Two fundraisers at CSUN scheduled for Japan earthquake victims

Christiaan Patterson

In the wake of the devastating 8.9 earthquake which struck Sendai, Japan March 11, students on campus have joined together to help in relief efforts. Such students are Billy Tobenkin  and Manami Sugimori, musicians giving the gift of music to raise money for those in need overseas.

Tobenkin and Sugimori will give a recital April 21 at noon. They will be accompanied by pianists Maiko Yamagami and Yuka Miyauchi. Another treat for the audience is a popular Japanese song which composer Haruna Kubo has altered for the cello. There is no entry fee, however donations are highly encouraged. Thursday’s recital will take place in Cypress Hall 158.

“My wife (Manami Sugimori) is Japanese, which is a nice connection to Japan,” Tobenkin said. “When we found out about the earthquake, we were devastated. She saw footage and felt really bad about what was going on. We decided it would be a great idea to do this for Japan.”

To highlight Japan’s culture, the musicians will perform traditional Japanese folk songs in their native language. Opportunities to hear these songs don’t come around often.  Most of the composers of these songs studied in Germany and collaborated with musicians in Japan. In the end, the audience will hear get a blend of western harmony and traditional Japanese melody.

For Sugimori, this recital is a way to make sure the citizens of Japan are not forgotten by people here. In 1995, Sugimori was in Japan when the Great Hanshin Quake struck, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake in which more than 5,100 people lost their lives. Having survived that disaster, the latest earthquake brought up memories and a deep understanding and sympathy for the victims.

“I’ve never been nervous, when I sang in Japan. Here I just want to share the culture,” Sugimori said. “I’m hoping for donations but more importantly, I hope they don’t forget what is going on in Japan and when they listen to a melody, it stays with them.”

Sugimori is working on a master’s degree in Japanese voice and completed her undergraduate studies at Kyoto City Arts University in Japan. Tobenkin began playing cello three and a half years ago and now plays in the orchestra at CSUN and will start his second bachelor’s degree in the fall for music.

The recital on Thursday is geared toward students, yet if one cannot attend, another show will be performed May 20 at 7:30 in the evening. This event will be opened to the community as well as CSUN students, faculty and staff. Admission is free and donations will be accepted for the citizens affected by this disaster.