For a couple of months, music faculty from Radford University had been scheduled to perform on March 3 with the NOVA Alexandria Band, a concert band combining the talents of students and faculty in the Northern Virginia Community College system and musicians from the area.
What had not been scheduled was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent waves of international condemnation for the aggressor and compassion for the Ukrainians.
In that context, however, the band’s director, Lisa Eckstein, saw an opportunity and seized the moment, transforming the performance into a benefit to aid Ukrainians.
“I didn’t want to just come out and make music without acknowledging the situation,” she said. “While Ukrainian families are fighting for their country and trying to get their children across the border, we were preparing to enjoy an evening of music. I knew I had to address this.”
Eckstein told her audience she wanted them to enjoy the evening because they had the freedom to do so, but also to consider just how precious that freedom was and to not take it for granted.
And during the intermission, she offered them an avenue to aid Ukrainians by supporting World Central Kitchen, a Washington, D.C.-based organization providing food for refugees and aid workers at the Polish-Ukrainian border.
Professor Robert Trent, D.M.A., interim chair of Radford’s Department of Music, said the Radford musicians found out only when they arrived on campus that the concert had become an impromptu benefit. Several Radford faculty members were on the last leg of a recruitment tour through North Carolina and Virginia with other faculty members when the war broke out.
Trent said he was honored to be a part of the benefit and pleased that he could contribute.
“The feeling was powerful,” Trent said, noting the moment he walked on stage to perform a solo guitar piece.
“I felt an emotional swell that I am sure impacted my performance in a positive way.”
Professor Dayl Burnett, D.M.A., also performed that night. His first piece, “Reflective Mood,” by Sammy Nestico, paired him on trombone with Professor Wayne Gallops, Ph.D., on piano.
The selection was chosen well before the concert, but while rummaging through a bag of blue and yellow ribbons for his lapel, he considered the title’s significance. Burnett thought he might invite the audience to reflect on the hardships Ukrainians were enduring and the good fortune of living in the United States.
But he didn’t. He couldn’t.
“I thought I should say something,” Burnett said, “but it was too emotional. I would have gotten choked up and would never have made it through the piece. I thought I should just let the music heal whatever wounds people were feeling.”
Assistant Professor Matthew Cataldi, D.M., also performed with the Radford group.
“It’s still relatively ‘new’ to be out playing music for people again,” he said, “so there’s a heightened sense of appreciation from audiences who are just grateful to not be stuck behind a screen anymore.”
However, the Ukraine situation made that feeling even more precious for everyone involved, from the performers to the audience.
“You can sense it just walking into a place where they genuinely care about music,” Cataldi said, noting the audience’s gratitude for the moment.