Walking down King Street I heard this voice, a powerful, beautiful voice, resonating off the walls of buildings like an operatic orphan looking for a home.

When I found the source, it was a large man, standing in an alcove, a bucket at his feet, as the words of "Ave Maria" poured forth from somewhere deep within his soul.

Standing in awe, a small crowd gathered, he completed the song and wiped his forehead as folks tossed a few dollars his way.

At first I assumed he was part of Spoleto, our all-encompassing arts festival. But soon learned it was much more than that.

What I witnessed was a man on a mission. Someone willing to lay himself bare for passersby to judge. A life in the making. A story in search of a happy ending.

Street performer

Richard Blakeney is 32 years old, a local who studied music and theater at Winthrop University, went to Chicago, tried to make it, didn't, then came home to figure out why.

"The reason is I wasn't ready," Blakeney said. "I hadn't done all the things I needed to do to be prepared."

Blessed with a strong voice, he learned he needed more. That there was another level that required sacrifice and discipline.

"I was overweight and I smoked and didn't take care of myself," said Blakeney, who lost 100 pounds and now stands tall at 6'2", 230 pounds. "I learned to breathe and inhale and become consistent. There were times when I was great. But there were times when I wasn't."

To reach those goals, he works hard toning his body and his art. In between, he supports himself by working at The Citadel gym, doing catering jobs and singing on the streets of Charleston for tips.

Impossible Dream

Blakeney, you see, is the musical equivalent of a 2-handicapper in golf, a minor league pitcher, a second-string quarterback. He's good. Very good, in fact. But is he good enough?

Our world is filled with talented people who are almost good enough to be great. They are all around us. Waiting to be discovered.

The secret to success, however, is three-fold. Not only must you be in the right place at the right time, you must have the right stuff when they call your name.

"I understand that now, and I'm prepared if someone comes along from the Metropolitan Opera and recognizes my talent," Blakeney said with a smile. "One song I sing is 'The Impossible Dream,' and I do it better than anybody else because I truly believe it is possible."