On Campus

Benefit concert tunes into refugee crisis

Avik Sarkar ’19 teamed up with the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights (BCRHHR) to hold a benefit concert on January 19 that raised $5,015 for displaced persons—refugees, asylum seekers, and survivors of torture.

Avik connected with the center after From the Top (FTT)—an organization assisting young musicians—granted him $2,000 to create the project, which linked his interest in music with his eagerness to help displaced people in the Greater Boston area.

“I wanted the event to serve as a means of bringing awareness to this growing [refugee] crisis,” Avik said. “I [also] hoped that the concert would—even in a very small way—give the Boston refugee community a space to speak firsthand about their experiences.”

In preparation for the concert, Avik contacted musicians he knew might like to perform and he recorded local immigrants and refugees speaking about their experiences moving to a new country. The latter he worked into “From Voices,” a composition he would debut at the show.

Avik also set up a GoFundMe page, which earned $4,600, and he raised an additional $115 from a bake sale at the school. To advertise the event, he emailed the school and the New England Conservatory (NEC), where he takes piano lessons and attends rehearsals. Additionally, he created a Facebook event page and posted flyers around Cambridge.

Around 50 people attended the 7:30 p.m. concert at the sanctuary of the First Church in Cambridge, half of them students and faculty members from the school. Each paid $5 at the door, raising $300 overall.

The concert featured Turkish composer Fazil Say’s “Black Earth,” which Avik played, and selections from “Syrian Dances” by Syrian composer Dia Succari, which violinist Olga Kaminsky—from his NEC string orchestra—and her mother, Eva Ostrovsky, performed. The Layaali Ensemble from western Massachusetts also performed traditional Arabic music.

Professional violinists Marissa Licata and Even Dede and professional viola player Ashleigh Gordon and cellist Sebastian Baverstam played Avik’s composition “From Voices.” While they performed the song, Avik played the recordings of his interviews with refugees.

“It was great to see how Avik managed to tell a story through his combination of voice recordings and classical music,” audience member Rebecca Mironko ’19 said. “It humanized the refugee communities and cultures.”

Also on the program was Lea Vugić, a clinical social worker at BCRHHR who spoke about her experiences as a refugee from Bosnia and her work at the center.

“Her passionate and moving remarks brought an illuminating firsthand perspective to a discussion in which empathy is so essential,” Avik said.

Allegra Lubar ’19, who also went to the concert, said she enjoyed herself.

“I know that we all value our free time, so it was great to see so many people from BB&N turning out to support refugees after school hours,” Allegra said. “I really enjoyed hearing music from different cultures, and I thought it was a great event for a good cause.”

Avik said he wished more of the general public had shown up, but he was pleased with the evening.

“Overall, I’m really happy with how it went!” he said. “All the performers sounded amazing and were thoroughly prepared, and it was great to see so many audience members from the BB&N community.”

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