As a child, Ron Bopst was the obnoxious kid who hogged all the attention.

He couldn't get enough. The classic "ham" was always singing, always looking for the spotlight.

At family get-togethers, the Glen Burnie resident would team up with a favorite cousin to sing tunes they heard on the radio, songs like "This Magic Moment" by the Drifters and "Take Me Home, Country Roads" by John Denver.

His relatives delighted in having the duo singfor them. But Bopst wasn't just singing for the applause. He liked singing, and he was good at it.

Later, he used that talent in developing his voice. It recently paid off.

Bopst, a 27-year-old seniorat the University of Maryland Baltimore County, placed second in themusical theater category of the National Association of Teachers of Singing Regional Competition in April at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. Bopst was one of 200 singers from five states who competed in this event.

Bopst qualified for the regionals by winning the state competition at Towson State University.

These were "intimidating" competitions for Bopst, but he relished the experience. And Bopst was more pleased with his performance in the classical voicecategory in the state competition, even though he didn't qualify forthe regionals.

The judges gave him a 24.6 score out of a possible30 for singing five songs, two by Franz Schubert. Bopst sang three songs in the musical theater category, including two from the musical,"Les Miserables." The judges awarded him 29.6 points.

"I was surprised with my showing in the classical voice category, because I knewthat my acting skills would pull me through the musical theater competition," said Bopst, 27.

"I also was disappointed that I didn't win the classical voice competition because I felt that I would have been taken more seriously. If you can sing classical music, you can sing everything. You don't have to have a lot of training to sing in a Broadway musical. But many do. It's just that there are a lot of belters, people who always sing loud and have no range."

And Bopst believes that he's better than that, even though he sought formal training only 5 1/2 years ago.

"I think he has a considerable amount of promise," said Samuel Gordon, Bopst's voice teacher and chairman of UMBC's music department. "If he wants to do musicals, he has a wide range of roles he can do. He won't be limited at all in what he wants to do, including light opera."

But Bopst laments, "I wish I would have started sooner. Dr. Gordon said that kids shouldn't start before age 17."

Bopst was 22. He spent most of his youth searching for the right career. He entered UMBC as a German major, spending two yearsstudying that language. Then he took an acting course and became "hooked."

He switched his major to theater, which displeased his parents.

"My mom said that acting was nice, but that I should take some computer classes," he said.

He won a spot in his first college musical, "The Boys from Syracuse." When a friend began taking voice lessons, Bopst followed.

"I thought it could help enhance my acting career," said Bopst, who also sings with the Maryland Camerata, UMBC's chamber choir.

He has worked hard, studying with a voice teacherfor an hour a week and practicing on his own 20 minutes a day.

"He has a very fine ear and very good instincts," Gordon said. "He is extremely disciplined, which comes from his acting."

Bopst has now taken so many music courses that he added a minor in vocal performance. When he graduates from UMBC next spring, he plans to pursue both theater and singing.

"I'm not truly happy doing anything else," he said.

Added Gordon: "I think that once Ron leaves Maryland and hits the national circuit, we'll hear from him."

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