By Tessa Raebeck
They have performed everywhere from Carnegie Hall to the Pierson High School auditorium, but on Sunday 10 classical musicians will join together with a sole purpose: to honor Katy Stewart.
At the sixth annual Classical Students for Katy’s Courage Benefit Concert at Bay Street Theatre, student musicians from across the East End will perform in memory of Katy, a beloved Pierson student who passed away in December 2010 from a rare form of liver cancer. At just 12 years young, as her parents Brigid Collins Stewart and Jim Stewart say, Katy had already touched the Sag Harbor community with her bright personality, inherent kindness and contagious positive energy.
The 10 students, who come from East Hampton, Southampton and Sag Harbor and range in age from 13 to 19, will perform 12 classic pieces by composers such as Handel, Mozart and Chopin. Local professional pianists Ellen Johansen of East Hampton and Alvin Novak of Water Mill, as well as 21-year-old Manhattan School of Music student Ge Gao, will accompany the students.
The classical concert is a fitting celebration of the life of Katy, who had a true love for music. Katy played the piano and treasured her violin, taking lessons with David Fox every Saturday morning. Mr. Fox, also the strings teacher at the Sag Harbor Elementary School, will introduce the students on Sunday.
All proceeds from the 100-minute concert will benefit the Katy’s Courage Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research and Katy’s Kids @ CMEE, which will open in the fall to provide counseling and play therapy opportunities for grieving children and their families.
“Through performing for Katy’s Courage, I hope that I am able to honor Katy’s memory, as she was able to touch so many hearts herself, and use my gift to support this cause,” said Matthew Maimone, 19.
A Sag Harbor resident, Mr. Maimone started playing the piano at age 6 and was accepted to the Julliard Pre-College at age 10, receiving an education that helped him to earn acceptance to the Juilliard School College Division last year.
“What I enjoy most about classical music is being able to give whatever story, whatever feeling, whatever aura a composer intended in his composition to an audience,” said Mr. Maimone, who will close the evening with a Chopin composition.
Opening the event will be Pierson graduate Christopher Beroes-Haigis, 19, on the cello and Benjamin Hoertnagl-Pereira, 17, of Southampton High School, on the violin.
“Playing music and writing music, in general, is an art form that people, if they want, could use to express themselves or to send out a message, to form bonds with others, or to give a gift for others to enjoy, which can help them in many ways,” said Mr. Beroes-Haigis, who is now studying at Bard College.
“I feel that music is a beautiful way to express oneself, just like an artist expresses oneself by painting,” agreed Leo Panish, 16, a sophomore at East Hampton High School. Mr. Panish began playing the violin when he was 2 ½, asking his parents if he could learn after watching his brother Maxfield, who will perform on the piano at Sunday’s concert, play.
“What I love about classical music,” he said, “is that I can listen to a piece again and again and each time I get something new from it. There are so many complexities in the music that it requires listening to a piece many times to even begin to understand it.”
Pianist and Pierson sophomore Christopher Ritter, 15, who began studying with Ms. Johansen when he was 6, will play “Toccata in E flat minor” by Aram Khachaturian. His classmate at Pierson, Emmanuelle Bernard, will perform a Mozart composition on the piano, followed by a cello piece by Kivlan King, a student at Southampton High School.
Ross School eighth grader Tristan Griffin began playing piano at 4 ½ and had his first solo concert at Steinway Hall when he was 7. The 13-year-old will perform two piano compositions Sunday.
Vocalist Georgia Bennett, 16, will sing “Lascia Ch’io Pianga,” a sad but beautiful opera piece in Italian.
“It’s a good way to express myself and it is a release from everyday life,” she said of music, adding, “It’s such an honor to be singing to benefit Katy’s Courage.”
“The idea of the benefit concert makes it less about the criticism and the close scrutinizing found in other concerts, and more about giving back to the community,” said Mr. Beroes-Haigis.
“Music is a gift that can change a person’s life,” said Mr. Maimone. “Hopefully, through my music, I can encourage people to give to help support pediatric cancer research. This would make Katy proud.”
The sixth annual Classical Students Benefit Concert for Katy’s Courage will be held Sunday, March 23, at 4 p.m. at Bay Street Theatre. A suggested donation of $15 has been suggested. For more information, call 725-9500 or visit katyscourage.org.