Podcast: Young cellist organizes big benefit concert for Haiti

Jacob Yates, a 17-year-old junior at the School for Creative and Performing Arts at Lafayette High School, has organized a benefit concert for Haitian earthquake relief. Photo by Rich Copley | LexGo.com.

Jacob Yates, a 17-year-old junior at the School for Creative and Performing Arts at Lafayette High School, has organized a benefit concert for Haitian earthquake relief. Photo by Rich Copley | LexGo.com.

Click play to hear a conversation with Concert of Hope organizer Jacob Yates.


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UPDATE: Ben Sollee has been added to the lineup for this performance.

Jacob Yates found the sheer numbers of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti — at least 230,000 dead and 1 million homeless — staggering, and he wanted to do something.

“I started thinking of ways I could try to help, even though I’m a 17-year-old in high school,” said Jacob, a junior at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts at Lafayette High School. “I decided since music is pretty much what I do with my life, that’s the direction I needed to go. I decided on a benefit concert.”

Impresario is a new role for Jacob, a cellist, pianist and singer. But he made his initial move like a veteran producer: He secured a star.

“The first thing I did was go upstairs and e-mail Everett McCorvey,” Jacob said. “Even though there were no details, he agreed to do it. And once he agreed, we got the place, and we just went from there.”

McCorvey, director of the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre and one of Lexington’s most visible artists, said, “When he called me and explained what he wanted to do, I wanted to help. I am so impressed with this young man and his desire to make a difference.”

The Concert of Hope on Sunday night at Centenary United Methodist Church boasts a marquee lineup, including emcee Elizabeth Dorsett of WKYT (Channel 27); Louisville-based jazz pianist Harry Pickens; the Lafayette High School Choir, directed by Ryan Marsh; the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras strings, conducted by Kayoko Dan; and new UK voice professor and international opera star Cynthia Lawrence.

Like McCorvey, Lawrence feels a personal connection to the tragedy in Haiti.

She said she and her husband, Mark R. Calkins, a voice teacher at Berea College and Centre College, “know of friends who are still digging out in Haiti and feel a bit helpless here. … If a performance of mine can encourage people — even in hard times, here — to help, that will be the success.”

Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Versailles-based Northwest Haiti Christian Mission.

“They’ve been in Haiti for 30 years,” Jacob says. “They know what needs to be done there and where the money should go.”

The concert will include Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, an oft-played piece in times of tragedy, to be played by the CKYO strings while photos from the mission are shown.

In organizing the evening, Jacob said, Dorsett was instrumental in mapping out how the program would proceed.

Jacob Yates.

Jacob Yates.

“Jacob Yates is a family friend, and when his idea was brought to my attention, I knew I wanted to assist him in any way I could,” Dorsett said.

Another one of Jacob’s earliest and most enthusiastic supporters was Dan, for whom he plays cello in the CKYO’s Symphony Orchestra.

“This says a lot about him: his personality, compassion to help people,” said Dan, who is in her first season as the CKYO’s music director. “And also he is obviously well liked and respected by his teachers and colleagues; otherwise this many people wouldn’t be willing to help out.”

As the event draws near, Jacob is talking to some artists who might make surprise appearances, and he hopes the concert will secure some “significant donations” above the ticket prices. But regardless of what happens, he has achieved his goal.

“At the beginning, I didn’t know if I could do it,” Jacob says. “I said, I’m a 17-year-old. I don’t know if I can get these big names together. I kind of decided to just go for it because we’re raising money for a good cause, and no matter how much we raise, it’s going to be successful.”

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