You Sing, I Write: Breast Cancer Benefit Concert

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Breast Cancer Benefit Concert

Statistics show that 1 in 7 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer some time in their lives, said speaker Anna West Ott, a breast cancer survivor, at Sunday's breast cancer benefit concert. That's incredible to even imagine. At this point, everyone either knows someone directly who has struggled with breast cancer or a has heard of a friend or co-worker who knows someone who has.

Sunday's concert at Rutgers University was where many gathered, despite inclement weather, for a good cause - donating money to Sharsheret - an organization that links young Jewish women in their fight against breast cancer. Performers of the evening included Ms. Shira, a retro hip hop/burlesque singer, ShockWave, the Rutgers all-female a capella group, and the Sarah Aroeste Band, a Ladino Rock band which showcases Judeo-Spanish music, both traditional Ladino folk songs with contemporary influences.

All three performances were incredibly entertaining and so different from each other. The entire night all in attendance were kept energized, whether it was snapping along during Ms. Shira's set or dancing to some Ladino songs at the end of the night.

The first performer of the night, Ms. Shira, performed 8 songs from her album, Come to Class. Despite not having a live band and instead performing with background music, her set was very engaging as she interacted well with the audience - having them snap along to one of her songs and listen to her narration of each song throughout her performance. She explained her album as encompassing the core dynamics of love, from first meeting someone in "Get Close" to finally getting over a breakup and being on the rebound. One song, "Mischievous Lover," showcased an entirely different love dynamic and those in attendance could see the change in persona from the way she sang the song. In a way, it felt like I was watching a show because you could see the change in character in each new song she sang, each song showcasing a different aspect and feeling of falling in or out of love. Overall, Ms. Shira has very strong vocals accompanying the music with each song. While some songs have a more soulful feel, others have catchy hip-hop beats that accentuate her voice and style of singing extremely well. To get more of a taste of Ms. Shira check out her MySpace here.


The second act to perform for the night was Rutgers' own all-female a cappella group, ShockWave. I've seen varoius a capella groups perform over the years, but these ladies really blew me away. And by the crowd reaction, I wasn't the only one floored by the amazing talent this group of students had. From beat boxing to high falsetto singing, these girls didn't miss one note. They wowed the crowd with covers of Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach," Nelly Furtado's "Say It Right," and most fitting for the night, Destiny's Child's "Survivor." Check them out at http://www.rushockwave.com.


Last performance of the night was headlining act, Ladino Rock band, the Sarah Aroeste Band. I never heard Ladino music before and was pleasantly surprised at what I heard. Sarah explained that Ladino is Judeo-Spanish music which is made up of a blend of Spanish, Hebrew and some other languages within each song. Despite the music being in another language, Sarah explained the story behind each song, many of which were written over 500 years ago. Just by listening to her narrative behind each song and listening to the beats and flow of the music I could understand what the song was saying which is amazing. But then again, isn't that what music should always do to its listener?

"It's amazing to me that the same topics written about back then are still written about today," Aroeste said. "Ladino rocks and a lot of people think its dying out, but we're here to tell you its not," she continued.


Members of the band played more traditional instruments, including the Flemenco guitar and the oud. Playing 11 songs for a little over an hour, the Sarah Aroeste Band brought new music and culture to Rutgers Sunday night, all in support for an important cause. I talked with Monica Rozenfeld, organizer of the benefit concert, about her inspiration behind putting together the event and I'll post that interview below.

Why did you decide to take on the task of hosting the benefit concert?
Throughout my last couple years of college, I really wanted to do some sort of volunteer project that I would feel really good about. But as we all know, we have many reasons why we can't get to it -- classes, parties, gym, etc. -- and so it just never happened. But when I graduated in May, I made a pact with myself to do the things I've always wanted to do. And so I spent two months traveling and when I got back it just felt like the right time to undertake a project that I could have fun with but also feel that I've finally given back. I had two goals in mind, 1. to get girls more involved in charity and volunteerism and 2. to raise money for a charity I cared about. And so after some brainstorming, a breast cancer benefit concert was a great way to get girls to come out and support a great cause. And while they're already there, to offer them future volunteer opportunities whether with breast cancer organizations or other organizations that were tabling at the event.

What was the process involved in getting funding for the event?
Since this was an individual project and I'm not a part of any specific organization, I didn't have any money to play with. So I really had to get the funding for this event from scratch. We received all the funding through individual donors through the help of Lee Livingston, the president of the Jewish Federation of Middlesex County. After he read the proposal I wrote up, he became very supportive of what I was trying to accomplish and then reached out to funders who all made this possible.

How did you choose the three performers and why do you feel it was important to have these performers?
I chose these performers based on the audience I was mainly hoping to attract, which is female students. I felt the performers each had a unique musical style to bring to the event and the three of them together made for a great mix for the night. Each of their styles portrayed strong, sexy and talented women and our hopes were that they would relate to the audience and show them that it can be fun to get involved. Sarah Aroeste, who was our headlining performer, is really big on her Ladino heritage and we felt she was a great spokeswoman, so to speak, on taking pride in Jewish heritage and involvement which represented two of the organizations co-sponsoring the event -- Rutgers Jewish Experience {www.rjx.com] and Hillel.

How much money was raised?
We raised just over $700 for the night. Considering the snowy/rainy weather that day, this was a huge success for us. We are expecting to get further donations from people who couldn't make it out.

How do you feel about the concert now that it's all over?
I feel relieved. I feel really great that it got pulled off. The entire experience was just amazing. The organization we raised money for, Sharsheret, was just thrilled with the turn out and that's what makes us really happy. I met the most generous people from this experience. From the guy at a bar who saw the flyer and said he couldn't make it but gave us a $20 donation, to all the strangers who saw my vision and chose to help support me in it, to the woman who called me when she said she heard about the event and would like to donate hand-crafted jewelery for the cause. This concert opened me up to this new world where people care. I've made some amazing friends through the process that will be my friends beyond this project. This experience, as frustrating as it might have been at times, gives me motivation to step even further from my box and see what else I can do.

I will add that whatever the reason people came out for the concert, they all should feel really good about themselves. Even if it was for the band, or because I made them, or because they had nothing better to do, they each did something great by supporting the event and I hope they went away with the feeling that they too did something for charity. I have to add a special thanks to all the volunteers and friends who came out and helped! Everyone just showed how amazing they are and it's all to help strangers with this disease that we might not ever understand why it happens to anyone, but it does, and we each some how helped.

If anyone is interested in donating to breast cancer organizations, go to www.komen.org and www.Sharsheret.org.

To learn more about the projects/organizations Monica is involved in, contact her at BenefitBC@gmail.com.

1 comment:

Monica said...

Annie you are incredible! This is just so well written and allows me to relive this night anytime I want.

I can't wait to see one of your articles in Rolling Stone! You're a rock star. <3 XoXo.

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