More Information on Romel Brunley-Kerr, international student from Costa Rica displaced by Hurrican Katrina:

Kerr, now enrolled at Queens College’s Aaron Copland School of Music and receiving full tuition, is performing in a student-organized fund-raiser for the hurricane victims on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 12:15 pm at LeFrak Concert Hall, Queens College

When Brumley-Kerr is not pursuing his studies or trying to get a job on campus (as an international student, he’s prevented from seeking outside work), he practices voice and diction 10-14 hours each day at the Jamaica home of his aunt, Pearle Tapper, who is supporting him while he’s in New York.

Although Romel says “New York is a wonderful, unique place to be…a paradise of various people and cultures,” he admits to being lonely and misses his friends and faculty in New Orleans, who treated him like family. 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; 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—which he received. Now Queens College music faculty and administrators, recognizing his exceptional talent, have tapped the President’s Scholarship Fund to pay Romel’s tuition here.

Romel doesn’t sleep much these days as he wonders if he’ll ever return to the life he knew at the college that is now 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 he’ll be returning with a music degree in hand as he follows the advice of his grandmother who lived with his family till she died seven years ago at the age of 90, “You’ve just got to stay focused, clear your mind of obstacles, and you will achieve your dream.”

For more information and to set up an interview with Romel and Queens College President James Muyskens, please contact: Phyllis Stevens: 718-997-5597.

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