Emmanuel Solomon spent his childhood dreaming of becoming a doctor, of the people he would treat, and the type of living he could provide for his family in Lagos, Nigeria.
Then an operatic tenor visited his church.
By the time the singer had finished climbing the hills and valleys of Handel’s Messiah, the then-17-year-old had a new dream.
Dreaming, however, is the easy part.
But Solomon’s history — and his professors — suggest he has the work ethic to back up his vision.
When Solomon couldn’t find formal training in Nigeria, he closed himself in his room with a computer and searched through YouTube. Soon, Placido Domingo filled the small space and Solomon’s own voice tried to match that of his role model.
Coming to Canada
“My dream has always been to be a professional classic tenor as well as a composer,” he says. “But I knew that I wouldn’t be able to achieve that dream in Nigeria.”
So, at 23, he applied to Dalhousie University’s bachelor of music program. Even without formal training, he was offered a $14,000 entrance scholarship toward his $20,000 annual tuition.
That scholarship only covered his first year. Two months into his second, he says he’s accruing late fees. Solomon is here on a student visa, which limits how much he can work. And if he cannot continue his studies, he won’t be allowed to stay in Canada.
Solomon’s church and his teachers are determined to help. Not only because of his work ethic, says vocal teacher Michael Donovan, but because Solomon has the talent to be successful in an industry comprised of only a few hundred professionals in the world.
“Frankly, if I was rich, I’d pay the whole damn thing for him,” Donovan says. “I just feel like somebody just has to step up to the plate who has deep pockets and cares about art — and cares about somebody who actually deserves the ride.”
In order to succeed, Solomon has also learned the languages of opera — French, German, English and Italian.
“He’s one of the most disciplined students I’ve ever had, actually … I just don’t think he takes anything for granted.”
Donovan and some other students will perform along with Solomon at a fundraising concert at First Baptist Church in Halifax on Oct. 21. They’re hopeful that between the concert and a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe, they’ll be able to cover Solomon’s second year’s tuition.
Solomon himself is trying to focus on his studies, despite the worry of how he’ll pay for them. And he says he’s looking forward to the concert.
“When I’m on stage and I’m singing, I always try to get all of my worries and put them aside and make sure the audience gets what they are there for,” Solomon says. “I’ve always believed that music is part of life and it’s capable of bringing people together.”