Some singers sign up for a vocal competition for the experience.

Not Sidney Outlaw ’04.

“I came to put on a show because that’s what they came see,” he says.

That focused intensity propelled him to the Grand Prize of the 2010 Concurso Internacional de Canto Montserratt Caballe, an international vocal competition, and another highlight in Sidney’s ascending career. The New York Times called him “a baritone with a deep, rich timbre.” The San Francisco Chronicle hailed him as “an outstanding powerhouse.” Perhaps the Washington Post put it best: “Outlaw has made great strides for a young budding baritone and possesses great potential to seize a world-class vocal career.”

That’s certainly his intent.

Sidney always knew he wanted to do something in music. As a teenager he filled notebooks with lyrics, dreaming of songwriting for legendary R&B producer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds.

Then he found opera. Or, as Sidney puts it, “opera found me.

There’s something about that genre of music that sparks a fire in me and moves me in a way I can’t even describe.

“There’s something about that genre of music that sparks a fire in me and moves me in a way I can’t even describe. … To be able to keep that tradition alive, to sing in opera houses on the world stage, to be able to share it with others, that’s an amazing thing.”

In opera he found his calling. “Sidney Outlaw was born to sing,” says his UNCG vocal teacher and mentor Levone Tobin-Scott. “There’s no question about it.

“There are a number of people who are given the gift to sing, to play piano, to do whatever. But many of them do not delve into their gift the way that Sidney does. Sidney eats, sleeps, drinks and lives to sing.”

After graduating from UNCG he spent three years fine-tuning his craft while earning a master of vocal arts from The Juilliard School in New York City.  He still calls the city home while he builds his career in the hyper-competitive opera world.

The life of a professional musician is one of constant competition, explains pianist Warren Jones, who has known and worked with Sidney for years.

“There’s only so many jobs and there’s always a pile of people for every one of them,” Jones says. “It’s not like someone who gets a job in an office and knows they’re going to have a regular paycheck and they’re comfortable. In the kind of work that Sidney does, there’s no such guarantee about anything because you’re only as good as the last time you stood up and sang.”

At 31, Sidney is just entering his prime. His best years are before him. He’s thinking even further.

“My biggest goal is to take my right foot along with my left foot and break the racial barriers in the classical music world with my music,” he says. “I want to break the glass so that, two generations from now, singers look back and say ‘Really? That was an issue?’”

When his singing days are over, he wants to stay connected to the classical world. Perhaps as the general manager or artistic administrator of a noted opera house. Perhaps starting a foundation to help young artists just starting out in super-expensive New York City.

“I know that I want to start the process of giving it back … making sure this art form stays vibrant and alive for the next generation.”

Read the entire profile “Born to Sing” in the interactive fall 2012 edition of UNCG Magazine.

Photography by David Wilson, assistant photography editor, University Relations