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Menlo musicians host concert for victims of NorCal fires

Menlo musicians perform in front of teachers, students and parents at Spieker Ballroom. Staff photo: Abby Wolfenden.

By Abby Wolfenden 

On Monday, Nov. 20, a group of Menlo musicians led by junior Avi Gupta hosted a music concert in Stent Hall’s Spieker Ballroom to raise money to help the victims of the Northern California Fires.

Gupta knew from the start that he wanted to help the victims after hearing about the fires in the news. “I think many of us, myself included, are guilty of passively watching stories of devastation and feeling a sense of separation through the TV screen. The recent fires, however, were different for me. As the smoke engulfed our campus, I thought about the kids whose lives were normal until they were entirely and instantly destroyed. [...] I realized that I wanted to do something to help them recover emotionally,” Gupta said.

The concert was a unique way to combine the arts with community service, and it was particularly important to this group since one of their musicians, junior Adrian Kalaw, lives in Santa Rosa. “I decided to use the power of music and the generosity of the Menlo community as a collective force for good. After a full month or two of planning and many, many emails and hours of work, I was able to set up a fundraiser concert to support the students in the Rincon Valley Unified School District and the Santa Rosa High School District who lost their homes and consequently their instruments in the North Bay fires,” Gupta said.

At the concert, Kalaw described how the school that had help cultivate his love of music had burned down in the fires. The fires have since been contained and put out, and now members of communities like Santa Rosa have begun to rebuild. The funds raised by the concert will be used to buy band instruments for the students in the Santa Rosa school districts who have lost their instruments. According to Gupta, hundreds of dollars were raised. They are also accepting used instruments from Menlo students as well.

“The concert ended up being a great success. We had an all-star line up of 18 musicians, including middle school students, upper school students, and several Menlo faculty members. These talented musicians sang and played their instruments not only in solo acts, but also in jazz and classical ensembles. We raised hundreds of dollars in cash donations and received about eight instrument donations. I am so grateful that our community has already been so supportive of this cause and has helped in giving hope to students who really need it right now,” Gupta said.

Overall, with the help of donations from other fundraisers, Gupta has raised over $3,000 and ten instruments. He hopes to reach $10,000 in order to provide instruments for around 50 students. He has created a link (www.tinyurl.com/avigupta) for online donations as well. “Music, for me, is a way to seek solace. I go to my practice room when I'm feeling down, uninspired, or stressed. If that were taken away from me, I don't know what I would do. I can't help but feel a shared sense of pain with the kids who have lost their access to music-making. They have lost not only their homes, belongings, and maybe families, but also a true source of goodness in life,” Gupta said.

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