ABC7 janitor lands lead opera role overseas

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Chicago man pursues opera career while working as janitor
Keanon Kyles says he doesn't mind the word "janitor" because that's what he does five nights a week here at ABC7. But he also sings a much different tune.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- We've all heard of starving artists - those talented people who work many jobs to support their dreams. One of those artists works right here at ABC7, but Keanon Kyles also sings a much different tune.

Kyles says he doesn't mind the word "janitor" because that's what he does five nights a week here at Channel 7. But this is just a small part of this 27-year-old Chicagoan's life. He is, more than anything, an opera singer.

"I have three jobs. I'm a vocal coach. I'm a maintenance man at ABC News. I also do visual merchandising for a department store. And I sing opera on the side," Kyles said.

He teaches voice at the Fine Arts Building on S. Michigan Ave. That and his two other jobs add up to 90 hours a week - and then he has to practice his opera.

"It's a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of long days but it all pays off with the music because you get to do what you love: music," Kyles said.

He has already met with considerable success. Last year, he performed in Italy and this summer, he goes to Glasgow, Scotland for one of the lead roles in "La Boheme".

But until there's opera career success, life is a tight squeeze and mopping floors is part of getting there.

"It's really quiet up here, so you get a chance to think about your music study, sing through words. I like it. This is where I do most of my practicing," Kyles said.

Keanon was raised on the South Side in the Beverly neighborhood and began singing with the Chicago Children's Choir at age 8. He went to Morgan Park High School and Columbia College. Music has been his life. You have to wonder, what is his quest?

"My quest is to go overseas and blow up, and be able to come back here to sing with the Lyric and the Met, the Ryan Opera Center and just sing opera for the rest of my life," Kyles said.