The Gift of Voice

Kasondra Kazanjian takes the stage for a concert to benefit Project Edeline

If you’ve ever seen "Godzilla" or "Big Hero 6" or dined at Solterra Winery + Kitchen in Encinitas (or, for that matter, paddled out at any of North County’s best surf spots), you may have already been introduced to my homegirl Kasondra Kazanjian. A classically trained opera singer, Kazanjian lends vocals to soundtracks and befuddles sold-out crowds at the winery with her mystically large voice on the regs. She’s got these pipes like whoa, and somehow they fit in this compact package of a person along with this pretty fantastically big heart. Come Friday, April 3, she's lending both heart and voice to Pour les Enfants, a benefit concert and silent auction for Project Edeline at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, where she and "America's Got Talent" finalist Branden James are poised to belt out some beautiful music for an equally beautiful cause.

Project Edeline -- named for Edeline Felizor, who relocated to San Diego to receive medical treatment and rehabilitation for severe injuries caused by being buried under rubble from her destroyed school during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti -- was established a few years after the country was hit, with the main goal of building a school for the children in Croix des Bouquets, an area that was devastated and is wrought with poverty. Through the efforts of a small group of dedicated San Diegans, Felizor’s dream of building a school -- Institute Edeline -- came to fruition and now provides 135 students with the basic education that they would otherwise be without.

But they need some help. And that’s where Kazanjian comes in. She and James, who you may recognize as a finalist from the 2013 season of "America’s Got Talent," have put together a program that showcases their massive voices. There are duets to the tune of "West Side Story" and "Phantom of the Opera," solos from classic productions like "Les Misérables" to modern songs like "Hallelujah" and a number of international songs. Kazanjian, for her part, will be singing in no fewer than four languages -- none of which are her mother tongue.

"You see this kind of love for education and for building this community back up," Kazanjian, a resident of Carmel Valley, tells me ahead of the fundraiser. "I feel like everybody says this, but it’s because it’s for the kids. It’s not about the adults -- it’s about teaching the kids."

Kasondra Kazanjian and Branden James perform at the Pour les Enfants benefit concert at the San Diego Repertory Theatre on the Lyceum Stage on Friday, April 3, at 7 p.m. The silent auction begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets range from $50 to $150 and can be purchased here.

All proceeds from Pour les Enfants go to support the efforts of Project Edeline, in partnership with Youth Without Borders. To learn more, visit

Hannah Lott-Schwartz, a San Diego native, moved back to the area after working the magazine-publishing scene in Boston. Now she’s straight trolling SD for all the music she missed while away. Want to help? Hit her up with just about anything at all over on Twitter, where -- though not always work-appropriate -- she means well.

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