Although I’ve heard the term countless times, it took many years of playing professionally before I understood what “Giving the Gift of Music” truly means. As a member of the Dallas Symphony for over 15 years, I have never been as proud of my orchestra as I was on Sunday, June 14. That afternoon my wonderful colleagues, led by maestro Gerhardt Zimmerman, gave an inspiring concert to benefit Dallas CASA. All of the musicians, maestro Zimmerman, and stagehands from IATSE Local 127 generously donated their time and talents for the rehearsals and concert. The program included the Overture to La Princesse Jaune by Camille Saint-Saens, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante and Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony. The soloists for the Mozart were Angela Fuller Heyde (DSO Principal Second Violin) and me, and I have to say that it was a career highlight to play one of my favorite pieces with such a terrific violinist and the best backup band this violist could ever imagine. Angela and I are both CASA volunteers and after intermission we were given the opportunity to speak to the audience about our experiences as Advocates. The hall was packed and the performance raised over $13,000 for Dallas CASA. Immediately following the concert was a delightful reception in the lobby with flowers, refreshments, and music, all donated by local vendors.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. Judges appoint CASA volunteers to advocate the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courts, helping these children gain safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible. CASA exists so that abused and neglected children in protective care have the chance to become successful adults. With the help of caring advocates, the cycle of abuse and neglect can be broken.
When I first moved to Dallas my apartment was across the street from Dallas CASA’s headquarters. I saw their banner every day when I walked my dog. Several years ago I decided to make volunteer work a regular part of my life and CASA was the obvious choice as I already knew a little bit about it and I wanted to help children in foster care. My colleague and dear friend Angela and I were both trained and sworn in by the courts as CASA volunteers in 2012.
I knew from an early age that being a professional musician was what I wanted to do for a living and all of my training was focused on playing the viola in an orchestra. I took no law, psychology or social sciences classes in college and have no children of my own. I never would have thought it possible that somebody with a background like mine could become involved in something as extraordinary as CASA. As an advocate I have seen wonderful foster homes with loving families who adore their foster children and I have seen inappropriate homes where our recommendation to the court spared a child from a terrible placement. I was an advocate for a baby born addicted to opiates and amphetamines, and held him while he had withdrawal seizures. I was an advocate for a baby girl bruised and battered beyond comprehension before she could even walk. I was an advocate for a child whose mother rode the bus to a hospital the day after he was born to surrender her parental rights in the hopes that he would be adopted into a loving family, knowing she would never see him again. I was an advocate for a 10-year-old girl whose mother drove her to Child Protective Services and left her there because she did not want to be a mother to her anymore. None of these children were at fault and yet all of them had their lives turned upside-down. Their circumstances are heartbreaking. No child should ever have to go through the turmoil of having their family ripped apart, yet this happens every day in Dallas. Each challenge in a child’s life is an invitation for me to effect positive change, an opportunity to chart a new course in their lives. The word advocate is of Latin origin, and the heart of the word is voc, which means “voice.” Each of the children I have spoken for is currently living in a safe, loving home, and as a voice for them in court I got to play a valuable part in that process. The satisfaction and fulfillment that comes with the knowledge that my actions have made such a difference in these children’s lives is truly indescribable.
I’m enormously proud of Gerhardt Zimmerman, and my colleagues at the DSO and IATSE for all of their efforts to self-produce this concert, and I thank them all so very much for donating their time and talents to benefit foster children in Dallas. What a gift of music, indeed.