In June 2019, teen opera singer John Huebner left Manhattan Beach with his family and a dream. Over a year-long family trip, Huebner aspired to perform on all seven continents.
He achieved his goal, only just barely, as the novel coronavirus’ deepening spread cut short his trip on its last leg.
“These last nine months have been a whirlwind for me,” said Huebner, who will be a senior at Ambassador High School in Torrance in the fall.
With three months to go on the trek, the Huebners arrived in Cairo, Egypt, on March 13 just as borders were beginning to shut down.
Fearing the worst, Huebner’s parents scrapped the rest of the tour and booked passage for home.
On the night before they left, while he and his family attended the Pyramids of Giza Light and Sound Show, Huebner had an idea.
He approached the restaurant manager and asked if could just do an impromptu performance there.
Huebner performed Italian arias before a delighted audience — and his mission of performing on all seven continents was complete.
“It feels amazing to have achieved this goal,” he said. “At first, I wasn’t sure if it would be possible, but now I know anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”
Huebner began his singing tour last year with an opera solo at Carnegie Hall in New York as part of the Palos Verdes-based Hills Academy Honors Concert.
That was followed by performances, from hotel lobbies to classrooms, in such places as Japan the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, Australia, Russia, Finland and Columbia.
In Antarctica, he sang on a cruise ship as well as an a cappella performance among passengers and penguins.
Huebner launched his singing career in the sixth grade choir at Manhattan Beach Middle School with teacher Heather Gold.
He went on to take private voice lessons with Manhattan Beach’s Michelle Collins. He continued lessons via Skype while on the trip.
“Michelle has been my biggest supporter,” Huebner said. “She was my very first voice teacher and has really encouraged me every step of the way. I couldn’t have achieved this goal without her.”
Last summer, before embarking on his tour of the world, Huebner, then 16 years old, had completed opera summer programs with the San Francisco Opera, New York Lyric Opera Theatre and the Vienna Philharmonic.
He was also accepted in the Scholar’s Division of the National Children’s Choir that practiced at UCLA. He had also started opera and classical voice training at USC, UCLA and Cal State Fullerton.
But only time will tell when Huebner will be able to perform for a live audience again.
“I guess my next performance,” he said, “will be on Zoom.”