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From receptionist to chart-topper

Friday 21 Sep 2012 11:24 p.m.

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By Ali Ikram

In a few years Noah Stewart has gone from being a receptionist at one of the great concert halls of the world, to becoming the first black artist to top the UK classical charts.

He is currently in New Zealand in the country on a promotional tour.

Four years after leaving music school, times were tough and Stewart took a job as a receptionist at Carnegie Hall.

“I had this fantasy that perhaps someone would hear my speaking voice and remark and say what a nice speaking voice are you a singer it was all worked out in my brain this whole mini opera.”

It didn't happen, in fact he was told off for humming at work, but it made Stewart's eventual discovery all the more sweeter.

“I finished my aria and they said ‘Noah what a voice, where have you been’ and I thought in my mind, I thought, ‘Carnegie Hall’.”

The tenor grew up in Harlem and got a scholarship to Juillard. But it was a summer school in Aspen that changed everything. Stewart's mum couldn't afford it so wrote away to a superstar for help.

“A couple of months later we received an envelope from Bill Cosby and his wife Camille and inside was a cheque and with that cheque I was able to go to the Aspen music festival and have the summer of my life.”

The 33-year-old released his debut album this year. It's the sort of mix of classical and pop that sells like hot cakes but earns the ire of traditionalists.

Stewart is coping with success.

“It's good I suppose. I don't have any expectations. Each day I wake up, each day I just want to be happy, each day is the goal, not the goal but it's enough for me.”

And when Stewart does wake up these days it's usually in a strange town. He's in demand, only recently taking his first holiday in two years.

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