NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio — On a recent Saturday, it was time for the "red versus black" scrimmage at the North Royalton Soccer Club. From the sidelines, it's clear 11-year-old Alex Cosma is establishing himself as a team player.
Off the field, however, his greatest passion is a solo act: opera.
"It's classic," Alex said when summing up why he enjoys singing It feels nice. I'm in the moment. I'm in the song."
At a very early age, Alex's parents — who are Romanian — noticed their son's gift for music. As he played, he would also sing and hum throughout the day. The melody caught their attention.
"My parents thought it was a good idea for me to try music," he said, modestly, "so I tried it and I turned out to be really good at it."
Videos of Alex singing at age 7 and 8 showcase his range. Since then, he has only gotten better, but his musical gift still requires training.
We caught up with him during a lesson at Olga's Music Studio, where he has trained for several years. He spends hours working on pitch, tempo and breathing.
He sings in several languages, including Italian, though he does not speak it. For each song, he must learn how to pronounce each word carefully, a task that can be nerve-wracking unless you have a well-rehearsed coping mechanism, as Alex has developed.
"Imagine there is no one there," he explained, confidently. "You are just practicing. There is no one there."
Opera is opening up Alex's world to far away places.
"I went to Salzburg, Boston, I went to New York, Carnegie Hall," he recalled. "I love travelling. I love meeting new people and going to new places."
Over the summer, Alex competed virtually in the Elena Obraztsova International Competition of Young Vocalists in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was one of just four young vocalists to represent the United States, and the jury selected Alex for the final audition. He went on win third place in his age group.
"He is ready now," Olga Druzhinina who has trained Alex for a number of years, said. "He knows how to work hard. He knows this is probably the most important thing."
Practice is important, but Alex is still young and has other things on his mind, too. He has time to decide whether he wants to be the next Andrea Bocelli or Placido Domingo.
For as much as Alex Cosma loves opera, right now, he also loves just being a kid.
"It's just fun," he said. "We will see in the future."