EDEN PRAIRIE (WCCO) — In high school, he was a standout athlete in football and in track at Eden Prairie.

But Malik Johnson’s life is about to take a completely different turn.

But instead of becoming the next Adrian Peterson, he wants to be the next Luciano Pavarotti.

When telling people he wants to become an opera singer, he usually receives shock in return.

“They are like, ‘Whoa,'” he said. “And they step back and they ask me more about it, and how I got into it.”

He was asked to join the boys choir in ninth grade and loved it. By the time he was in 10th grade, he was in concert choir and turning heads.

“The first time I heard him sing, I was blown away — completely blown away,” said his mom, Brenda. “I did not know that Malik could sing so well.”

On top of his sports awards, Malik was racking up performing arts awards.

And this past year, his senior year, he traded in his cleats for voice lessons, and got the lead role in “Beauty and the Beast.”

“Football is always going to be there,” he said. “But this is really what I love to do. And this is really what I want to do.”

He’s been accepted to — and if he can raise enough money — Malik will attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York this fall.

Former Viking Leo Lewis’ foundation has helped Malik along the way with travelling and equipment money for sports.

Now, Lewis has become a fan of Malik’s music.

“Compelling — I haven’t heard of an individual who has excelled in two areas such as this,” Lewis said.

Malik’s dream is to one day be on Broadway and possibly travel around the world as a performer.

“Italy is where it (opera) originated from, so I’d like to go there and see what it’s really about,” Malik said.

Malik said his music teacher at Eden Prairie High School, Julie Kanthak, and his instructor at McPhail Center for Music, Thaxter Cunio, are a big reason he’s found success.

Brenda said even with scholarship money, Malik’s still several thousand dollars short for tuition. They hope to raise the rest by the time school begins at American Musical and Dramatic Academy.


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