2016 / Cello Recital to Support Children’s Orchestra in Fukushima, Japan, Oct 15 at Azusa Pacific University

Risa Yoshida and her cello at Soma Children Orchestra

Risa Yoshida and her cello at Soma Children Orchestra

Cello Recital to Support Children’s Orchestra in Fukushima, Japan

— Polish-born Cellist Marek Szpakiewicz who Experienced Nuclear Threat in Chernobyl in his Childhood Giving a Message through Music–

DATE: Saturday, October 15, 2016   7:30 p.m.

LOCATION: Munson Recital Hall, Azusa Pacific University
901 E. Alosta Avenue, Azusa, CA
Parking: Free parking at Parking Lot C (next to Alosta Ave.)
For the parking location, please visit http://www.apu.edu/map/

PROGRAM:  Chopin: Introduction and Polonaise brillante, Op.3

Schumann: Fantasiestücke

Barber: Sonata for Cello and Piano in C minor, Op.6

Rachmaninoff: Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor, Op.19

Gershwin (arranged by Szpakiewicz): Three Preludes

ARTISTS: Marek Szpakiewicz, cello/ Jiayi Shi, piano

ADMISSION: Free admission, no ticket required.

Collected donation (not required) will be used to purchase a 3/4-sized cello for the Soma Children’s Orchestra in Fukushima, Japan, organized by El Sistema Japan.   Reception to follow.

For more information about this recital, please contact Keiko Mori at keiko@musicstudio-f.org or (213) 446-9210.

More about this recital and a story behind the donated cello and a girl in Fukushima…

The October 15th recital features Polish-born, Pasadena-based cellist Marek Szpakiewicz. Celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma described Szpakiewicz as an artist “whose energy, motivation, earnestness and generosity of spirit are evident through his work.” Szpakiewicz also contributed his talent to film orchestration as a collaborator with Oscar-winning Polish composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek. Among the scores he worked on with Kaczmarek, the music to “Finding Neverland” received the 77th Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2005. In 2008, U.S. government granted Szpakiewicz permanent residency as an “Extraordinary Ability Artist” for his remarkable work as a musician.

Szpakiewicz also received recognition from Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Michael Antonovich for organizing a musical event in Los Angeles to raise relief funds for the March 11 earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan in 2011. He has been supporting the Soma Children’s Orchestra in Fukushima, organized by El Sistema Japan, since its inception in 2012, through various charity concerts.

Szpakiewicz donated a portion of the proceeds from his March 2015 debut recital in Tokyo to the Soma Children’s Orchestra in the form of a half-sized cello. During his visit to the orchestra in Fukushima in 2014, Szpakiewicz learned that the scarcity of the half-sized cellos had led younger children to start on the violins when they had joined the orchestra despite of their interest in the cellos. His gift was to encourage younger children to join the cello section of the orchestra.

When Risa Yoshida, a 10-year-old girl, joined the Children’s Orchestra, she had to give up on her dream of learning to play the cello, as the sole half-sized cello was given to another child with an interest in playing the instrument. She cried so hard that teachers were at a loss. When the Szpakiewicz’s gift of the half-sized cello arrived, she broke into a big smile. Her dream had been restored. Her diligent work playing this instrument resulted in being selected to perform at a special recital in Berlin to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami, organized by the Berlin Philharmonic, in March 2016.

Szpakiewicz’s deep interest in helping children in Fukushima stems from his childhood in the Communist-governed Poland near Ukraine where the Chernobyl disaster occurred. While his family feared the threat of radiation fallout, they could not relocate themselves. Only the top-level athletes and musicians were allowed to leave the country. Szpakiewicz worked hard during his teenage years to become one of the musicians granted the privilege to leave. He established himself as one of the most talented music students in Poland in his teens, and thus, finally gained an opportunity to study in the U.S. when he was 21.

Music provided him a refuge from the turbulence rocking the country under the Soviet’s Communist regime. Playing the cello grounded and inspired him even in difficult conditions. He sees part of himself in the children of Fukushima who are forced to stay within 20 miles of the nuclear plants that experienced melted down. He hopes that expressing themselves through music, and creating a community through playing together, they can navigate and rise above the turbulence they experienced in the massive earthquake and consequent tsunami that devastated the area in 2011.

On October 29, 2016, Szpakiewicz’s return appearance in Tokyo will include an encore with the 17 members of the Soma Children’s Orchestra, which includes the young Risa Yoshida. The preceding recital in Azusa on October 15 will feature the same program, without the Soma Children’s Orchestra, to raise awareness of the current situation of Fukushima and the heartfelt work of the children in the Children’s Orchestra who are doing their share to rebuild their community.

The October 15 recital features works by Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Schumann, Barber and Gershwin. Chinese-born pianist Jiayi Shi, who frequently collaborates with renowned violinist Midori, will accompany Szpakiewicz for this performance.

For more information on Marek Szpakiewicz: