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Young fan takes to old music

While other kids are rocking to MTV, 18-year-old Tim Ecker is winding his vintage Victrola.

"Playing properly on a vintage machine will often eliminate a lot of surface noise and make the sound more realistic, as if the singer is in the room," he explained."

The singers heard in his room include tenor Enrico Caruso, who died about the time the teen's Victrola was made -- about 85 years ago.

"I really can't specify why I love classical music or the opera," Ecker conceded. "Nobody in my family shares the same tastes in music. I've always loved history and music. My family wasn't surprised at my longing for a Victrola after I began seriously collecting early recordings.

"I tend to have the oddest Christmas lists," he admitted.

About five years ago, Ecker started collecting early recordings -- original 78 revolution per minute records from the first quarter of the 20th century. In fact, his e-mail name starts with "operabass78s."

"I first began collecting, when I heard a 1902 recording of Enrico Caruso," the Kenmore East senior recalled.

"I decided that I'd try to track down some of his recordings. In the process, I discovered many other artists whose talents had been lost to the ages."

His collection now consists of thousands of recordings -- both classical and popular -- from the early 20th century.

With uncanny sense of pitch and language, Ecker taught himself to sing from these nearly century-old recordings.

Able to quickly pick up speech patterns, he now sings in six languages.

"I used to have a habit of singing operatic arias to myself when walking," he admitted. "I don't do this anymore because of odd reactions from surrounding individuals."

Word of Ecker's singing began to circulate in his school, prompting the choral director to coax him into auditioning for the school's select choir. Three years later, he is still singing with that choir plus the school chorus and two church choirs. Recently he was accepted as a full-time member in the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, having sung in a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. He believes he's the youngest member.

"As a performer, I'd like to give back to the public some of the forgotten melodies of long ago," Ecker said. "This music is entertaining and lively, with no vulgarity."

After envisioning himself singing at the Metropolitan Opera, he now has another career goal: teaching music.

Despite his passion for antiquing, Ecker is very much a part of the 21st century.

After saving his money, he was able to buy his lid-less roaring 20s Victrola at a reasonable price in a most modern way -- on eBay.

Have an idea about a local person whose life would make a good profile or a neighborhood issue worth exploring? E-mail: lcontinelli@buffnews.com or write to Louise Continelli, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240.

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