The two were an unlikely duo: Stanislas Adam was a concert violinist from Belgium, and Caetano Altafin Cunha was the founder of a nonprofit for underprivileged children with special needs in Brazil. But after one conversation during Harvard Law School’s LL.M. orientation week in August, the two decided to combine their diverse interests and organize a charity concert to raise funds for Cunha’s initiative, the Library Tree Project.
The duo raised more than $2,000—enough to open two more community libraries in Brazil—at the Spring Charity Concert in Paine Hall on March 25, 2011, featuring chamber musicians from the Harvard Law School and Harvard Medical School chamber music societies.
The Library Tree Project, established in 2004, aims to provide support to community leaders in Brazil by building libraries and providing basic educational and child care services in underprivileged neighborhoods. The organization has already opened three libraries near Rio de Janeiro.
“His enthusiasm immediately seduced me, and I immediately thought that his personal project could match perfectly with mine,” Adam said of their first meeting. “Also, I loved the idea of granting some educational support to children in Brazil through the opening of libraries.”
|[L-R]: Amy Xu, violin; Michael Barnett, oboe; Andrea Spencer, viola; and Josh Packard, cello|
Cunha had planned to become a professional soccer player until he had to stop playing after a knee injury at 15. He then founded the nonprofit Crescendo Feliz in 2003 with his older brother with the original mission of developing athletic programs for children with special needs. A year later, the two decided to shift the focus of the organization to creating educational opportunities for low-income children.
Soon after, his brother was diagnosed with cancer, and passed away in January 2006.
“For a while, it was very hard to know where to go, and I knew I wanted to continue and do something with his name,” Cunha said. “We loved doing volunteer work, and we had this dream of creating a library. For his last birthday in 2005, instead of presents he asked for books so we could open our first library together.” The organization’s first library was opened in his brother’s name.
Cunha studied international relations and law in Brazil before coming to Harvard. He will step down from his position as president of Crescendo Feliz and join Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York City now that he has received his LL.M. from HLS. Once he recovers from his recent shoulder injury, he plans to play for the firm’s soccer team.
“It’s great to see how life turns out being OK,” Cunha said. “I don’t think I’d be happier than doing social work. I think Harvard students really have a chance to give back to the community.”
Adam performed Schubert’s “Trout Quintet” and Mozart’s “Oboe Quartet in F major, K. 370” at the concert with several musicians from Harvard Law School and Harvard Medical School, including HLS Professor Joseph William Singer ’81.
Adam started playing the violin at age 4 and graduated from the Royal Conservatory of Brussels in 2001. After serving as concertmaster of the conservatory’s symphony orchestra in 2002, he studied European law and received an LL.M. and a Ph.D. from Ghent University before coming to Harvard this year. Now also an LL.M. graduate of HLS, Adam will be clerking at the General Court of the European Union in Luxembourg.