Haiti Benefit Concert

SAN JOSE, Calif., — Inspired by a blind Haitian violinist’s dedication to music education and his friendship of nearly three decades with an SJSU faculty pianist, the San Jose State University School of Music and Dance will host a Haiti benefit concert. Open to the public, the concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, February 7, in the SJSU Music Concert Hall.

The event will feature San Francisco Symphony guest performers with SJSU faculty members and students. No admission will be charged and parking fees will be waived at SJSU’s South (Seventh Street) Garage, but those planning to attend are being encouraged to bring their cell phones and checkbooks to make donations. Retired SJSU Provost Carmen Sigler will offer opening remarks, and KDFC FM’s Hoyt Smith will emcee the evening.

The concert will benefit the American Red Cross and the New Victorian School, built under the leadership of Julliard-trained blind violinist Romel Joseph. The 7.0 quake that rocked Port-au-Prince three weeks ago destroyed the school, which served children and their families with an emphasis on music and foreign language.

SJSU Professor and pianist Gwendolyn Mok met Joseph in 1982, when both were fellows at the Tanglewood Music Festival, Boston. Mok gave a special performance in Haiti in January 1991 celebrating the bicentennial of Mozart’s death. The event raised funds for the New Victorian, opened later the same year.

As the shocking news of the earthquake unfolded, Mok struggled to make contact with her dear friend. She was relieved to learn that after 18 hours buried under the rubble of his beloved school, Joseph emerged with injuries to his left hand and legs. He was airlifted to a Florida hospital, where he is recovering. His wife, seven months pregnant, remains missing.

“There has always been a bond between Romel and me through the power of music, and now we’re bringing that connection to San Jose, a place constantly confronted by the likelihood of a catastrophic earthquake much like the one that shook Haiti to its core,” Mok said. “We have to step up and help.”

Victoria Joseph, New Victorian’s executive director, will travel to San Jose to share her father’s experiences with concert goers. The audience will be asked to text “HAITI” to 90999 for direct donations to the American Red Cross. They will also be encouraged to write checks to the Walenstein Musical Organization, a charity raising funds to rebuild the New Victorian School.

The American Red Cross name and emblem are used with its permission, which in no way constitutes an endorsement, express or implied, of any product, service, company or individual.

San José State University will donate all contributions collected through February 7, 2010 to the American Red Cross International Response Fund — Haiti Earthquake Relief.

Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations, 408-924-1748
Jim Fung, Event Producer, 408-203-4846

View the Haiti benefit concert’s Facebook page.

View the New Victorian School website.

View a CBS News story on Romel Joseph.