Raised in Soundview while surrounded by violence and crime, Leroy Davis never imagined he would be a professional singer.
But, today the 35-year-old is living in the Windy City and is set to perform with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in a virtual concert, Sole e Amore, on Feb. 21. At Lyric he is in a premier artist-development program, learning and working to become the next generation of opera artists.
He will also be a soloist in the upcoming show and has been a huge part of the virtual season. Furthermore, this is only his first year as a Ryan Opera Center Ensemble member.
“Coming from Soundview to being here in Chicago I just consider myself very lucky,” he explained. “It’s not a path I ever thought I could take. It’s had so many twists and turns. I’m glad things worked out the way they did.”
As a child Davis fell in love with music as his mom was always playing Motown in the house. The smooth sounds permeated in his head and the rhythms and beats moved his soul.
He went to P.S. 47 in Soundview, but attended middle and high school in Manhattan where he found his love for singing. In seventh grade he joined the traveling boys choir and has been performing ever since. They had concerts throughout the country and even in places like Japan.
“It was a very interesting experience because a lot of friends I knew were trying to do the same thing,” he recalled.
However, he told the Bronx Times he never knew where it would take him.
“Besides singing R&B, I didn’t think it would be a way towards a career,” he explained.
But, not knowing if this was the route he wanted, Davis took a brief hiatus from singing in his early 20s and began studying computer science.
“Music doesn’t really make you a living unless you make it to superstardom,” he commented.
Everything changed when the late Warren Wilson, his former voice teacher, told him to audition for the Mannes College of Music. Wilson explained that it is rare for Black people to sing classical music professionally, especially African American men. He graduated from there in 2013 and later earned his master’s in vocal performance at Bard College.
Davis began to harness his singing as he got a full scholarship to the New England Conservatory in Boston. During his second year there Davis was asked what his goals and by this point his eyes were on singing professionally.
“I was almost afraid to be on stage,” he recalled. “I thought I was very much unprepared for the opera world.”
From there he spent time in Louisiana and Milwaukee and finally landed in Chicago with the Lyric Opera in July 2020.
Looking back on everything that has led him to this point he is quite fortunate and grateful for all of the guidance along the way.
“It’s only now that I’ve been realizing I’ve been so lucky being in the right place at the right time,” he stated.