Building Schools in Afghanistan, One Concert at a Time: Part 2
Last week we introduced you to Leeza Ali’s concert series that is raising money for P.E.C.A. – Partnership for the Education of Children in Afghanistan. Below you can read about the second and third concerts that she’s put on so far. You can listen to Leeza’s performance on From the Top at the Young Artist World Piano Festival here.
[The second year of the concert series,] I took a leadership role in organizing the concert, even with Nora gone at Harvard. I helped pick the date and location, and was happy that many of my musician friends were excited to take part.
My friends Sarah Grimes (violin), Heather Anderson (cello), and I form Trio Lumineaux (we have now been playing 5 years together), and we played several trio pieces from a variety of composers, and even created some special trio arrangements of familiar pieces that the younger audience would enjoy, like “Clair De Lune” by Debussy. My teacher Dr. Paul Wirth and Chamber music coach Tom Rosenberg helped tremendously with rehearsals for our repertoire. When the night finally came, alternating between solos, duets (with my good friend Reed Tetzloff – also a From the Top alum), and chamber music, I played for the entire one hour long concert. It was exhausting but so much fun to play with my best friends. The experience brought us all so much closer together, and motivated us to keep on giving these concerts each year since then.
[The video below shows Leeza performing during her second benefit concert]
For the most recent concert this past January, I really wanted to add something different to the mix, and decided to put together a Jazz Ensemble and learned how to play Jazz piano music!! I knew that some of my friends from school were great Jazz Musicians, so I convinced a group of them to get together at my house and rehearse. The experience was AMAZING. . . it was hilarious to see a drum-set, base amplifier, saxophone, trumpets, and other jazz instruments sitting in my living room next to the grand pianos. We made a raucous that night, and I learned how to improvise with just chords as reference, which felt weird and different at first. We played three pieces, including “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, which is one of my favorite songs of all time. I’m pretty sure my improvised solo ended up having a classical edge. . . but I think it was jazzy enough to cut it. In addition, I also played with my quartet, including the talented violist Natalie Alper-Leroux. The audience loved these new additions, and I will definitely ask them all to perform next year.
So far, we have raised several thousand dollars, and my goal is to raise 20,000 dollars as soon as possible. The money we have raised has already been used to renovate schools that have been built in Afghanistan. I am extremely passionate about this cause and will definitely continue this concert series for as long as I can. My dream is to extend this series out in college and motivate other groups of teenage musicians to start Benefit Concert series of their own – not necessarily for this cause, but for anything that they feel passionate about. It truly is one of the most gratifying things I have done in my life, with the added plus of creating close ties with my friends and peers who have helped me so much on this journey!!
We will post more information about the concert series as we get it, so stay tuned!