NEW YORK (CBS 2) — New Yorkers see them every day – subway performers hoping passengers will hand over a few bucks.
One Harlem man is just like them in many ways. He makes a living off others’ donations. But he’s also different in one big way – his talent may be enough to take him beyond the city’s underground tunnels to a track toward stardom.
On any given day on the subway, you might hear opera sung by a man singing to survive on the charity of others.
“The singing funds my rent, the singing funds my food,” David Dumas said.
But Dumas said he’s doing more than just making a living – he’s chasing a dream.
“My dream is to be an opera singer,” he said.
Singing on a stage has been Dumas’ goal for years, one he’s pursuing with a spotlight-like focus.
“When I sing, I’m not just standing there, as they say in the opera world, parking and barking,” Dumas said. “When I sing, I’m giving 100 percent of the feeling that I have towards that song.”
Dumas has been a star of the number 6 train for the past 18 months, and said he thinks he can someday swap the sliding stage of the subway for a more prominent one.
“He’s got all the skills,” voice coach Wayne Sanders said. “They need to be honed.”
Sanders said he’s stunned at the progress Dumas has made in the three years since he graduated from Sarah Lawrence College, three years he’s spent struggling to stay off the streets.
“So I say, well, if he can do that, and make these strides, what in the world would he do if he could work on his voice every day?” Sanders said.
Dumas works on his voice on the only stage he can find. On some nights, the money – and accolades – really come in.
“I think I’m on pace for $60 to $70 an hour,” he said.
“I think he’s definitely talented,” Harlem resident Geanea Paul said. “I’m surprised no one found him yet.”
Dumas said he hopes to be discovered, but is keeping it all in perspective.
“I want to be at the Metropolitan Opera, but if the only thing I ever get to do is to sing beautiful songs for people, then for me, that’s a life well-lived,” he said.
Soliciting money on subway cars is illegal, but Dumas doesn’t see singing on the subway as breaking the law – it’s what he has to do to survive.