Meet Keanon Kyles, the maintenance worker who moonlights as an international opera singer.

"La Bohème" is the popular opera that inspired the Broadway musical "Rent."

It's an awesome show about artists and dreamers who, despite their noble and lofty aspirations to bring beauty into the world, still struggle to make ends meet. They're rich in passion and their love for life — but unfortunately, that creative zeal doesn't pay the rent or the other bills they rack up.

It's the classic "starving artist" trope.


But the characters in these stories could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they'd just followed in the footsteps of another great melodious master: Keanon Kyles.

All photos via ABC7 News.

Who is Keanon Kyles? He's a janitor at ABC7's studios in Chicago. And he's also Colline in an upcoming Scottish opera production of "La Bohème."

"I am the only American chosen for the opera," he told ABC News. "Everyone else is from overseas, so I go there feeling as if I'm representing a nation."

This isn't the first time Kyles' tremendous voice has carried him overseas either.

Kyles grew up on Chicago's South Side, and he started singing seriously when he was just 8 years old.

He definitely got more than a little flak for being the rare young black guy who's really into opera. But he never let the ribbing bring him down and ended up earning a degree in classical voice performance from Columbia College.

In 2015, he flew to Italy to perform at the Trentino Music Festival, and he's also appeared on professional stages all across Chicago.

And yeah, he's also a janitor. But that's not even his only job.

Between his work at ABC7, his vocal coaching classes, and his job at a department store, Kyles often works up to 90 hours a week.

That doesn't even include the time he spends rehearsing. But he says that's just the cost of creating great art to give to the world. (Plus the night shifts give him lots of quiet time to practice while he works.)

"It's a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of long days," he said in an interview with ABC News. "But it all pays off with the music because you get to do what you love: music."


As the characters in "La Bohème" demonstrate, sometimes art doesn't pay the bills.

When Kyles returns from his memorable Scottish excursion at the end of the summer, he's planning to go right back to his maintenance work at ABC7.

He's living proof that success isn't just a one-off deal. Often there's no real payoff without a little perseverance and a lot of hard work.

Money helps us feed ourselves, which is certainly important. But money doesn't feed our souls, and often our art matters just as much.

And that's why Kyles is an awesome example for us all.

Here's a video of Kyles performing in Italy last year. Break a leg in Scotland, Keanon!

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Welcometoterranova and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Welcometoterranova-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.