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Rouses Point native turns to North Country for help making lifelong dream come true

"To travel that much costs so much money," explained Merchant. "I'm doing a huge fundraising campaign right now because I am completely dependent upon sponsors."

In order to set out this June for his next audition tour, Merchant said he needs to raise $10,000 and is looking to the North Country, where he was raised, to help him out.

"With the economy the way it is, it's just difficult for people right now [to donate]," said Merchant. "I have to do it though. I can't not do it ... I'm in need right now for major sponsors to step up and sponsor me."

Merchant is no stranger to asking for help with fundraising. Last year, he took 11 students from the University of Denver with him to Italy for auditions in the Tuscia Opera Festival, where students from Julliard, the Manhattan School of Music and the University of Southern California all performed.

More than half the students who auditioned from the University of Denver received a six-week contract in the opera festival.

"We just blew them out of the water," said Merchant. "Nobody knew where we were coming from. So, by the end of the summer, everybody knew who we were."

However, to bring the students to Italy, $15,000 had to be raised. Merchant did so by asking the dean of the university along with many other people throughout Denver for help sponsoring him and the other students.

"When you're in this business, you have to kind of be willing to ask [for money]," Merchant said.

If interested in donating money to Merchant to help with his expenses, he can be contacted by e-mail at metbound@mac.com or by calling 1-720-220-4826.

"If [people] are interested in sponsoring me as a singer," it's tax deductible," explained Merchant. "One hundred percent tax-deductible."

For Merchant to have made it this far in his musical career, he credits the support of his family and friends and another local opera talent, Rockwell Blake, whom Merchant hopes to follow in his footsteps.

"He's been an incredible influence on me."

Merchant also thanks two of his music teachers, Kenneth Cox, who he currently works with, and Bob Loewen, who Merchant feels is the first man to really teach him to sing in college.

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