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HomeEntertainmentUCI Music Department Puts on Fundraising Event for Ukraine

UCI Music Department Puts on Fundraising Event for Ukraine

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UC Irvine’s Department of Music held a fundraising concert, “#StandWithUkraine,” at the Winifred Smith Concert Hall on April 22 with the goal of raising $100,000 by June 1 for the UCI Ukraine Emergency Response Fund

Twelve cello players from the Endpin Project opened the concert, sitting still in their chairs as the lights flashed.  Tiny strings of yellow and blue hung from their cellos, acknowledging their support for Ukraine in the ongoing Russian invasion. They performed the National Ukrainian Anthem while the event coordinators held a Ukrainian flag, bringing about a sense of sincerity and honor that fell upon the audience. 

Events such as these not only bring the arts together as a community, but they also use music as a way to help scholars directly impacted by the war in Ukraine. With the intent of encouraging donations, registration to the concert was free, with all proceeds being donated directly to the UCI Ukraine Emergency Response Fund. The June 1 deadline of $100,000 was initially put in place so that an additional sponsorship of two or three Ukrainian colleagues and their families could take action. 

Photo provided by Haniyeh Safaei

The fund is currently working with the Scholars at Risk Program and the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund in order to pay for “transportation out of the Ukraine or from a thief country to the U.S., visa-related costs, health insurance and basic living expenses, so that our colleagues may enrich our campus community and continue their education, research and teaching in a safe environment.” A QR code was placed on the back of the concert pamphlet so audience members could easily access the website and donate. 

Aligning with their goal to inspire musicians and give back to the community through music, the Endpin Project’s performance of “Prayer for Ukraine” and the Ukrainian National Anthem was so encouraging to the audience. Composed by Mykola Lysenko, “Prayer for Ukraine” is most significant because it is a symbolic remembrance of Ukraine’s independence during the war in 1917-1920. Their playing was sonorous, and while many in the audience may have not been familiar with the National Anthem of Ukraine, the strings of the cello left not a person in the audience untouched. 

Among the Endpin Project were many other talented performers, including Lorna Griffit, Jenia Kobylyanska, Sarah Koo Freeman, Yuliya Minina, Junko Nojima, Nina Scolnik and Darryl Taylor. 

Photo provided by Haniyeh Safaei

UCI faculty members took the stage as well. Frances Young Bennet, who has been a member of the UCI voice faculty since 2005, sang two beautiful pieces, “Vocalise” and “Oj, Hodyt’ Son,” the latter being a Ukrainian folk lullaby. UCI music professor Kei Akagi, also performed the piano solo “Search for Peace,” prefacing his performance with a disclaimer: “According to the program, I’m supposed to play one song … I’ll keep watch on the clock and if I run over, then I’ll just stop in the middle of it.” The crowd chuckled and was delighted to hear his second piece, “New Children’s Song Pt. III.”

Minina, who took to the piano for performances like “Ave Maria” and “Oj, Hodyt’ Son,” served as one of the event coordinators for “#StandWithUkraine.” Born in Ukraine, Minina is a full time collaborative pianist and instructor at UCI. She and Kobylyanska, who collaborated on performances like “Romance (Op. 25 No. 1)” and “Requiem,” among others, make up a piano-cello duo who have performed in many places, including Southern California, Seattle, Tijuana and Monterrey, Mexico. 

Along with the cello and piano pieces, there was angelic operatic singing. Taylor, founder of the African American Art Alliance, has been a noted singer due to his particular artistry and authority on stage. The emotion was apparent on Taylor’s face throughout his first performance, “Ombra Mai Fu,” a mild song with a somber undertone. With a voice filled with bravado and richness, his second performance of the spiritual, “Lord I’ll Go,” arguably received the loudest applause of the night.  

These invited performers came from all backgrounds and ages. Prodigy Ivan Wang, a senior at Tesoro High School, performed the cello in the piece “Requiem” as the finishing act, along with both Koo Freeman and Kobylyanska on the cello, and Minina on the piano. Wang, who began playing the cello at 10 years old, noted that one of his favorite things about being a cellist is putting his own creativity into his pieces, interpreting them in his own version. Wang feels very devoted to supporting fundraising efforts in Ukraine and participating in events such as these, essentially hoping to not only excel as a musician in the future, but to be one that always serves and gives back to the community. 

Photo provided by Haniyeh Safaei

“I feel as though music is a universal language that does not have barriers, it allows us to invite everyone to raise awareness and fundraising efforts for Ukraine,” Wang said. 

Some of the night’s attendees were Ukrainian and came to champion the efforts of UCI’s support toward their native country. Maria Tkachuk of UCI Beall Applied Innovation was in attendance, and when asked how her family is doing back home, she denoted the difficult realities of Ukrainians still being displaced all over Europe, thankful that at least her family is alive and out of harm’s way.

“Standing with Ukraine means doing the best in the [current] circumstances, being a decent human being in difficult circumstances. And I’m grateful to UCI for helping by putting on this event,” Tkachuk said.

A Russian attendee, Kirill, also showed his support for Ukraine at the night’s event and stated that he’s previously been to three protests in Laguna Beach in support of Ukraine’s war against Russia’s invasion. When asked about his favorite performance, he replied that he enjoyed “Requiem.” 

Photo provided by Haniyeh Safaei

During the last performance, a standing ovation was given to honor all who had performed. Every musician took their part in sharing their love and dedication to their art form as well as their community by standing up on the stage and playing in hopes of helping others in Ukraine. In audience members young and old, the “#StandWithUkraine ” concert left a mark and touched hearts on UCI. 

As of May 2, the UCI Ukraine Emergency Response Fund has raised 64% of their $100,000 goal, with 30 days left until their fundraising end-date. On the website, a plea urges people to donate to the cause: “Please make your gift today — and please share this campaign on social media as widely as possible to spread awareness and raise additional support. Our hearts go out to the people of Ukraine. Let us hope for safety and welfare to those in harm’s way.”

You can donate to the UCI Ukraine Emergency Response Fund before June 1 here.

Moorea Pike is an Arts & Entertainment Intern for the spring 2022 quarter. She can be reached at mepike@uci.edu.

Isabella Adderly is a Campus News Intern for the Spring 2022 quarter. She can be reached at isabelca@uci.edu.