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Cellists for Ukraine Concert June 12

Guilford Church of Christ Scientist


In the face of a forest fire,

all the animals stood and watched helplessly.

Only the smallest hummingbird took action,

taking a few drops of water in his beak,

flying over and dropping them onto the flames repeatedly.

When they asked what he hoped to accomplish with such a small gesture,

the Hummingbird replied,

“I am doing my share.”


Ann West, a professional cellist who has taught and lived in Guilford for several decades, felt deeply troubled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but powerless alone to help families under siege and innocents forced to flee as refugees.

Then, like the hummingbird in the native American legend, she started to work on uniting public and private music teachers and their students to raise funds for humanitarian aid to Ukraine through a Practice-athon.

The example of her private cello student Owen Steffen and his family inspired her to do this. Watching live footage of Ukrainian wives and children being separated from their husbands & fathers, and the killing of innocents, Owen’s parents felt an urgent need to help young families suffering in Ukraine. Both parents, with the helping hands of their children, started Cookies for a Cause - selling homemade chocolate chip cookie dough. The Guilford Courier supported their efforts with front page articles and photos. Taking online orders that were picked up Saturday mornings at the Community Center, the Steffens met their goal of raising $5000 by April 9th.

Then, looking out over a sea of 450 "Artists in Training" at the Guilford Schools Strings Festival, Ann West thought, “If one committed family could raise $5000 to aid Ukraine, imagine what the Shoreline Music Community could accomplish working together.” She thought of Eleanor Roosevelt’s wise words, “Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

Knowing that music is truly healing in hard times, Ann felt the Practice-athon would help not only Ukraine, but herself, other teachers, and their students recovering from the protracted psychological impact of the Corona Virus Pandemic.

In a letter to teachers, parents & students, Ann cautioned, “We are now entering the “third phase” of what may be a protracted war in Ukraine. As we near the end of the school year and look forward to summer vacations and camps, it may be tempting to stop watching the news, and tuck the plight of Ukrainians in a drawer out of sight. We have the freedom to relax, recreate, and travel. Families under siege in Ukraine cannot escape from protracted daily attacks and suffering. They need our continued moral support and financial aid to survive.”

The Guilford Superintendent of Schools did not approve the Practice-athon for administrative reasons, but his assistant Director of Communications thanked Ann and wrote, "I applaud your efforts and your creativity and I'm sorry this won't work out. Your intentions are admirable and there is no question that the need is there."

Ann has continued to reach out to private teachers and their students through Susannah Bryan, conductor of the Shoreline Youth Symphony and Concert Orchestra. With the encouragement of Eric Dillner, CEO of the Shoreline Arts Alliance, Ann is calling out to all artists to find creative ways to do what they love and turn it into service for Ukraine. She invites all people reading this article, to do the same. Imagine the positive ripple effects this would have.

Students in Ann’s cello studio are participating in the Practice-athon through the month of May, to culminate in a public concert: Cellists for Ukraine, Sunday, June 12 at 3:00 p.m. at the Church of Christ Scientist, 49 Park Street on the Guilford Green. The program will start with the Ukrainian Anthem and include solo and ensemble works by Bach, Brahms, Dvorak, Massenet, Mendelssohn, Paganini, and Rachmaninov, accompanied by Yale pianist Sara Kohane.

Free will offerings will be accepted.

100% of all donations will be divided between the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee:

&, A nonprofit organization based in western Ukraine that helps women and children displaced by the war.

To join the Practice-athon, or to volunteer ideas, suggestions, time & talents,

Cellists for Ukraine Concert, Sunday June 12 at 3:00, Guilford Church of Christ Scientist, 49 Park Street. Above are members of the Advanced Master Class with instructor Ann West. L to R: Gordon Chen, Luke Robbins, Ann West, Christopher Hwa, Maria Gregory (missing). To be joined by cellists of all levels and ages in a benefit concert for Humanitarian Aid to Ukraine. Free will offerings accepted.


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