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Music can change the world because it can change people - Bono

When you hear Ernesto Ramirez sing today, it’s hard to believe he almost did not pursue a career using his voice.

Hailing from Mexico, Ernesto was always surrounded by music, and did not think that he had any particular vocal talent.

“In Mexico, everybody is singing. It’s just part of the culture,” laughs Ernesto.

He graduated as a clarinetist, and it was only in university when he was forced to take a class in “chorus” that his teacher immediately recognized his incredible gift.

While going on to study vocal work in Mexico City, he had a chance encounter with famed tenor Placido Domingo, who encouraged his gift. With his spirits lifted, Ernesto traveled to Los Angeles, naively assuming that he could set up a meeting with Mr. Domingo to discuss further opportunities. Laughing about it now, he quickly realized that while singers of Domingo’s caliber may be harder to reach, there were other opportunities abroad.

Although based in Canada for the last decade, Ernesto notes that his performing career has taken him across Canada, the United States, his native Mexico, and even Europe.

Ernesto first appeared at the High Notes Soiree this past year after another performer had to cancel due to illness. However, the cause of mental health is close to his heart.

His former wife, once a fellow opera singer, has dealt with significant mental health struggles that led to the breakdown of their relationship.

Unfortunately, her illness has led her to stop practising. While she is pursuing treatment, her illness has touched the entire family, and has deeply impacted Ernesto personally. With his focus on their two children, Ernesto is incredibly conscious of how the situation impacts them, and acknowledges the impact that it has had on him as well. Ernesto has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, in part from trauma he endured during his childhood in Mexico, which was only heightened by the trauma he endured during his relationship.

He acknowledges that mental health is rarely discussed in Mexican culture – one that prizes a strong masculinity, where feelings and emotions are rarely discussed.

For his part, he’s broken free from those cultural expectations, and speaks openly about pursuing cognitive behavioural therapy to treat his health. “What I discovered is that having a therapist is very cathartic. It really helps you get over all of these things that we don’t know how to deal with,” says Ernesto. “Therapy talks about breathing. For me, breathing is my livelihood. Without breathing, I would not be able to sing opera.”

Ultimately, Ernesto has come to discover the power of music as medicine – one which has been beneficial both for his own mental health, and for his audience.

“Music in itself has a healing power,” says Ernesto, “and I have so many tools within my career that I just keep going at it.”

HEAR ERNESTO RAMIREZ sing at the March 27th High Notes Gala and watch out for more emails about the other participants coming soon. Tickets at 905.305.7469 or via the red button below.

(Thanks to Shaun Bernstein, the Write Stuff Agency, for interviewing Ernesto)

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