This Is New York: Simona-Mirela Miculescu, Romania’s Singing UN Ambassador
NEW YORK—In between meetings with political and diplomatic elites, Romania’s Ambassador to the U.N. Simona-Mirela Miculescu found time to record an album with four other ambassadors.
Miculescu, 54, founded the group Ambassadors Sing for Peace, which consists of five U.N. ambassadors and some youth choirs. They recorded an album with songs such as “What a Wonderful World,” and “Imagine” to promote world peace.
The singing ambassadors include Canada’s Guillermo Rishchynski, Cape Verde’s Antonio Pedro Monteiro Lima, Costa Rica’s Eduardo Ulibarri, and Nauru’s Marlene Moses.
They wanted the group to be symbolic of the world; they started off with musical ambassadors from Europe, Africa, North America, Pacific Islands, Asia, and Latin America.
But pretty soon, South Korea’s ambassador canceled to tend to North Korean conflicts at the Security Council. And then after the recording, Moses of Nauru, the U.N. special ambassador on climate change, cleared her schedule for global warming conferences.
So why start a U.N. ambassadors singing group, one may ask? Miculescu said the answer is simply that, no matter how busy people are, or what their occupations are, as human beings, we still need to do the little things we enjoy in life to maintain our sanity.
Miculescu is not your average ambassador. She is the permanent representative of Romania to the U.N. in New York, with the rank of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary.
Miculescu works from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day, she and her team are involved in negotiating 350 resolutions a year.
She restarted her singing hobby in Iraq in 2006, when she was senior adviser for public outreach to the government.
During that time, she grew numb to the sounds of bombs and fusillades. People kidnapped their own family members for money. Children stepped over corpses to get to school. Miculescu worked outside of the secure international space known as the Green Zone.
“When you’re risking your life, everything becomes relative,” Miculescu said. “You begin to re-evaluate your life.”
In Iraq, the power shortage only allowed for two hours of electricity per day. People lived without refrigerators or air conditioning. The temperature often surpassed 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
“At that time, I had to identify a hobby to keep balanced,” she said. “I started to sing with colleagues and decided to never give it up again.”
It was the first time that she sang in front of people in 24 years. As a child, she had once dreamed of becoming an actress and singer.
But there was only one drama academy in Romania when Miculescu was 18, and it accepted seven students a year. During the communist era, the government reserved the positions for the working class. Miculescu’s family is from the intellectual class. She didn’t get in.
She went into diplomacy, but she never completely lost her artistic side. Today, she wears a trio of large pearl rings, with a matching pearl bracelet, necklace. Her stylish short hair and smokey eye shadow give her an air of 1920s Hollywood.
She is a lively woman who speaks in charming, quick, short sentences. “I use my dramatic skills in diplomacy,” she said. “Although I could not act in theater, I act on the world’s stage.”
“It takes certain skills to do everything possible to push for the interest of your country,” she said. “Even if you are having a bad stomachache that day, you must appear strong and healthy.”
Miculescu joined the Romanian Foreign Ministry in 1991. She was involved in efforts to get Romania accepted as a NATO member in 2002.
From 2000 to 2004, she was appointed senior foreign policy adviser to the president of Romania and became the first woman in her country to achieve the rank of ambassador.
It was a particularly overwhelming day when the appointment came. She had been in charge of planning a tour for the president, Ion Iliescu. Last minute organization details buzzed in her head.
The president called her to his small yet tasteful office. Take a seat, he had said.
I’m glad I took the risk of hiring you, the president had said. “Does he want to sack me?” she had thought.
Then, he announced that he chose her to be the first female ambassador of Romania.
Miculescu had never dreamed of such an honor. She grew up in communist Romania, an era when women could not be diplomats.
Organizing Ambassadors Sing for Peace required a miracle. She worked for two years in her spare time to put together a group of musically inclined ambassadors. No one had time. She didn’t have time. When she found out that renting a recording studio would cost $30,000, she gave up.
Then out of the blue, she reconnected with the leader of a band on Facebook that she sang for during her youth.
“God bless Facebook,” she said. “Life is miraculous.”
He had established the Bucharest branch of the School of Audio Engineering (SAE Institute), and had a few contacts. His contacts arranged a recording session pro bono at an SAE studio in New York. All that was needed was a day when the ambassadors could schedule a recording session. Miculescu cried the first day they recorded.
Emmy Award-winning composer Gary Fry did the arrangements for the songs and provided artistic direction. He created the Brazilian Machado rhythm on ABBA’s, “I Have a Dream,” and brought in youth choirs from Chicago to sing backup. “They were so excited,” he said in a press release. “Children are the hope of the future for peace so it just makes sense to have linked between generations for this project.”
The Friendship Ambassadors Foundation sponsored the project. “Our funds go to youth programs,” Miculescu said. “That’s the most important motivation.”
The group has only performed two concerts since its launch in September 2013 because, at the end of the day, their responsibilities as U.N. ambassadors will always come first.
But as Maher Nasser, the director of the Outreach Division of the U.N. Department of Public Information once said, “Diplomatic efforts alone cannot bring peace.” In her own way, Miculescu is trying to bring another form of harmony to the world.
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