One island, 60 children, countless possibilities. Meet Andrea Bocelli’s most passionate mission—and backup choir: the voices of Haiti.
It’s not unreasonable to assume that Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli possesses the world’s most ubiquitous (and beloved) singing voice. With his rich, expressive instrument and a repertoire that segues from opera to pop, the crossover artist has reached a global audience, selling more than 80 million recordings worldwide. But Bocelli’s proudest achievement has less to do with the blockbuster appeal of his music, and more to do with a personal mission. These days, the singer’s most ardent goal is to give a silent minority the chance to raise its voice—and be heard.
Bocelli has been using his star power as a tool to empower others since 2011, when he and his wife, Veronica Berti, established the Andrea Bocelli Foundation (ABF), an organization that delivers educational and economic aid to developing nations. Bocelli and Berti felt a particular draw to Haiti (“a country so beautiful and so unlucky”), and joined local teams on the ground to give thousands of Haitians daily access to schools, medical care and drinking water. But to uplift the country’s poorest and hardesthit communities, the husband-and-wife team realized they would need to provide “existential opportunities” as well as basic necessities. For that purpose, they used the most powerful device at their disposal: music.
The result is the Voices of Haiti children’s choir, now entering its sixth year. A joint effort between ABF and the Haitian nonprofit Fondation St. Luc, the 60-member ensemble recruits students (ages 9 to 15) from the island nation’s most remote areas. In addition to receiving a comprehensive education in a classroom setting, the group gets first-class musical training and the rare opportunity to travel abroad. Since 2016, the Voices of Haiti choir has performed at venues reserved for the world’s most illustrious artists (and audiences). The choir participated in Tony Bennett’s 90th-birthday celebration at Radio City Music Hall in New York City and gave a concert for Pope Francis at the Vatican.
Most recently, the choir visited the Port of Miami to perform at the naming ceremony of the new MSC Seaside cruise ship, which sails around the Caribbean. It’s hard to ignore the metaphor here; a ship-filled backdrop suggests exploration, travel, a widening of horizons—all things that Bocelli says the program tries to offer its young members. “What we are giving them today is [a chance to] broaden their gaze, to know a different world. Art and culture are human rights.” (Incidentally, the symbolism hasn’t been lost on MSC, which is now a sponsor and partner of ABF.) Berti agrees that a far-reaching vision is essential, but insists that small steps are the key to making big changes. “What’s important is to work every day and roll up one’s sleeves,” she says. “As Andrea loves to repeat, a drop is just a drop, but together with many others, they make the sea.”