On an otherwise quiet afternoon outside a retirement center in Pleasanton, international crossover recording artist Pasquale Esposito, ’09 Music, drove below the balconies where residents had been sheltering in place and began to sing. When the Italian singer had learned that entire communities of senior citizens could not leave their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic, he knew that he had to bring music to them.
“I saw people in tears on their balconies,” says Esposito. “Imagine the joy they were feeling, hearing live music for the first time in months. When I sing, I feel close to God because I feel responsible for giving people important moments. Singing is a way to connect with people; it is a gift.”
Esposito’s career as a musician started at a church in Naples, home to the famous Italian tenor Enrico Caruso. His life changed at 25, when he won a green card lottery, earning him the opportunity to work in the United States. He moved to California in 1998 and enrolled in English as a Second Language classes at Foothill College, later transferring to San José State to study with Music Professor Emeritus Joe Frank. Since 2000, he has released nine albums, including two CDs of original compositions, and has filmed multiple docu-concerts in Italy for PBS. Just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic, he filmed two new television specials in Naples at the historic Teatro Politeama—In the Spirit of Christmas, which will be released in summer 2021, and Il Tempo (Time), which premieres on KQED 9 on December 7 at 9:30 p.m.
“I came from Italy with zero in my pocket, without speaking any English, and I’ve been able to support my family, build my house and tour internationally, doing what I love,” he says. “I believe it is our responsibility to make art. When I perform, I am taking people away from their problems. Music can reset your brain and help you see things in a different way. We need human connection, now more than ever.”
Since 2012, Esposito has passed on his love for music to underserved students in the San Francisco Bay Area through Notable Music and Arts Organization, a nonprofit that provides music instruction and produces educational programming for public television. Eligible students of all ages can qualify for scholarships to study with Esposito—an especially important service in 2020, since some of his students and parents of his students have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. This fall, he took his students back to the retirement center to perform their winter recital on November 7.
“I know that this is a difficult time for many people,” Esposito says. “At the end of the tunnel, there is always light. But don’t forget about the time in the tunnel. If you slow down, you may see aspects of life that you probably were not able to see before.”