By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
At ChildFund, we often talk about children and youth finding their voices and making their needs known to their families and other adults. That’s something new LIVE! artist Fernando Varela knows about.
“I always sang as a child, but nothing too serious,” he says. When he was about 20, he decided to pursue opera singing, an ambitious goal. Hailing from Puerto Rico, Fernando was considered a late starter in the world of classical singing, but he’s achieved great success in just a few years. He and his tenor singing group Forte (who met in person only days before performing together) were finalists on the show America’s Got Talent in 2013 and are now on a major North America tour.
On the NBC talent show, Fernando and his fellow singers, Sean Panikkar and Josh Page, performed for about 12 million TV viewers each week, which Fernando describes as “an insane number of people.” They sang at Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall, two of the most storied theaters in the country, and were signed by Columbia Records minutes after the show ended. Forte now has a new album, featuring opera classics as well as pop ballads, following their classical crossover approach to music.
In April, Fernando will be supporting ChildFund as a LIVE! artist during four dates in Hot Springs, Ark. Helping children is a major passion in his life; Fernando and his wife started a scholarship fund in their home state of Florida to help children in music, providing others with the help he received as a young man. Early in his career, some friends helped pay for his voice lessons, and others purchased plane tickets so he could fly to auditions.
If I can share with the audience the change that ChildFund creates in children’s lives, I’m not just entertaining. I’m making a difference.
“I had so many people that supported me, especially in the early stages of my development,” Fernando recalls — so working with ChildFund was a natural fit. He found out about our organization through a friend who attends some of his shows, and her brother is a sponsor.
“I think music is such a powerful tool,” Fernando says. “It’s a universal language. People really get to go on a journey and feel a lot of things. I always wanted to have a foundation, to have a cause. We just started now instead of waiting. If I can share with the audience the change that ChildFund creates in children’s lives — through fulfilling basic needs that we take for granted — now I’m not just entertaining, I’m making a difference.”