Local musician turns 'different' into success

Local musician turns 'different' into success

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - If you watch "Glee," you'll see a homegrown talent in a lot of the scenes. His name is Rilan Roppolo, but he's known as just Rilan in Tinseltown.

His first love is music and the Newman grad is wasting no time making a name for himself as a solo artist with a unique sound. Rilan belts out an original song on his parents' baby grand piano, one day after wrapping up filming on "Glee's" final season.

"This go round of 'Glee' was my fourth time auditioning for the show since I was a junior in high school," he said.

Rilan played a preppy warbler - a character very different from his real-life persona.

"I was in a navy blue blazer with red piping," he said. "They slicked back my hair and covered up my shaved side and they took off my earrings and nail polish. It's completely opposite of me, but I could not have been happier to not be myself!"

The 20-year-old spent his life standing out, and now his different style has pushed his first single, Chemical, to almost two million hits on YouTube.

His mother, Gina Roppolo, sees where uniqueness pays off, but remembers all the interesting years at school.

"Rilan would wear things like this in seventh grade, sixth grade," she said pointing to Rilan's all black garb with boots. "This is how he would dress at Newman and Newman is very preppy. I always said he was comfortable in his own skin."

Rilan spent 14 years at Newman School, daring to be different. He says he was always the kid in the plays and dancing and wasn't on the football team, but that was OK.

"They respected me for it, and I ended up with a lot of friends in school," he said.

Sally Uzee was Rilan's school adviser.

"He can sing, he can dance, he can perform. But, he's much more than that," she said.

Uzee remembers a smart kid with his eyes always on stage.

She watched him shine in the play "13" as a freshman, all the way to his senior year in the "Fantastics." She says he was also an academic and excelled in rigorous courses. He won one of the school's most prestigious awards for excellence in character, scholarship and leadership.

"My mom framed my lower school projects where we talk about family and friends," Rilan says, climbing the stairs of his childhood home.

The second and third floors of the Roppolo home are a tribute to the only child's accomplishments. They show a budding performer who has blossomed through the years.

"We took him to live shows as early as 3 years old, and he'd always come home dressed the part and try to sing what they were singing to entertain us," Gina Roppolo said.

Rilan says he was always inspired by glam rock, and David Bowie was his hero. He also likes Prince and Madonna. By the time Rilan was a junior in high school, his parents had already found an agent and other contacts in L.A. By his senior year in 2013, college was not top of mind.

"I ended up going to Belmont in Nashville for a song writing program and got into honors college. The minute I got there I realized it wasn't for me," Rilan said.

His parents gave in to his passion and moved him to Los Angeles to pursue his dream. Within a year, Rilan had scored a gig on Glee. Now his music is his concentration.

"People are receptive," he said. "I've had blog post and interviews in Los Angeles and here, as well, people seem to like the sound."

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