Andrea Bocelli performs in Milan

Andrea Bocelli performs on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy. 

Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Italian music icon Andrea Bocelli is joining forces with the Latin Recording Academy to give the 2016 Latin Grammys best new artist winner the opportunity of a lifetime.

The winner -- to be announced during the 17th annual Latin Grammy Awards on Nov. 17 -- will have a chance to perform at the renowned Ischia Global Film & Music Festival in Italy in 2017. "Now it's not only about the nomination or actually winning the award, but also the possibility to launch a career in Europe. I think it'll also be an incentive for people to realize the importance of this category," Gabriel Abaroa, president & CEO of the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, told Billboard exclusively. 

According to Abaroa, the Grammy- and Latin Grammy-nominated artist was the one to present the idea to the Academy after talks of creating some sort of partnership. "One of his managers, Tony Renis, called me saying Andrea was interested in supporting the best new artist category and that he wanted to create a union between the Italian and Latin music industry."

Billboard caught up with Bocelli to talk about this new initiative and the importance of supporting up-and-coming talent.

In today’s climate for young artists, why is this kind of “push” important?

I think it is a valuable opportunity, for a young artist, the possibility to show one’s own talent especially when this happens outside the boundaries of one’s home country, in contact with a potential new market. I have always tried, within the limits of my possibilities, to support my young colleagues; I consider it a necessary gesture, useful and important for the sake of art, therefore for the quality of the world of which we are the inhabitants.

In a spectacular location like the island of Ischia, in the heart of the bay of Naples, within an international festival attended by top celebrities, like the Ischia Global Film & Music Festival directed by my friend Tony Renis, I believed it was important and useful to offer the possibility to a young overseas artist to perform on a new stage something that -- I hope -- will give him new professional opportunities.

Did you have a mentor when your career started? If not, do you wish you had? 

I have been a much-loved child. My family educated me to inner and outer beauty, a teaching that has forged my character and has given me a scale of values and priorities. Therefore, a privileged source of inspiration have been, first of all, my parents, who have raised me and my brother in a united family, giving us an education that has proved to be invaluable going on in life. Among the other milestones in my life, a crucial encounter was the one with Amos Martellacci, a fellow countryman, who with love, generosity and determination helped me in my studies at university until I graduated, and then until I started my artistic career. In his honor, I gave the name Amos to my eldest son…A life master to whom I owe much of the little I know.

From the musical point of view, since childhood, my mentors have been the heroes of the 20th-century opera, those great interpreters who have shaped the history of opera and who have at the same time performed many popular romanzas. Their voices, still today, half a century later, are my greatest source of artistic inspiration. My first “hero” was Beniamino Gigli… and, then, Mario Del Monaco, Enrico Caruso, Aureliano Pertile, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Mario Lanza and many others. But above all my most powerful source of inspiration has been and still is today Franco Corelli, he who represented for me the thunderbolt that marked my destiny. I have loved this great tenor since I first listened to him, since the day, when still a child, I received as a gift his interpretation of the “Improvviso” from the opera Andrea Chénier. A legendary singer, a charismatic presence, a fantastic voice … When I was a boy I literally consumed his records. Years later I had the good fortune to study with him and later to establish a relationship of mutual esteem, which on my side was of true devotion.

However many are the colleagues with whom over the years I have measured myself and have received (and go on receiving) good advice, I am referring to singers (for instance the dear friend and artist Luciano Pavarotti), but also to orchestra conductors (one above all, Zubin Mehta) and to instrumentalists with whom I have had the pleasure of working. Every encounter, but I would add every reading, every meditation, has had, I think, its influence, contributing to my artistic specificity, because the life “lived” is fatally reverberated in singing.

And what advice would you give to best new artist today?

In an artistic career, success follows inscrutable paths. Were it not so, we could build a career just planning it in advance. However, I am fairly convinced that a genuine and significant talent has, sooner or later, in the course of life, the opportunity to emerge. In my case, for instance, when I was a young artist, there were only a few people who would bet on the possibilities to break in the field of music, for a boy like me, coming from the country and with no acquaintance in the world of entertainment. Fame came quite unexpectedly, when I was already more than 35 of age, and after much training and many disappointments. But eventually reality exceeded all my dreams, even the brightest. That said, to my young colleagues, I would recommend humility and determination. Artists must always strongly believe in their own potential, being always strict with themselves, but always optimistic, without ever stopping to follow their own passions. I would suggest, furthermore, to take care and increase their intellectual curiosity, to be always eager to learn. I would urge them to have many interests to develop a passion for life, because if we want to excite our listeners, we must have something to tell through our performances. Finally, I think that it is worth not to lose sight of the great importance that the artist can play inside society: It is useful to be aware of the fact that art and culture are able to give a vital contribution, for the development of peace in the world. 

--Reporting by Leila Cobo