Student group hosts free community concerts

Founder Rina Ritivoiu (back left), Irena Preda (front left), and over 20 of their peers are planning a concert on Skid Row, as part of their new volunteer music performance group. (Ling Luo | Daily Trojan)

Students from the Thornton School of Music filled the streets of Koreatown with song as they performed for community members in line at a food pantry Saturday morning.

A few hours later, the group sang again for patients at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. Each time, they performed a variety of songs from operas to classics like “Over the Rainbow” and were met with smiling audiences, who danced and sang along.

“I saw the power of music and what it does,” said Rina Ritivoiu, a doctoral student studying musical arts in sacred music who founded the group. “[It] brings hope, vitality, people feel enlightened. Their heart is light. Their body feels light. They feel like they are transformed somewhere.”

Ritivoiu was inspired to form  the volunteer group in one of her graduate courses this semester, when her professor, Dana Gioia, assigned students to either present about an existing organization or imagine their own. Ritivoiu hoped to bring her idea to life and  approached Gioia, who suggested that Ritivoiu’s group host concerts for the community.

She recruited over 20 friends and peers to join the project, and planned their first concert.

“All students ask for advice,” Gioia said. “What’s different about Rina is that about a month later, she was already doing things. To me, that’s a sign of somebody who is going to be successful.”

Irena Preda, a graduate student studying music performance, was the first friend asked to join the group. Preda was interested in the project because it helps bring live performances to those who don’t typically experience them.

“There’s a certain segment of the population that tends to be the target audience and tends to go to concerts, be it classical music concerts or rock or pop or jazz concerts,” Preda said. “A lot of the underserved communities cannot afford to provide instruments for their children, so there’s a whole segment of society that never gets exposed to live music.”

Ritivoiu is  working to plan future concerts throughout the surrounding communities, including Skid Row. She also said the group plans to return to the hospital to perform in the chemotherapy unit for patients undergoing treatment.

By performing for these communities, Ritivoiu hopes the group can help people relax and escape from their problems.

“I want them to have this opportunity because they are already going through so much,” Ritivoiu said. “Music can [help] to bring them out of their circumstances for a few minutes or maybe 30 minutes, that they feel like they’re appreciated, they’re acknowledged.”

Through the research she has done in some of her classes, Ritivoiu learned about the positive impacts of music, both mental and physical. Still, she said musicians don’t always take part in philanthropic events because they struggle financially.

Ritivoiu said she hopes that the organization will create careers for philanthropic musicians, so they can help underserved communities without worrying about financial insecurity.

“We are doing as much important work as medical professionals, [and] we know that they are known for being rich,” Ritivoiu said. “I feel like musicians also need that support, and they deserve good recognition, and they shouldn’t be constantly known to be struggling musicians. My project and organization is to give them careers where they can do what they love but have supporters as well.”