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For Glenn Hillman, the sound of music is one of his greatest blessings as well as his most challenging obstacle.

A performer since the fifth grade, Glenn, 18, has commanded the stage in a multitude of lead roles (his favorites including Nibs in "Peter Pan," Jack in "Into the Woods" and the Cowardly Lion in "The Wizard of Oz"). He also has had admirable success beyond the high school stage, having twice made it to the third round of auditions for "American Idol," with plans to audition for the show "X Factor" in the coming weeks.

Vocal coach Debbie Bello has worked with Glenn since his freshman year of high school, and was the impetus behind the young tenor's audition for "Idol."

With seven years of performing under his belt, music is an integral part of Glenn's life.

Most would be shocked to learn, however, that the Starpoint High School senior is deaf in one ear.

His early years, in fact, were as dramatic as any stage performance. Originally a twin, Glenn was the only child of the pair to survive. At a mere 13 months, Glenn underwent open heart surgery after it was discovered he had a congenital heart defect. Then, as a child, Glenn was diagnosed as being partially deaf, and has since been required to wear a hearing aid on a daily basis. The hearing aids, however, are not always sufficient.

"I worry about that every time I go onstage -- whether I'm going to hear the music or not," said Glenn.

The challenge hasn't stopped him yet. He counts among his greatest performance accomplishments being cast as a lead as a freshman, and making it past the first round of "American Idol" (as well as, of course, the five-minute-long secret handshake he developed with a co-star in "The Wizard of Oz").

With a total of seven shows already on his resume, Glenn plans to keep performing, with the hope of someday playing either the Phantom or Raoul in "The Phantom of the Opera." He also plans to major in English education or history in college.

As for the hurdles he's faced -- and will continue to face -- Glenn maintains a positive outlook.

"When life gives you a musical," says Hillman, "play the lead."

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Haley Keeley is a senior at Starpoint High School.