The food-service employee from Russo’s Market in Watertown who gained online fame around Christmas after videos of his operatic singing were posted to the company’s Facebook page is one step closer to achieving his dream of a career in music.
Guilherme Assuncao said he found out this weekend that he was accepted to Berklee College of Music’s undergraduate program, just months after school officials gave him a shot at a live audition so he could secure a spot as a member of the class of 2022.
“I cried a little bit,” said Assuncao, who came to the US in 2015 and is here on a student visa. “And then the first thing I did was I called my grandmother in Brazil. I woke her up, because it was almost 2 a.m. there, and I told her, and she was super proud of it.”
Assuncao earned Internet acclaim after he did a sound test of the equipment that in-store performers were going to use at Russo’s for the holiday season. His impromptu singing blew away his coworkers and inspired his employers to invite him to sing to customers in the following days.
Video of Assuncao singing “Hallelujah,” Andrea Bocelli’s “Con Te Partirò,” and “O Holy Night” were posted to social media, and quickly went viral.
After seeing him on the news, Berklee officials reached out to Assuncao, who had said it was his dream to attend the college, and encouraged him to apply. In February, he went in for an audition and interview.
The 23-year-old singer, who isn’t formally trained in classical music or opera, finally learned his fate just after midnight Saturday.
He said the e-mail from Berklee landed in his mailbox while he was playing video games. When Assuncao, who’s a student at Boston’s Computer Systems Institute, saw the subject line indicating his admissions decision was ready, he stopped breathing. The e-mail prompted him to check Berklee’s website to find out if he had been accepted.
“I logged in, and there was a button that said ‘Your Decision,’” he said. “I thought, ‘I don’t want to open it. I don’t want to find out.’ I was super scared, because it’s like my dream. Was I good enough to be accepted to my dream school? Every kid goes through that when they’re applying to college.”
He clicked the button, and got his answer: “Congratulations,” he said it read.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’” said Assuncao. “My heart stopped.”
But Assuncao’s journey to fulfilling his long-held aspirations of becoming a singing sensation isn’t over yet: He’s now trying to figure out how to pay for his educational opportunity.
Because he’s an international student, he isn’t eligible for federal student loans, he said. Berklee also didn’t offer him any scholarship funds, and raising money for four years of college by working at Russo’s won’t cut it.
Still, Assuncao, who credits the public and the viral videos for opening doors for him, is moving ahead and exploring his options. His hope is to begin school at Berklee in September, finances permitting.
“I have to make a decision as soon as possible,” he said. “As of right now, I’m on my way to Berklee to check for opportunities for other scholarships, and what I can apply for and what I can do.”Steve Annear can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.