From NFL to Opera Singer

(dramatic music) - [Ta'u] I am where opera and football collide. (singing in foreign language) - [Minnie] Ta'u had a long journey to the United States from Tonga. But his journey to center stage in the opera house took much longer. (singing in foreign language) (crowd cheering) - [Ta'u] My name is Ta'u Pupu'a. I am an operatic tenor. And I am an immigrant from the Kingdom of Tonga. (dramatic orchestral music) - My name is Minnie Driver. I am an actress, a singer, and I am an immigrant. I believe nothing is more American than its immigrants, so I'm teaming up with Great Big Story to celebrate those that have come here and left their mark. (dramatic music) (quirky music) - When we moved to America, I was seven years old. My parents wanted us nine kids to have a education, and so, America was the land of opportunity. I started playing football when I was 10. I was fast, I was strong. I knew that my vehicle into college was through playing football. - [Minnie] It turns out Ta'u was a pretty good linesman. So good, in fact, that when he graduated from college, he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns, but it was his taste in music that often put him in the spotlight. - Before a game, everybody's listening to rock 'n' roll, heavy metal, and I was the person on the side listening to "O Sole Mio", something to you know, inspire me. And then, I got injured and I broke the arch of my foot and I didn't know what to do because football was the only thing I knew. A year later, I just that I decided that I better follow my other love. - [Minnie] So, Ta'u moved to New York to pursue his other passion, opera. - I didn't know a single soul here. I didn't know, like, how do you become an opera singer? The only thing I knew from my playbooks and playing football was you gotta have a plan. So I thought to myself, well, to meet people, if I get a job working in a restaurant across the street from Juilliard, you're gonna have operatic singers, conductors coming in. - [Minnie] His plan worked. He met a man who helped him secure an audition at the Juilliard School of Music. - I got into Juilliard on a full scholarship. I was sort of playing catch up because my colleagues were learning their solfeggio when they were 17, 18 years old. (piano keys playing) (Ta'u humming) (singing in foreign language) - [Minnie] And after three years of rigorous training, he graduated from Juilliard's top program. He has since traveled the world singing in opera houses and on concert stages. And today, among opera fans, Ta'u Pupu'a is a big name. - I was blessed to run around and sack quarterbacks, and now I sing love songs to sopranos. I like to live in the moment, and my moment now is I am very happy to be an opera singer. (singing in foreign language) To a young Polynesian that is chasing their dreams, set your goals high, dream big, and make it reality. (singing in foreign language) (dramatic piano music) (bell echoing)

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