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Orchestra concert raises awareness for late journalist

Orchestra+director%2C+Drew+Johnston+%2719%2C+poses+for+a+picture+following+the+Harmony+for+Humanity+concert.
Orchestra director, Drew Johnston '19, poses for a picture following the Harmony for Humanity concert.

Orchestra director, Drew Johnston '19, poses for a picture following the Harmony for Humanity concert.

Ben Alter

Ben Alter

Orchestra director, Drew Johnston '19, poses for a picture following the Harmony for Humanity concert.

Reaching out to the local community is what really makes East Grand Rapids so special. The twelfth annual Harmony for Humanity orchestra concert just occurred mid October.

The Harmony for Humanity concert is dedicated to the journalist Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped and murdered back in 2002 in Pakistan while working for the Wall Street Journal.

“Daniel liked to play the violin, and to travel with his violin or with folk type instruments and reach out to local musicians in the area. He would go to bars and meet local people and communicate through music that way with local people and make friends,” Orchestra teacher, Mrs. Hillyard said.

This tradition initiated twelve years ago when Mrs. Hillyard first heard about him and what had happened.

“We thought it would be an interesting way to connect to world issues and reach out to the community with our own gift of music and be able to connect our gifts with a worldwide view of promoting peace through music,” said Hillyard.  

There is also a pre-concert tradition which focuses on learning more about Daniel Pearl so students can get a better understanding on who he was and the impact he made.

“It is interesting, because beforehand we research facts about Daniel Pearl. It is super interesting reading about his life and heartbreaking to read about the family he left behind,” said Aneesa Berner ‘20.

Daniel Pearl, on the day of his murder, had a wife who was five months pregnant and had a vacation planned to visit Dubai as a break from covering the war on terror in Pakistan.

Harmony for Humanity is a worldwide network of concerts that takes place all throughout October. Musicians put on concerts all across the world to promote tolerance and humanity. World wide performances have grown to about 14,000 in 140 countries since 2002.

The concert that happened through our own high school took on a variety of musical compositions.

“We try to do a variety of music, both classical and a pop tune. This year we did the Led Zeppelin piece “Kashmir,’” said Mrs. Hillyard.

The Led Zeppelin piece tied into what Pearl liked to do most, which was travelling around the world and playing music with local people.

This concert is different than the usual orchestra concert because of the powerful meaning behind the music and performance.

“It is different because there is more meaning behind this concert, poems are read in-between songs and they are super powerful,” Berner ‘20 said.

Also, each year the audience is asked to donate in order to support a charity that the orchestra group selects. The charity varies each year.

This concert has a special place in all the orchestra members hearts as it is so distinguishable from their other concerts.

“I know that this concert is super important to our orchestra and it allows us to recognize, remember, and dedicate music to a powerful and influential musician and writer,” said Berner.

Harmony for Humanity emphasizes the importance of international friendship and bringing unity among our community along with the world through the use of music, which is a universal language.

Daniel Pearl was a truly astonishing man and his use of music to create international friendships left a large footprint and lasting impact. This is why our school dedicates a whole concert to honor him and his love for music.

“He believed in the power of music,” Berner said.

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Orchestra concert raises awareness for late journalist