Young Artist Alliance concert raises over $3,000 for Haiti earthquake victims

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C. J. Dablo/KPCC

Cameron Mittleman at the violin with Alex Mansour at the piano rehearse for the Young Artist Alliance Charity Concert at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music to benefit the Haiti earthquake victims on May 30,2010.

Getting ready for your big moment in a recital can be stressful enough for a kid, but last weekend, sibling tweens Alex and Veronica Mansour wanted to use this nervous energy to help the victims of the Haiti earthquake, even if the Haitian kids may never hear them play their classical music. And the event was a success. The Young Artist Alliance ensemble held Sunday in Pasadena raised more than $3,200 for Haiti.

Alex, 13, and his sister Veronica, 11, co-founded the Young Artist Alliance, a group of student musicians from the Pasadena Conservatory of Music. The ensemble, a group of seven students from 11 to 14, planned last Sunday for their first concert at the conservatory to highlight more than just their musical abilities.

They wanted proceeds from the group's first performance to benefit the survivors of January's earthquake that affected more than 1.5 million people in Haiti.

"What heals people better than music?" Veronica said as she addressed the concert-goers packed into a tiny Pasadena recital hall. She stood poised in a black-and-white dress with a pink ribbon belt. Veronica has been playing the cello since she was 4 and the piano since she was two-and-a-half years old.

It's the group's first attempt to plan the music on their own, and they were also responsible for finding a charitable organization that could help the earthquake victims. Proceeds from their efforts will be donated to the Red Cross fund for Haiti.

"We all found the statistics very alarming," said her brother, an accomplished cellist, pianist and guitarist. Last April, the United Nations reported that more than 300,000 people died in Haiti.

"It's the first time that I've ever been so humbled by something so awful," Alex added, acknowledging that Haiti no longer captures the news headlines.

Even though they had been planning a concert before the Haiti earthquake, the 13-year-old boy was haunted by the images on the news.

"We saw the kids that were suffocated by the rubble and their parents were slaughtered. That's just what stood out for me the me most," he said.

Alex and Veronica became determined to organize an event beyond a concert. The kids from Stevenson Ranch knew that they could get the support and attention of their friends and family if they didn't plan a usual spring recital.

"When the Haitian earthquake struck in January, we all felt inspired and decided to take action," Alex said. A typical solo concert was out of the question.

"It's just kinda boring to do this ourselves, so we wanted to invite a lot our friends to do this with us," Veronica said. "Kids helping other kids was sort of our motto."

It didn't take too long to recruit friends like Cameron Mittleman, a shy 13-year-old violinist with thick brown curls that almost reached to the shoulders of his dark gray pin-striped suit.

"Here, we're worried about what we're going to do tomorrow," Cameron said, comparing his own easier life on a holiday weekend to the lives of kids who were devastated by the earthquake.

"They're worried about if they're going to have something to eat, what they're going to do with their whole lives," he said.

This is the first time that students at the conservatory have taken the initiative to plan a concert to benefit an outside cause. The Mansours and their ensemble hope to plan a concert like this one every year to support other charitable efforts.

"The ideas are absolutely all theirs," said Alex and Veronica's mother, Laurie Mansour.

"I'm always a big fan of collaboration," she said. "I just really applaud anybody who wants to work with other kids, especially for a greater good."

Dr. Susan Svrcek, a piano department chairman at the conservatory, wasn't surprised at the young ensemble's initiative.

"These are extraordinary young people," Svrcek said.

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