Jackie Evancho and friends will raise their voices for music education
Music • Concert is aimed at drumming up support for arts in schools.
Published: November 7, 2013 05:23PM
Updated: February 14, 2014 11:37PM
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Kim Raff | The Salt Lake Tribune Jackie Evancho, a pre-teen who sings opera and was discovered on "America's Got Talent," performs at the Maverik Center in West Valley City on Saturday, March 31, 2012.

Lexi Walker has grown up surrounded by singing. Her grandmother is a former voice teacher; an older sister, Laina, is a former contestant on “The Sing-Off.” So it isn’t surprising that Lexi’s favorite class at Midvale Middle School is choir.

But Lexi, an 11-year-old sixth-grader, doesn’t see her music class as just a fun diversion from science, math and English. She believes it helps her perform better in those classes, too.

“It clears my mind and helps me understand,” she said.

“I really do feel that music and the arts are so much better when they’re in the schools,” Lexi said. “It’s really weird, but it’s a way of exploring emotions you can’t through words.”

Lexi, who became a local YouTube sensation this summer with her performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a Real Salt Lake soccer game and “Stadium of Fire,” will be in the lineup of “We Are Hope,” a multimedia music extravaganza in the LDS Conference Center on Saturday. The headliner is another singing prodigy, Jackie Evancho of “America’s Got Talent” fame.

Performances will be strung together by a narrative about the power of music and the good it brings to the world. An expected highlight will be a performance by the Virtual String Orchestra, made up of a couple of hundred high-school-age musicians who will participate on video along with a smaller on-site ensemble. Conducting them will be electric-violin wizard and former Trans-Siberian Orchestra member Mark Wood, who also will be the evening’s master of ceremonies.

“If there isn’t support for music education in schools, the entire industry is affected,” from music shops to symphony orchestras, Wood said.

The concert isn’t about raising funds, it’s about raising awareness, said Pat Melfi, president of the sponsoring MuzArt World Foundation. “MuzArt is a community activist kind of group,” Melfi said. “It advocates for music and the arts as an integrated part of the core curriculum. We don’t sell curriculum; we don’t sell schools. … We’re just showing you it’s important to have that balance in education. This night is a public-awareness campaign.”

Some of the other performers on the bill are:

Pauli Carman • Carman, who had some chart success in the early 1980s with the R&B band Champaign, said he witnessed the power of music in action while teaching fifth grade in his hometown of Champaign, Ill. He said he mostly taught children with behavioral disorders and other special needs, and observed improvements in their behavior at music time. A pattern of cutbacks in funding for arts and music education troubles him. “I find it so odd to wrap my head around the prospect of not having music in public schools at all,” he said.

Sheila Raye Charles • The singer-songwriter, a daughter of American music legend Ray Charles, believes it’s imperative to preserve arts and music education in the school curriculum. “To remove it would be a huge, huge mistake,” she said. “Our children would suffer. … They would become human robots.” Charles will sing a couple of her father’s signature hits, “Georgia on My Mind” and “Hit the Road, Jack.”

Michael Martin Murphey • “When I was a kid in Dallas, even first-graders had music class,” the country singer-songwriter said. “Mostly it was listening — what the different genres were all about. It was very simple, but it started at a young age.” Murphey said he jumped at a chance to advocate for music education. “It’s a brilliant idea and very needed.”

Nathan Osmond • Growing up in one of Utah’s most famous musical families — his father is Alan Osmond, eldest of the performing Osmond siblings — Osmond said he took the presence of music in his life for granted. Now 36 and a professional musician, he has long since realized that not every child has access to a television studio, but still believes that “all children deserve opportunities to pursue the arts and develop their talents.”

Singing for schools

P The MuzArt Foundation presents “We Are Hope,” a multimedia concert headlined by young vocalist Jackie Evancho.

Where • LDS Conference Center, 60 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City

When • Saturday, 7 p.m.

Tickets • $25-$38; http://muzartworld.org/ticket-purchase/