Benefit concert raises money for arts education


Amaya Lobato | Staff Photographer

Performers play the cello during the Cello for Charity event at Bellefield Hall on Monday night.

By Renee Dubaich, Staff Writer

Alicia Loui appeared on stage with a smile on her face and cello in hand as the audience greeted her with applause, welcoming her to perform her final solo. She thanked the crowd for all their support in helping her organize the event.

“Thank you to the Pitt Music Department for making this event happen. Thank you for the musicians and performing so beautifully tonight, and thank you so much for watching and supporting tonight. It means so much to me,” Loui said.

Loui, a junior biology major, was the main organizer and star performer of the Cello for Charity concert on Monday in Bellefield Hall. About 100 audience members filled the auditorium for an evening featuring solos, duets, trios and quartets played by cellos, violins and piano. About 100 people also joined a live stream online. 

Loui worked with the department and other student musicians to orchestrate the event. The performances ranged from classical to contemporary pieces, such as “Suite No. 1 in G Major,” “Finlandia,” “City of Stars” and “Viva la Vida.” The piece “Nimrod” was dedicated to the people affected by the Russia-Ukraine war.

The event raised more than $2,000 and all proceeds went to ArtistYear, a national organization dedicated to addressing inequalities in music and arts education for low-income K-12 students in America. Loui said she chose the organization because she worked with them before, adding that offering students equal opportunity in the arts is an important issue that must gain more attention.

“I just noticed that for a lot of these kids they don’t get equal access to music and arts education. This is really important. I think that some people might look past this,” Loui said. “But research has shown that children who are engaged in the arts develop important skills like critical thinking, self-discipline, civic engagement and these are all really important parts of having an engaged citizenry and a thriving society.”

Loui said the benefits from music and arts education can be limited for low-income populations because of lack of resources and opportunity.

“These positive effects of having art experiences are really important especially for low-income populations, because the effects are so much more dramatic. But the problem is they don’t get equal access, so I think a lot more awareness needs to be brought into making sure that they do get equal education,” Loui said.

Loui said this was her first time planning an event like this, and she did it almost entirely by herself. The process included recruiting, rehearsing and reaching out to the music department and musicians at Pitt for support.

“It’s the first time that I planned a benefit concert, so it’s really great to have the support,” Loui said. “I planned pretty much everything, I had a lot of help from the music department, so I’m very thankful for them. I basically recruited a bunch of other musicians, mostly cellists, a couple of pianists and violinists too.”

Loui said she was excited to perform with other orchestra members at the event, and that the show couldn’t have been done without them.

“I’m really thankful to all the performers that they’re willing to be part of this event. They all have been super helpful too with deciding what music to play and finding different arrangements. I know it’s a time commitment for them, but they are all really talented so I’m so excited to perform with them and hear them play,” Loui said. “This is something other people in the Pitt community should be excited about too.”

Talia Mekinulov, a senior chemical engineering major, is a cellist that performed in duets and quartets at the event. Mekinulov said she was eager to participate in the event to share her gift, and contribute to a good cause, when Loui reached out to her.

“These kids don’t really have access to music and arts programs, which to me sounds incredibly sad because I really think that music formed who I was growing up. That was a big part of my childhood and to not be able to do that, I would be a completely different person,” Mekinulov said. “She then brought up doing this concert and I was thinking, ‘That’s such a good idea, we could raise money, of course I would want to play.'”

Mekinulov has played the cello since she was 4 years old, and said it has always been a big part of her life. She added that she encourages young people to explore creative outlets.

“Music has always been such a big part of my life, and I always want to keep music in my life,” Mekinulov said. “I encourage younger kids to take up music and the arts, because I think it’s really important nowadays that there are things you can do outside of straight education like math and sciences. There’s a lot of opportunities out there.”

Maddy Laurash, a senior marketing and supply chain major, said she attended the event because she loves music and wanted to support a cause that would benefit low-income communities.

“I played guitar and piano my whole life, so I really love music. I thought it was a great cause because everyone deserves to enjoy these things,” Laurash said. “I don’t think people really think about it but it’s not something that is easily accessible especially if you don’t have money. It’s really important for us to give back to the community so that everyone has the opportunity to do that.”

Loui has played the cello since she was 5 years old, and said that it had impacted her life in ways she could have never imagined. She said playing music not only benefited her, but allowed her to share a gift with those around her. 

“At that time I had no idea on how much it would impact me later in my life, so I am so thankful that I stuck with it and it just really impacted my life profoundly, there’s just so many benefits from playing music. It’s great to have something creative and musical. I think the most important part is that I got to use my gift for music and share it with the community around me,” Loui said. “I just really love the cello not just for myself, but what I can do for others.”