SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) Dozens of young musicians are hitting high notes in community service, thanks to this week’s Jefferson Award winner.
Jennifer Ma was a professional cello player in China. When she came to the U.S., she got a computer science degree and worked in high tech, but got drawn back to music.
High school junior Rolan Liu plays the ancient Chinese zither.
“It’s good to be able to do something meaningful,” he mused.
He was among several dozen students featured in a hospital benefit concert. The students are part of the Bay Area Youth Music Society, or BAYMS. Ma founded the nonprofit 10 years ago with a simple message.
“Music is your friend,” she explained.
For students, it is a talent you can share to serve your community. At BAYMS, south and east bay students aged 10 through 22 years old perform at senior citizen centers, hospitals, libraries, parks and cultural centers. They amass so many hours of community service that many musicians have received Presidential Volunteer Service Awards.
The idea for BAYMS came about in 2005 when a group of families came together to produce their own concert. Over time, the events raised funds for hospitals and disaster relief.
And pianist Solomon Ge discovered the rewards of giving.
“It’s just spreading joy to them,” he smiled.
Students must audition for the program and pay $200 to $400 to cover concert hall rentals and operation costs. They rehearse every Saturday at Ma’s music school, Encore Music and Art Academy in San Jose. It’s a big commitment: students learn new songs every two months, and perform every other week.
In addition, the music selections can be challenging but violinist Sophia Wang counts on Ma’s encouragement.
“When we play really difficult music and we start to lose hope, she’s always there to make us more hopeful,” said Wang.
And Ma opens doors of opportunity, like the chance to play at Carnegie Hall two years ago.
“They learn music. They can use it to the community. They feel proud,” Ma explained.
So for empowering students to serve their community through music, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Jennifer Ma.