Katrina Survivorâ€™s High Note
Romel is now enrolled at Queens Collegeâ€™s Aaron Copland School of Music in Flushing, New York and receiving full tuition and funds for books and performances. He has just finished up a student-organized fund-raiser for the hurricane victims held at the LeFrak Concert Hall at Queens College. Now he is rehearsing for his next performance on Oct. 28, 2005, 6 â€“ 9 pm, at the Hurricane Katrina Reconstruction Fundraiser being organized by the Black Star News at the Aaron Davis Hall/City College in Manhattan. It is Romelâ€™s way of thanking all the people who helped him get his life back on track
Special To Black Star
Amidst all the tragic stories unfolding as a result of Hurricane Katrina, there are some stories of hope and inspiration â€“ as people displaced by this tragedy try to piece together their lives. One such story is that of Romel Brumley-Kerr, an international transfer student from Limon, Costa Rica. The aspiring 30-year-old baritone opera singer, from 2003 until just recently, had been on a full music scholarship at the University of New Orleans.
Romel is now enrolled at Queens Collegeâ€™s Aaron Copland School of Music in Flushing, New York (http://www.qc.cuny.edu) and receiving full tuition and funds for books and performances. He has just finished up a student-organized fund-raiser for the hurricane victims held at the LeFrak Concert Hall at Queens College. Now he is rehearsing for his next performance on Oct. 28, 2005, 6 â€“ 9 pm, at the Hurricane Katrina Reconstruction Fundraiser being organized by the Black Star News at the Aaron Davis Hall/City College in Manhattan. It is Romelâ€™s way of thanking all the people who helped him get his life back on track since he evacuated New Orleans and perhaps aiding other victims of the hurricane who were not as fortunate.
Romel says when he sings, â€œanother person takes over,â€? and negative thoughts simply â€œmelt away.â€? When Romel is not pursuing his studies or trying to get a job on campus â€“ as an international student, heâ€™s prevented from seeking outside workâ€”he practices voice and diction 10-14 hours each day at the Jamaica, Queens home of his aunt, Pearle Tapper, who is supporting him while heâ€™s in New York. â€œI just want to be independent, fulfill my dreams and be somebody,â€? he says. While Romel observes that â€œNew York is a wonderful, unique place to beâ€”a paradise of various people and cultures,â€? he admits to being lonely and misses his friends and faculty in New Orleans. They had become his â€œadopted family.â€?
They include fellow music students like Ebony, with whom he performed in the chorus at the Holy Comforter Chapel at the University of New Orleans (UNO) and the New Orleans Opera and whose family cheered him up when he was homesick; Dr. Charles Ramsey, a retired psychiatrist with whom he lived till the hurricane hit; and his voice teacher at UNO, Dr. Raquel Cortina, whom Romel met when she taught a voice class as a visiting professor at the University of Costa Rica. It was Dr. Cortina who felt he was talented enough to audition for a full scholarship at UNO. Now Queens College music faculty and administrators, recognizing his exceptional musical gifts, have tapped the Presidentâ€™s Scholarship Fund to pay Romelâ€™s tuition here.
Romel doesnâ€™t sleep much these days as he wonders if heâ€™ll ever return to the life he knew at the college that still three-quarters underwater. Romel fled New Orleans before the hurricane hit with just some clothes and his passport in a plastic bag. His visa runs out in 2007, when he must return to his parents and three younger sisters, and the place where he first dreamed of being an opera star and performing in America.
But Romel is very optimistic heâ€™ll be returning with a music degree in hand. He says heâ€™s inspired by the advice of his grandmother who lived with his family till she died seven years ago at the age of 90: â€œYouâ€™ve just got to stay focused, clear your mind of obstacles, and you will achieve your dream.â€?
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