Hisham Breedlove's voice can transform a Metro station into a concert hall. Breedlove is a countertenor–a male who sings in the alto and soprano range with a falsetto voice. Breedlove sometimes can be found singing "Ave Maria" and German lieder under the circular dome of the Friendship Heights station.
"The acoustics are incredible," he says. "The sound emanates through the entire area, sending my voice all the way down to the bottom of the escalator, creating an almost natural microphone."
The sight of Breedlove singing often makes riders stop and stare. Expecting a large, robust woman, they're surprised to see a slender young man of 23.
Breedlove moved to DC from Zimbabwe in 2001. The son of an American father and a Zimbabwean mother, he sang in South Africa's Drakensburg Boys' Choir. After a year studying voice at Howard University, he dropped out because of money. He was discouraged, but his mother told him, "Just get out there and sing. Sing on the street if you have to."
After hearing Breedlove sing an aria in the Friendship Heights Metro in 2004, a student at Takoma Park's Columbia Union College encouraged him to audition for the school's choir. Soon Breedlove had a scholarship and was in an opera the college was performing at Carnegie Hall.
Breedlove hopes to perform professionally someday, but he still sings in the Metro when he can. You might catch him there this holiday season.
"When I sing," he says, "I feel like I'm floating." And he sounds divine.
Washingtonian staffers contributing to this section were Cristina Abello, Susan Baer, Susan Davidson, Ken DeCell, Rebecca Dreilinger, Kim Isaac Eisler, Mary Clare Fleury, Kimberly Forrest, Brooke Lea Foster, Garrett M. Graff, Cynthia Hacinli, Thomas Head, Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert, Chad Lorenz, Leslie Milk, Aparna Nancherla, William O'Sullivan, Cindy Rich, and Chris Wilson. Also contributing were Cathy Alter, Ann Cochran, and Matthew Graham.