pools in the history of the institute. Your commitment to personal excellence and artistic expression has demonstrated to us that you will both contribute to our diverse community and thrive within our 'learn by doing' culture. We think that you and Curtis are a great match."

Aikins, 18, and music have proven they are a great match.

"I was thrilled beyond belief to be accepted to both The Juilliard School and Curtis Institute of Music and to receive merit scholarships to attend both, " Aikins says. "I never dreamed I would have to choose between the two top music schools in the country. It was a hard decision, but Curtis has always been my dream school because it is the hardest school to get into in the United States, and it offers a full tuition scholarship and pays for me get another degree at the University of Pennsylvania. Some of the greatest musicians in the world like Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber and Lang Lang have graduated from Curtis. I hope that someday, I can follow in their footsteps."

Great accomplishments

If you haven't heard Aikins, you will get an opportunity to in an upcoming episode of NPR's "From the Top," a radio program featuring America's best young classical musicians. It's hosted by acclaimed pianist Christopher O'Riley. The broadcast features performances and interviews with outstanding young musicians. He sings "Non t'amo piu" by Francesco Paolo Tosti with O'Riley on piano on the show which airs on WQED 89.3FM on April 21. He will be showcased along with other young musicians from across the country.

Locally, Aikins studies voice with Maria Spacagna at Carnegie Mellon University in Oakland. He was selected as a National YoungArts Finalist and recently participated in YoungArts Week in Miami, Fla. He was in the top 2 percent of young artists in 10 disciplines chosen (7,871 applicants) and was one of eight classical singers competing.

Aikins won first place in the high school classical division of the 2017 Classical Singer national competition in Chicago and received a scholarship to the University of Miami Frost School of Music Salzburg Festival in Austria this summer.

Sharing his gifts

Aikins has performed all over the world, including Carnegie Music Hall in New York, but he says many of his favorite musical experiences have been onstage in Western Pennsylvania at nursing homes and in front of senior citizens, such as his recent concert at Longwood at Oakmont. Aikins says after that performance that it's important to give back.

That evening his song list included classics such as " Danny Boy" and "Ave Maria," as well as a favorite tune of his mother Maria Aikins' — "You Raise Me Up," popularized by Josh Groban.

"'You Raise Me Up' is an uplifting song that reminds me of all the people who have supported me, and that includes the people here at Longwood," Aikins says during the concert, where residents sang along with him. "When I first came here, I didn't have confidence, but you helped me gain confidence. You have always been welcoming."

Family support

Another senior citizen inspired his love of music — he decided to become a singer after listening to songs on his grandmother's car stereo when he was just 10 years old. That passion continues to bloom.

Aikins credits his mother with an unwavering support of his passion, taking him wherever the stage awaits him.

"We still can't believe he just started singing in high school and has been able to do so well," Maria Aikins says. "Colin just loves what he does, but also enjoys giving back to his community with his gift. We talk about it not just being about him and getting attention onstage. God has blessed him and his voice is a gift that needs to be shared."

Aikins' senior recital is May 6 at Synod Hall in Oakland.

He often shares the stage with piano accompanist and classmate Tyler Zeik of Monroeville who will perform at the recital. The two seem to just click, easily transitioning from song to song without missing a beat.

"Colin has incredible talent," says Zeik, who will be continuing his education at Penn State University for engineering. "We feel the music the same. A true musician can just feel the music."

Details: fromthetop.org

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-853-5062 or jharrop@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.

Colin Aikins performing at The Symphony Center in Miami, Fla. as a classical voice finalist for National Young Arts. The tenor will perform a benefit concert on behalf of Mary Queen of Apostles School at 7 p.m. May 24 at St. Margaret Mary Church in Lower Burrell.
JASON KOERNER
Colin Aikins performing at The Symphony Center in Miami, Fla. as a classical voice finalist for National Young Arts. The tenor will perform a benefit concert on behalf of Mary Queen of Apostles School at 7 p.m. May 24 at St. Margaret Mary Church in Lower Burrell.
Colin Aikins (right) and Tyler Zeik performing in December 2017 at Carnegie Hall in New York City as winners of the American Protege International Voice Competition.
COURTEST COLIN AIKINS
Colin Aikins (right) and Tyler Zeik performing in December 2017 at Carnegie Hall in New York City as winners of the American Protege International Voice Competition.
Colin Aikins (front) pictured with Christopher O'Riley, host of NPR's 'From The Top,' at The Smith Center in Las Vegas.
COURTESY NPR
Colin Aikins (front) pictured with Christopher O'Riley, host of NPR's 'From The Top,' at The Smith Center in Las Vegas.
Colin Aikins (front) pictured with Christopher O'Riley, host of NPR's' From The Top,' at The Smith Center in Las Vegas.
COURTESY NPR
Colin Aikins (front) pictured with Christopher O'Riley, host of NPR's' From The Top,' at The Smith Center in Las Vegas.
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