Amid the poinsettias and the Christmas cactuses, shoppers at Russo’s supermarket in Watertown, Massachusetts, were treated to another kind of beauty on Saturday, Dec. 16—the enchanting voice of Russo’s worker Guilherme Assunção.
Assunção, called “Gilly” by his employer, stopped both shoppers and employees in their tracks when he opened his mouth to soundcheck the audio system before a group of carolers was set to perform.
His rendition of “O Holy Night” turned out to be a tough act to follow.
“I was there today while this was going on—have to admit I got a little choked up!” a Facebook user commented on a video of his performance posted to Russo’s Facebook page. “Lovely.”
“That voice needs to be on display everywhere not just at Russos,” commented another Facebook user.
“You are right, his voice needs to be on display everywhere,” said another.
The video on Russo’s Facebook page has been viewed over 150,000 times, with over 790 shares and over 1,600 reactions. But possibly the most telling are the dozen or so news media outlets that have picked up his story.
Assunção, 23, came to the United States two years ago from Uberaba, southeast Brazil, to study music. “I always wanted to live here and study here,” he said in a Facebook message.
He sang professionally in Brazil—at bars, clubs, and restaurants, he said—however, the only training he received was when he performed in a high school production of “The Phantom of the Opera” in 2012. He said his training was for the musical’s choir and lasted only a few months.
He first went to Utah, where he took ESL classes at Dixie State University, but it got too expensive. So a few months ago he moved to Massachusetts where he had found a job and a place to live.
He recently enrolled at the Computer Systems Institute studying small business administration. His plan is to finish the year-long program, and once he has his degree, to find a job that will allow him to save enough money to study music at college. He has his sights set on Boston’s Berklee College of Music.
A stranger from California who saw a video of his performance created a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising $260,000—the cost, he says, of four years at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“Every once in a while we come across something that is truly inspiring and this was my inspirational moment,” the GoFundMe author Gabriel Martin wrote. “He was blessed with this talent to share with the rest of the world. … Listening to him sing brought tears to my eyes and I believe his gift will inspire people around the world.”
Commenting on his video, many have expressed hope that the young man will find a philanthropist who will pay for his education, or have his talent discovered on a program like “The Voice.”
So far, he said, no one has approached him to pay for college, but he has had some offers for gigs at Bar Mitzvahs and weddings. He said he looked into going on “The Voice,” but because he is on a student visa, he says he isn’t eligible.
For now, he’s busy performing at Russo’s where he still works in the deli and delivering sandwiches.
“The only thing that changed in my life is that I haven’t been able to do the same tasks that I do at work because of all the calls and messages that I’ve been getting,” he wrote. “I am super grateful for all the support I’ve been getting this past week! Not only from the media, but also from the people!”