Music Faculty Performance Benefits Japanese Children’s Orchestra

by University Relations

As a teenager who survived the Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown in 1986, Marek Szpakiewicz, DMA, APU’s director of chamber music, dreamed of leaving Poland for America. In 1991, that dream came true, when Szpakiewicz, recognized as one of the best music students in the nation, gained permission to study in the U.S. at Johns Hopkins University. Today, the award-winning cellist holds multiple degrees from USC and a reputation for excellent musicianship and generous philanthropy.

On October 15, 2016, he held a recital at Azusa Pacific to raise funds for the Soma Children’s Orchestra in Fukushima, Japan—a cause close to his heart.

His early experiences with the disaster fallout and living under Communist rule solidified his belief that music brings hope to all children, especially those living under duress. Upon hearing of the Tohoku earthquake that hit Japan in 2011, Szpakiewicz’s mind immediately flooded with memories of his own childhood. The only way he knew to help was through the power of music. He started by lending his support in 2012 to the Soma Children’s Orchestra and raised enough to supply a much-needed half-sized cello for the younger children. Last year, Szpakiewicz performed at APU in order to gift another scaled-down cello to the group, and his most recent concert at APU provided for the next step up—a three-quarter-sized cello.

One of the recipients, 10-year-old Risa Yoshida, was invited to Szpakiewicz’s Tokyo concert to perform with her benefactor, among other members of the Soma Children’s Orchestra.Szpakiewicz’s generosity opens a world of opportunities for aspiring musicians around the world, and inspires his own students at APU to dream big, work hard, and give back.

Originally published in the Winter '16 issue of APU Life. Download the PDF or view all issues.