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How sports gave way to singing for this rising star

January 2, 2017 at 6:15 PM EDT
In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, J’Nai Bridges dreamed of playing professional basketball, but when she chose choir as her senior year elective, her teachers immediately recognized her gift. Now she’s a rising opera star.
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WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Now we turn to our “NewsHour” Shares, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you as well.

When J’Nai Bridges’ dream of playing professional sports suddenly fell apart, she focused intently on developing her singing voice. Now the mezzo-soprano is performing major roles for some of the world’s most renowned opera companies.

She recently spoke with Claudia Escobar and Chloe Veltman of KQED in San Francisco.

J’NAI BRIDGES: I fell in love with classical singing.

And I like to say that opera chose me, because I didn’t grow up listening to it or going to the opera. My basketball career ended kind of dramatically, and it was the same time that I discovered singing. And it just opened up this whole new world.

I was in high school, my last year in high school, and I had to take an elective, an arts elective. And so I chose to be in the choir. I joined the choir. And my choir teacher, she noticed that I had a gift.

From having not grown up singing classically, I think most people would probably — just wouldn’t even give it a chance or a thought. But my parents did everything that they could for us, and one of them being that we just stay open to whatever life brings us.

Channeling the different emotions of these characters is a lot like channeling emotions of myself.

Practice. Practice, practice, practice, because there is a lot of luck, but when opportunity meets being prepared, that’s what luck is. I mean, you just have to be ready.

Music is so healing. And I think it’s this universal language that, that even if you don’t understand the language, you don’t really have a background in music, everyone can identify with it.

I love the fact that I have this gift to sing and touch people.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And that’s the “NewsHour” for tonight.

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