When meeting 15 year old Rocco Fiorentino, it's easy to be captivated by his positive outlook on life and his warm, outgoing personality. It's just as impressive to listen to him sing and play piano, perhaps a recent jazz composition he wrote. And, it's wonderful to know that this young person, who is blind due to premature birth, is an award-winning advocate for all children who are blind or visually impaired.


It is remarkable hearing about this teenage musician and humanitarian, but even more so knowing that Rocco was born four months premature, weighing only one and a half pounds. He had less than a 5% chance to survive, and he lost his twin brother, Michael, at birth. Rocco spent the first six months of his life at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and, after 10 surgeries; he was released to go home. Rocco lost his vision due to the high levels of oxygen needed to keep him alive. And, knowing this, it makes it even more incredible that he awakes each day with a smile and doesn't understand negative thinking.  With this outlook on life, he's already a "star," but watching him on stage, his star quality is even more evident.


Rocco is continually recognized for his humanitarian efforts and for his musical talent. In 2010 he has had an influence on children around the world as he appeared on Sesame Street telling Elmo, “It’s only natural for me to be blind,” and singing a jazz song with all the characters. Rocco’s segment runs repeatedly on the show and is seen throughout the world. He was recently interviewed on the BBC’s Ouch website and radio program to inspire people with disabilities. He also received The Louis Braille Award presented by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter for the Associated Services of the Blind.

 

2009 was a very big year for Rocco. In Sept. 2009, crowds jumped to their feet to recognize Rocco after he sang “God Bless America” at the worldwide launch event of author Mitch Albom’s new book, “Have a Little Faith.” Even Tony Bennett was there and very impressed by Rocco as he told the hundreds in the audience. Related to his humanitarian work, Rocco is being credited for inspiring a resolution signed into law by Governor Corzine that every October the State of New Jersey will recognize "Blindness Awareness Month". This began in 2009 and was also celebrated in PA. Another honor in October, 2009 is that Rocco received the "Hands On" Award from the National Braille Press, an award that has recently been given to First Lady Laura Bush and author J.K. Rowling of the famed Harry Potter book series. And, he was named one of the 12 national Kohl’s Kids Who Care Scholarship winners.


As the Ambassador for The Little Rock Foundation, the non-profit organization named for Rocco that is dedicated to improving the lives of other blind or visually impaired children, Rocco continually builds awareness about blindness by lobbying and educating the public. He protests budget cuts, saves jobs of employees of the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired and by the time he was eight years old, he was responsible for influencing New Jersey State legislators to dedicate $1.2 million to Braille education and services for blind students. Two national awards he received in 2008 are the Volvo for Life Award, as one of three finalists, and Build-A-Bear Workshops’ Huggable Hero Award, one of 12 children around the world. For each $10,000 was his prize. More accolades include the Helen Keller Award of Independence, presented in the fall of 2008 by the Visual Impairment & Blindness Services in Berks County, PA and the Great Friend to Kids Award, 2007, student division, by Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia.


When it comes to Rocco's passion, it's clearly his music. When he performs, he brings crowds to their feet with his vocal talent and his ability on the piano and drums. He performs throughout the United States and has sung at Birdland, the famed jazz club in New York five times in the past two years. Performing at conferences, He has sung and played piano at such prestigious settings as the USS Missouri in Hawaii and The Bellagio in Las Vegas.

 

Rocco has been seen frequently on television including an appearance singing on NBC's "The Today Show" where the hosts and crew were overwhelmed! He was also the Philadelphia FOX-TV reporter at the American Idol finals in Hollywood in 2008 and even interviewed the winner David Cook, which also ran on “Access Hollywood”, and he appeared with his personal idol, David Archuleta. After hearing Rocco sing, Laura Saltman of “Access Hollywood” predicted that Rocco would make the Top 12 of American Idol when he was old enough to audition.


Rocco's favorite music is the great jazz standards sung by Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. And, the performer with whom he relates the most, whose first love in music was jazz, is Stevie Wonder. Rocco had a chance to meet both Tony Bennett and Stevie Wonder in Atlantic City in 2007. Backstage, Stevie Wonder even got up from his keyboard so Rocco could play and they jammed doing “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” a thrill for Rocco.


Rocco is mainstreamed in regular schools, an honor student, and attends high school in Voorhees, NJ.

Copyright © 2011 Rocco Fiorentino | MusicByRocco.com | Site by Cassie Sadowitz

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