George Komsky remembers how determined he was during his first couple of years in college to practice singing opera.
Unable to do so at his university dorm, Komsky drove to a campus parking garage at 1 a.m., put on an opera CD, sat on a chair by his car door and — not to be deterred by occasional passers-by who were yelling at him to keep quiet — Komsky sang his heart out.
"That was really the only way I could practice, freshman and sophomore year," he said. "I was singing in a garage imagining I was performing in front of an audience."
Now, Komsky, 24, finally gets that chance. After garnering the attention of Hollywood premiere vocal teacher Seth Riggs, with whom he's entrusted his training, the Danville resident and 2007 UCLA graduate returns to the East Bay to perform in his first solo concert March 19 at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. The concert, which will benefit the Wheelchair Foundation, has already sold out; Komsky is currently working on getting another concert date and venue soon.
Komsky said he was initially afraid he would perform to a small audience, and had no idea every seat would be sold.
"It gives me hope that people have an interest in opera and that it's not dead," said Komsky, who will perform classics from the "Barber of Seville," and "The Elixir of Love," along with "Tosca" and other timeless classics. "I feel blessed to sing gorgeous music written by geniuses."
Komsky, who attended Buena Vista Elementary School and Walnut Creek Intermediate in Walnut Creek, knew music would be his life when, as a little boy, he would sing along to a tape of Luciano Pavarotti played in the car.
"My mom heard me sing in the shower," said Komsky. "I was a kid imitating this great tenor."
Already immersed in piano lessons, at age 11 his grandfather took Komsky to study with the local cantor at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, where he began his vocal training. From there, Komsky's passion for opera grew as he traveled with Monte Vista High School's chamber choir to Italy to perform Verdi's "Requiem" at St. Paul's Basilica in Rome.
While attending Monte Vista High, Komsky — who remembers reading "The Economist" magazine for four years — developed a passion for speech and debate, often competing with top student debaters from prestigious schools across the country. He even went on to major in political science while at UCLA.
But then, in his heart, there was always opera. He performed and practiced any place he could, including the campus parking garage.
"I was thirsty for the opportunity to do something creative," he said.
Bruce Koliha, choral director at Monte Vista High, said Komsky sang in that school's Winter Concert last December as a featured guest, and had been in the school's Chamber Singers.
"George has grown from a strong, slightly-under-pitch member of a high school choir to a true professional. We were all blown away by the power and beauty of his voice," Koliha said.
Komsky celebrated his 19th birthday in Dublin while rehearsing for the North American tour of "Riverdance" in 2004. He also competed in "America's Got Talent," where he made it to the semifinal round.
He remembers racing to North Hollywood in 2007 to audition for "Twelve Irish Tenors" immediately after taking his final exam in economics, only to arrive to his audition 10 minutes late. When he was given a chance to audition, he sang "dead-tired," after 36 hours without sleep.
"I hadn't heard from them for six weeks," Komsky said. "Then I was hired."
By the time famed vocal coach Riggs heard him sing, Komsky was ready to come under the tutelage of the man who coached singing greats such as Natalie Cole, Barbra Streisand and Josh Groban.
"Seth gave me hope. He said I have something that I can develop if I can continue to sing opera to the best of my ability," Komsky said.
Even as he prepares to audition for the San Francisco and Los Angeles operas, Komsky has made time to sing at various charity events, including the Wheelchair Foundation's "Wine for Wheels," a recent charity fundraiser at Blackhawk Auto Museum. Proceeds from his March 19 concert will benefit the Wheelchair Foundation.
"The Wheelchair Foundation gives mobility to people who have no mobility. They bought wheelchairs for people in Haiti," he said. "The idea is simple — give mobility to people who can't afford it."
While Komsky's concert is a result of months of dedication and hard work, it is also a tribute to his beloved uncle who passed away recently. Before his passing, Komsky said his uncle had already bought his concert ticket. But, Komsky said, his uncle will be there in spirit.
"I want the concert to be a celebration of love, of opera, of life, of love lost and love found," he said. "We're getting together to celebrate music. Helping people is the greatest thing we can do."