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Musician uses recital to reach out to the disabled

By Mindy Poder

April 22, 2007 9:16 p.m.

The arts have an amazing capacity to bring people together for altruistic purposes. A requirement for her doctor of musical arts degree in the euphonium, Jennifer Jester’s entrepreneurial concert titled “A Gypsy Brass Extravaganza Out of This World!” will feature more than just her talents.

All proceeds from the concert’s ticket sales and silent auction ““ featuring donated pieces from artists of different mediums ““ will go to Jester’s charity of choice, the Special Children’s Arts Foundation.

“I thought it would be cool if (my entrepreneurial concert) could create money for a group,” Jester said. “The Special Children’s Art Foundation was the first group I thought of when I said, “˜Who do I want to do a fundraiser with?'”

The charity is a nonprofit organization that brings together disabled children, children without disabilities, parents and volunteers to paint large murals in places frequented by the disabled, such as schools and hospitals. The program was started by Marc Kolodziejczyk, whose daughter, Kara, was born with Rett syndrome.

The group’s most recently completed mural, titled “Adaptive Dreams,” shows creative ways in which disabled children can also enjoy extreme activities such as surfing, and snow and jet skiing. This mural, and the group’s past murals ““ “Dolphins at Play,” “Crayons” and “The Wild Life” ““ are specifically located in places where they will have the greatest effect.

“(“˜The Wild Life’ mural) is in the hallway that kids are pushed down right before they go into surgery and come out of surgery at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles,” Jester said. “It’s something a lot of children see at an important time.”

While the finished product of the mural serves to beautify places for disabled children, the process of painting a mural offers a way to bring together both disabled children and children without disabilities in a highly personal, easygoing and fun way.

“It’s a multilevel type thing,” Jester said. “They bring in kids from elementary school from different groups that don’t have any disabilities with the special needs kids. On that level, it’s a way for kids to interact. They’re actually holding the paint brush and helping these other kids paint. It’s a way for them to feel more comfortable around people with disabilities.”

However, these painting events are not just a way for disabled children to interact with children their own age. Parents and volunteers are also welcome to participate.

“The last one I was at, there was a combination of kids and parents and volunteers,” Jester said. “We were all working together and it wasn’t grouped by age, which was fun.”

This same idea of community seems to have leaked into the itinerary of Jester’s recital.

“It’s a combination of groups, from four people accompanying me to an entire brass choir of 20,” Jester said. “It’s varied throughout the night.”

In addition to raising money through ticket sales, an art auction will also help raise money. In addition to wine baskets, appealing getaways and a Spielberg-signed copy of “Saving Private Ryan,” the auction features works by an array of artists, including photographers, jewelry makers and painters. Through raising money for the Special Children’s Art Foundation, these artists are also doing something positive for their own careers.

“There’s a dual purpose where they get to donate a piece and there’s also going to be an art show,” Jester said. “It’s a charity auction, but it also brings exposure.”

The contributors to this concert are not the only varied group coming together, however. The audience will be a mixture of students, parents and donors to the charity. Anticipating this, Jester has specifically tailored her performance to guarantee mass satisfaction.

“I picked tunes that were shorter and more of the popular reign of opera and faster paced. The first piece is “˜Dance of the Comedians’ and it’s very showy,” Jester said. “I did have to stick one little tiny piece of concerto in there to make it valid. I think it will be fun because there is an ensemble accompanying me, but I also tried to figure out how to vary it visually.”

With an art show, a jazz quartet opening and the promise of a gypsy brass performance that is out of this world, tonight’s concert packs more fun and excitement than the average music student’s recital. Arguably more important, however, is the fact that the recital is a testament to the positive results of a diverse group of artists and art enthusiasts working together.

“Because of this recital, they pledged to have an event every year for this charity at the Geffen Playhouse,” Jester said.

The success the event has already achieved, along with the success of the murals, highlights the scope of accomplishment particular to groups.

“It’s cool to complete a passage that you’ve been practicing, but there’s something more powerful about doing it in a group,” Jester said. “It’s that specific kind of end reward that you get.”

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Mindy Poder
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