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  • Writer's pictureAlaina Chester

Beethoven in the Face of Adversity (PA)

Fall 2019

Violinist Monique Mead, my mentor and former professor at Carnegie Mellon, took on a huge goal. She was giving 50 free community performances of the Beethoven Concerto in 250 days in honor of her 50th birthday and Beethoven's 250th. Ambassadors to those facing adversity would request a performance and opportunity to heal through live music.

Monique's story from the BIF website:

"It has been my lifelong dream to perform the Beethoven Concerto with orchestra. But last year when the offer miraculously came, the timing could not have been worse: my life was in complete upheaval with a major life transition.

I knew it would take a year to prepare this concerto under the best of circumstances, and I had no idea where I would find the time or presence of mind to do it. Every day felt like a failing battle against an onslaught of urgent matters--plus the impossible Beethoven Concerto looming over my head. Two months before the March, 2019 performance date, I was on the verge of canceling when I woke to the realization that I was playing the music of an artist who, while writing this piece, struggled daily with adversities far greater than my own: deafness, isolation, and utter despair.

Beethoven's indomitable Spirit gave me the courage I needed to humbly pick up the violin every morning and practice despite it all. Prioritizing music placed a lens of beauty over my chaotic world.

With the help of community ambassadors, I have now performed the concerto over 50 times in 3 countries and 5 states to bring beauty to others who are facing adversity and have been inspired by their stories of strength and courage, which I have recounted in my blog. In a free public concert in Carnegie Music Hall on Beethoven's birthday, I offered this gift to him in honor of the indomitable spirit within us all."

Watch the documentary:

Monique took me on as her Managing Director for Beethoven in the Face of Adversity. My duties were to organize all the media from the performances, update the website/blog, contact ambassadors, market the performances, and help organize the final event. That meant creating programs, managing a team of ushers, planning with the venue, setting up the hall and making sure things ran smoothly so Monique could focus on her big performance!

The culmination of the project was a final performance of the concerto with an orchestra at Carnegie Music Hall on Beethoven's birthday. The event included a preconcert presentation of the project's documentary, music by Congolese refugee singers, and personal stories from the 50 performances placed around the venue. After the performance, the choir from a nearby Buderhof community sang Beethoven's original 'Ode to Joy', then a local mariachi band (Mariachi Internacional de Pittsburgh) played Las Mañanitas and lead the audience back out to the banquet hall for drinks, and birthday cupcakes! It was a beautiful celebration of the community that was connected through this project.

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