Benefit concert to feature young violinist's debut

When times are tough, the arts community always comes through for one of its own. Area violinist Kathy Stewart has been battling cancer, and it has taken a toll on her financial resources as well as her health. At 6 p.m. June 7, many of her friends, fellow musicians and their students will come together to produce a special concert in her honor. They hope to raise funds toward her medical expenses.

The concert will take place at Saint Columba's Episcopal Church in Suwanee. The concert is free to the public, although a special offering will be taken during the event to benefit Stewart.

The concert will also be the debut of a budding young violinist, Benito Thompson. At 15, Benito has already been recognized as someone to watch. He was one of several young musicians to receive the Deserving Young Artist Award when he was only 13. Now Benito has the opportunity to perform his official debut during an event that will benefit another musician.

Benito is a native of Jamaica. As a 3-year-old, he would watch orchestras play on television and mimic the violinists. After begging for an instrument of his own, he finally began lessons at age six. He is a student of Adam Crane of Crane Classical Music Society.

"This concert will serve as Benito's official debut performing with professional musicians. He has stated that he is 'excited to perform for such a worthy cause.' He has been practicing four hours a day since school was out," Crane said.

The concert will feature many other fine area musicians. Olga McNeill, Nathan Hahn, Crane and Martha Bishop are also a part of the program that will include a variety of works by Mozart, von Weber, Handel, and Kreisler, among others.

All of this is happening as a result of the friendship and respect fellow musicians have for their friend. Stewart has performed as part of the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra, the Gwinnett Philharmonic and the Georgia Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra. She is also an active freelance musician. She teaches at the Galloway School and the Sugarloaf School of Music.

The musicians rallying to her side are very special in their own ways. Olga McNeill graduated from the Ippolitov-Ivanov College of Music in Moscow. She has performed as soloist with the Martin String Quartet, Corelli Strings Ensemble and performed with the Plano Symphony.

Daniel Hahn serves as organist and director of music and liturgy for St. Columba's Episcopal Church. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and Yale University. Cellist Martha Bishop has performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, and Atlanta Bach Choir among many others. The concert will end with all of the musicians performing together, playing "Performance for Peace," a medley of music from John Lennon to Pachabel.

Those interested in this event and in finding how to help further can visit www.craneclassical.com for more information and instructions on how to donate online.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. E-mail hcalmes@mindspring.com.