18-year-old baritone commands the stage in Cave Creek

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Jacob Soulliere's velvety voice fills Christ the Lord Lutheran Church in Cave Creek. (Source: Jacob Soulliere) Jacob Soulliere's velvety voice fills Christ the Lord Lutheran Church in Cave Creek. (Source: Jacob Soulliere)
Barbara and Scott adopted Jacob from Bulgaria when he was nearly 2 years old. (Source: Jacob Soulliere) Barbara and Scott adopted Jacob from Bulgaria when he was nearly 2 years old. (Source: Jacob Soulliere)
The voice, the range, the interpretation, it's all coming. (Source: Jacob Soulliere) The voice, the range, the interpretation, it's all coming. (Source: Jacob Soulliere)
CAVE CREEK, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

His velvety voice fills Christ the Lord Lutheran Church in Cave Creek. It's an extraordinary voice from an extraordinary young man.

He might sound like a full grown adult, but make no mistake, this incredible voice actually belongs to a Valley teenager.

It's hard to believe this baritone is just 18 years old. Jacob Soulliere delivers a note with emotion and empathy, not generally found in teenagers

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While most people Soulliere's age are listening to music topping the charts, this young man has a love of the opera and sings classical music for hours each day. 

"Opera just took me by surprise," Soulliere said. "I always pictured myself more like an Elton John singer. I never thought I'd be leaning on opera, and now it's my life, all I do is opera." 

Practices are long. Twice weekly voice lessons consist of vocal training and translation practice in both German and Italian. Then, three hours a day is dedicated to studying music.

"It can get very technical at times, and you have to keep pushing," says Soulliere. "It gets difficult, but I end up following through." 

The music has become his passion and his life's dream.

"The best thing about singing and what I love about it, it connects people, it's just very therapeutic for me," says Soulliere.  

Jacob's talent was discovered at a young age singing for the Phoenix Boys Choir when he was 5 years old. His mom Barbara Soulliere tells us, he just gravitated toward\ the music early on.

"I'd be putting a basketball in his hand and he'd be gearing towards the music, I knew back then there was some music in him," says Soulliere's dad. "When he opens his mouth, I'm telling you, you just get chills."

Mom, and dad, Scott Soulliere, still watch with amazement. Barbara and Scott adopted Soulliere from Bulgaria when he was nearly 2 years old. They say, almost immediately they realized their little boy had quite the instrument.

"Every time that I listen to him, you just get those goosebumps," says Scott. "And that's where we went, 'wow, where did that come from?'"

With his full body and command of the verses, Jacob's presence fills the stage. He's performed at the MIM, Carnegie Hall, and has been asked to sing at the White House. 

"When I first heard him for his first lesson, I thought, 'Wow, how old are you?'" says voice coach Mary Sue Hyatt. "The sound was there, the placements were there, and the desire was just amazing."

His opera and voice coaches say it's his work ethic that sets him apart. 

"To find someone of his age already so focused and so determined and so convinced that this is what he wants to do, is very much to his advantage," says the director of Arizona Opera and opera coach Henri Venanzi.

But much of his training, which requires him to strengthen his vocal cords, also includes learning how to save his maturing voice.

"I spend most of my time trying to protect him from himself," says Hyatt. "He wants to sing all these huge, wonderful big arias, which have been performed by the greats, but what we have to remember, what we're hearing on the recordings are the best of them, at their ages, 35, 40 and so on, and not at 18.

"So he wants to sing all these wonderful arias, which he knows, he hears them all the time, but you have to hold back the reigns,"
   
It's a fine balance between advancing his skill and caring for the instrument inside his body.

"The instrument itself is so delicate," says Venanzi. "It's a very teeny, tiny part of the throat with support muscles. And, once those muscles are stretched out and ruined, it's very, very hard to put them back, if ever." 

The voice, the range, the interpretation, it's all coming. And no doubt, it'll be soon to a stage near you.

"You can't be perfect," says Soulliere, "but you can always try to be, and try to be your best." 

For more info visit, jacobrobertsoulliere.weebly.com.

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