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Lower Burrell's Colin Aikins sings for his idol

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, 11:33 a.m.
Lower Burrell resident and opera singer Colin Aikins (left), a Pittsburgh Central Catholic graduate who attends the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, sang for Italian opera star Andrea Bocelli (right) before his concert on Dec. 8 at PPG Paints Arena.
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Lower Burrell resident and opera singer Colin Aikins (left), a Pittsburgh Central Catholic graduate who attends the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, sang for Italian opera star Andrea Bocelli (right) before his concert on Dec. 8 at PPG Paints Arena.

The half a minute was worth every second.

Just to be invited for the opportunity to sing in front of acclaimed Italian opera star Andrea Bocelli was a dream come true for Lower Burrell’s Colin Aikins.

“Andrea Bocelli is my idol,” says Aikins, a Pittsburgh Central Catholic graduate who attends the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. “So when I was asked if I wanted to see him perform and meet him beforehand, I was like, definitely.”

The once-in-a-lifetime moment happened through a connection at Central Catholic who contacted Bocelli’s manager and sent a video of Aikins’ performance from Central Catholic’s graduation. It was well received by Bocelli’s wife, Veronica Berti, who asked Aikins, an aspiring and talented tenor, if he wanted to attend a pre-concert dinner and meet up with Bocelli to sing a favorite song – it would have to be sung a cappella — prior to Bocelli’s performance on Dec. 8 at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh’s Uptown. Joining Bocelli on stage that night were Nadine Sierra and Pia Toscano, two talented vocalists, whom Aikins also admires.

When Aikins and his mother Maria arrived at the arena they talked with Berti, and Colin Aikins told her he is inspired by Bocelli.

“The evening was so amazing,” Maria Aikins says. “It is unbelievable how one thing can lead to the next.”

Aikins sang 30 seconds of “Mattinata” by Ruggero Leoncavallo.

“I saw him smiling and mouthing the words because he probably wasn’t allowed to sing with me because he was on strict vocal rest for his concert,” Aikins says. “I told him how much of an inspiration he has been to me. He is the reason I started singing. And he told me to ‘Just keep doing what you are doing. You are going to make it.’”

Colin Aikins has performed all over the world. He has been on an 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 was selected as a National YoungArts Finalist and has 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.

He would love to be a part of Bocelli’s benefit concert at the Teatro del Silenzio (Theatre of Silence) in his hometown of Lajatico, Italy, on July 25 that he does for his foundation.

“To say I was nervous singing in front of Andrea Bocelli is an understatement,’ Colin Aikins says. “I drank so much water ahead a time so my voice would be ready. It was the best 30 seconds of my life.”

JoAnne Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062 or jharrop@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.

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