‘Idol Gives Back’ in Los Gatos and so do Voices of Love

By Judy Peterson
Los Gatos Weekly-Times
11/25/2009 06:29:00 PM PST

Seven-year-old Nikki Flowers of Los Gatos was watching “American Idol Gives Back” when she decided she wanted to do something for poor children in Africa. The result is a recently-released CD called “Voices of Love: Benefiting the Children of Africa.”

“American Idol Gives Back” has raised more than $140 million for a variety of nonprofit children’s organizations at home and abroad. Nikki was watching the show with her mother and decided to donate her allowance to the program’s fundraising effort.

Afterward Nikki said, “That's not enough. What else can one child do?” So Nikki enlisted 10 of her friends and formed the “Voices of Love Ensemble.”

It made its debut at a Nov. 17 concert at the Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company.

“I think this CD is great because one CD saves three kids and we've already sold a lot,” Nikki told a packed coffeehouse crowd. “So we've saved a lot of kids.”

The CD sells for a $10 minimum donation and includes such songs as “Ave Maria,” “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain,” “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” “Ode to Joy” and “Hush Little Baby.”

These kids can really sing, too, flawlessly hitting the high notes on “Amazing Grace.” Piano teacher Violetta Bushuyeva became the group’s choir director, 15-year-old harpist Tiffany Iskander is one of the accompanists and Nikki’s uncle Steve Meckfessel was the musical adviser.

“This would normally take two weeks of recording with a professional, but it only took 2 1/2 days with the kids,” Meckfessel said.

Meckfessel also plays guitar on the CD and says that despite all the support adults gave to the project, “It's Nikki's dream and concept.” Nikki’s mother, Donna Flowers, recruited many other friends and family members to build the group’s website, photograph and design the CD’s cover art and underwrite the production costs.

“It's been an amazing ride,” Flowers said. “I thought everybody would quit. We didn’t know anything about what we were doing.” But already there are plans in the works to make another CD next year, and the group is in the process of incorporating as a nonprofit organization.

One hundred percent of the CD sale proceeds will be donated to the Doctors Without Borders Children's Malnutrition Program.

However, one of the organizations that moved Nikki to tears — and into action — is called Malaria No More. According to the Idol website, every 30 seconds a child in Africa dies from malaria. “I wanted to make this CD because I wanted to help children that are sick with malaria and meningitis,” performer Stephanie Carter of Los Gatos said. “And it was a lot of fun to sing with my friends.”

Other children who lent their voices to the CD are Olivia Borenstein-Lawee, Max Reynolds and Nicole Liddle of Los Gatos; Sampson Lee of Campbell; Alyona Bilash of Santa Clara; and Meg Mayor of Willow Glen, along with Pilar Ballesteros Cordero and Priya Vasu, who are from San Jose.

Sonali Seshadre of Saratoga has just joined the group and is helping to sell the CDs at the Saratoga farmers market.

The ensemble's goal is to sell 1,000 CDs, and more than 50 were sold at the Roasting Company concert alone.

For more information on where to purchase Voices of Love, visit www.childrensvoicesforcharity.org, call 408.373.6392 408.373.6392 or e-mail donna@flowers1998.com.

Copyright © 2009 The Mercury News