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Student groups join forces for UNICEF fundraising virtual concerts

'United in the Cloud'

Leena Bhat, 41, a worker in a child care center known as an anganwadi, demonstrates to children the best ways to wash th
Leena Bhat, 41, a worker in a child care center known as an anganwadi, demonstrates to children the best ways to wash their hands with soap during the COVID-19 pandemic. They gathered Dec. 24 as part of a UNICEF effort in Jethana, a village in India. UNICEF chapters at the University of Iowa and Iowa City’s West High School are offering a virtual fundraising concert this week to raise money for UNICEF’s efforts to stem the rise of COVID-19 among impoverished children round the world. (Srikanth Kolari/UNICEF)
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The pandemic that paused the University of Iowa’s new UNICEF Iowa club last spring is giving that club a rallying cause.

The 70-member group that formed last Feb. 1 is joining forces with Iowa City West High School’s UNICEF Club and Cadenza Music Club to present the fundraising online concert, “United in the Cloud.”

About 30 solo and small ensemble musical performances by Cadenza members and UI music students will begin rolling out today and continue through Friday. New content will be posted every day on Cadenza’s YouTube channel.

Viewers can make donations online, which will go UNICEF USA’s COVID-19 relief efforts for underprivileged children worldwide.

“We specifically focus on COVID relief because it has been a tremendous threat to many of the people that are living internationally, especially because they don’t have access to clean water and supplies for sanitation,” said Thomas Duong, 19, of Iowa City, UNICEF Iowa’s chapter president. “ ... Our hope is that the money we are raising from this concert could go directly toward the sanitation kits UNICEF provides for clean water.”

Raising awareness

The concert videos also will include information about these efforts, to help raise awareness about the COVID-19 pandemic abroad and the conditions in which children are living in war-torn and impoverished nations.

“In the United States, the media has promoted COVID-19 like a big problem in the United States, not so much internationally,” Duong said. “So what we’re trying to do is focus on COVID-19 relief efforts internationally and show (viewers) how it’s different in these countries, and how children don’t have the same access to sanitation, masks or preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

“That’s how we’re trying to spread awareness toward it, and we’re hoping the people who view these videos and watch these musicians will understand that it’s very different between countries like Yemen, Sudan, Lebanon, for example. It’s very different there than in the United States, where we have plenty of access to clean water, sanitation and masks.”

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Using a concert format for the fundraiser not only builds on the strengths of the collaborating organizations, but serves as a bridge for the community.

“In light of the pandemic, we thought that community interaction wasn’t very high,” Duong said, “because many people are constricted in their homes (and) there weren’t many opportunities for musicians to perform and people to enjoy their music. So we provided this opportunity to whoever wanted to participate in our benefit concert, and are hosting the concert online for people to view.

“We specifically targeted a couple of demographics,” he added. “We thought that retirement homes would be a good target audience because they have limited interactions, since they’re so susceptible to coronavirus, and they don’t have many opportunities to talk and see how the community is doing. We thought that was a good idea to communicate with these retirement homes and care facilities to provide music and to have them connect, in a way, to the community.

“The other demographic would be parents, since more of the performers in the concert are younger and have a lot of family members who would be interested in seeing their family perform music,” Duong said. “I thought it would help everybody to get some sort of exposure and see what they’re doing in light of this pandemic.”

Collaborations

And that’s where the West High School groups stepped up. West’s UNICEF Club used its promotional skills and avenues — from the school newsletter to social media accounts — to spread the word about the cause within their school community, as well as by reaching out to local retirement communities.

Cadenza members provided their music videos, in keeping with their mission to play classical music for nonprofit fundraisers. The student-driven organization formed two years ago as a way for West students to gather after school and play chamber music, noted adviser Jon Welch, 39, of Cedar Rapids, the school’s director of orchestras and the Iowa City school district’s performance music coordinator.

With about 20 to 30 members, they decided they wanted to perform for the public, but rather than pay-for-play tickets, they wanted to help raise money for local charities and nonprofits, especially those with student chapters, Welch added. When the pandemic shut down in-person performances, they turned to the virtual realm last spring. They teamed up with West High’s UNICEF Club to present “United in Isolation,” a fundraiser for the United Way of Johnson and Washington Counties’ Community Disaster Relief Fund.

Cadenza also has raised money for the school district’s music auxiliary, which is the main music booster organization, Welch said.

“For each project that they’re working toward, they want to find a different charity or nonprofit and raise money just to help others,” he said.

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For this week’s fundraiser, the UI UNICEF group’s primary role is “logistical,” Duong said.

“We put together the concert, we had the idea for the concert, and we worked with the university to get it created,” he said. “Because we are a bigger chapter of UNICEF, here at the university, we have a bigger platform and we have better means to get this concert out there and get the word out about COVID-19 and about UNICEF. So our role was primarily to get it started and then get it to as many people as possible. So I would say we’re like the ‘organizational’ part of the concert.”

Even the concert’s title, “United in the Cloud,” reflects collaboration.

“The ‘cloud’ part references the internet and how the event is hosted online,” Duong said. “The ‘united’ part stands for the musicians and organizations coming together to raise awareness and money for a greater cause. It also includes the community, because they hold a role just as important as the musicians and the organizations that set up this benefit concert.”

At a glance

• What: UNICEF virtual fundraising concert: United in the Cloud

• By: UNICEF Iowa at the University of Iowa and Iowa City West High School’s UNICEF Club

• Featuring: Music by West High School’s Cadenza Music Club and UI music students

• When: Today (Monday) to Friday, with virtual performances featured daily

• Where: Airing on Cadenza’s YouTube channel; go to cadenzawhs.org/upcoming-events.html

• Donations: All contributions will be donated toward COVID-19 relief for underprivileged children worldwide; go to signmeup.com/site/online-event-registration/136095

• Club details: UNICEF Iowa at uiowa.campuslabs.com/engage/organization/unicefiowa, West High School UNICEF Club at iowacityschools.org/domain/3917 and Cadenza Music Club at cadenzawhs.org/about.html

• UNICEF USA online: unicefusa.org/about

Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

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