One of VanderCook College of Music’s (VCM’s) primary fundraising goals over the past few years has been to refurbish the performance space colloquially known as the “New Building,” a massive financial undertaking with spectacularly ambitious results. As Illinois Tech owns that property, these refurbishment plans benefit both institutions. The refurbished space will serve as a performance area that will allow VanderCook to host concerts in a space very close to home.
To this end, on Saturday, September 28, VanderCook will be hosting a benefit concert in association with Illinois Tech showcasing the talent of two highly celebrated VanderCook professors, internationally known Yang and Olivia Liu. The main performance will occur at 7 p.m. in the Hermann Hall auditorium, with a VIP reception to follow with cocktails, food, and additional music at 8:15 p.m. in VanderCook’s New Building.
The inception of this concert occurred after VanderCook’s 2018 Midwest Clinic performance, when VanderCook trustee Ray Spaeth was approached by Yang and Olivia Liu, who simply had a genuine wish to meet him. “I became an instant fan of theirs,” he explained. A 3.5 hour lunch later, he asked these two musicians if they would be willing to play gratis for a potential benefit concert in an effort to both acknowledge VanderCook’s need for funds and showcase the talent of these two new friends. The two agreed immediately, and this concert suddenly became very real.
In addition to the concert’s primary goal of raising funds for VCM’s performance space, the concert has a multitude of goals. These additional goals include fostering a deeper connection between Illinois Tech, VCM, Bridgeport, and Chinatown, raising awareness for VCM and Illinois Tech within the surrounding communities, and engaging any number of organizations in the process. Spaeth recognized that this concert’s aims were quite ambitious, remarking that all those working to make this concert happen were working under the motto, “If we fall short of our goals, it won’t be because we didn’t try.”
Spaeth is extremely passionate about both Bridgeport and Chinatown, having been involved in both communities since 1966. He wanted this concert to be bigger than simply showcasing Yang and Olivia, as impressive as that alone may be, and therefore, began efforts to have this concert be a way of building a deeper connection between VCM, Illinois Tech, Bridgeport, and Chinatown. Many of Illinois Tech’s student population spends its weekends in Chinatown, with food, activities, and language that remind many international students of home. In Spaeth’s mind, there should be more of a connection between Illinois Tech and VCM’s college campus and that community, and this concert marks the beginning of that effort.
A multitude of people are working incredibly hard to make this happen. The catering for the VIP reception following the event is being provided by Sandy Chen and her three restaurants, Koi (located in Evanston), Le Sud (Roscoe Village), and Club 77 (77 West Wacker). Even the printing of advertising material and event programs are being donated by Chris Huang, owner of Athena Design Group (ADG), a local business. Judy Hsu, an ABC-TV news anchor, will be donating her time as an MC, and Chinatown’s Gene Lee will be providing lion dancers. A committee of 14 others are also working tirelessly to raise money and put the countless small details together to make this concert happen.
All members of the VCM, Illinois Tech, Bridgeport, and Chinatown, and surrounding communities are welcome and encouraged to attend. Specifically, the faculty, staff, and students at VCM would also love to invite all Illinois Tech trustees and their spouses to attend this event, as many may not be aware of how much of a wonderful place VanderCook is.
Of course, wonderful is an extremely objective word, but you don’t have to take it from me. In the words of Jeff Sadowski, executive director of the Neighborhood Boys and Girls Club and former VCM director of philanthropy, “VanderCook College of Music (VCM) has a rich history of changing lives through the power of music education. VCM is the only college in the country dedicated to teaching students how to play, teach, and repair 19 instruments plus learning conducting. VCM graduates are uniquely trained to have an immediate and immeasurable impact on their students. Furthermore, within three months of graduating from VCM, 95% of graduates secure jobs teaching children and teenagers music education. VCM has 3,200 alumni teaching music education around the world. There is not one music teacher per grade or class. Each music instructor works with the entire school. Thus, each VCM music instructor teaches 300-500 students per year. Annually, around the world, VCM impacts over 1.2 million at-risk children and teenagers through the power of music education.”
If this concert achieves even a fraction of its intended goals, then more people than ever within the surrounding communities will be aware of the kind of dedication and spirit that VCM students must possess in order to share their passion of music with young students all over the world.
For tickets, sponsorship opportunities, and additional information, please visit https://bit.ly/301wuhj. For more information on Yang and Olivia Liu, please visit their website http://www.yangandolivia.com/.