• Charity Music Programs are Led by San Marino Students


    by Winston Chua

    This is a tale of good works that demands recognition.

    Musical Connections, founded in 2001 by Jessica and Brenda Ou of San Marino, continues to better the communities that surround them.

    And this year, its current Connections president, counselor and San Marino High School senior Benjamin Yee is spearheading the effort to make sure the good works don’t stop anytime soon.

    For those unfamiliar with the organization, it has four programs. The first is to bring classical music concerts to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, to give live music to places that one might not necessarily associate with high-classic concerts.

    Secondly, group members play annual benefit concerts in January. With the money they raise from these events, they purchase pianos and donate them to nursing homes. In the past dozen years, they have donated ten pianos and raised more than $60,000.

    The third program is called Hearts in Harmony, where musicians from Connections provide music lessons to children with special needs at no cost. Performers gather and teach music to kids who have down syndrome, autism and other developmental disabilities. Ben, his mom Kelly Yee – also a musician – and therapist Diana Ou – the founders’mother – are key leaders of this program.

    Fourthly, there is a Hearts in Harmony summer camp led by both Ben and his mom, where again, young musicians share their talents to kids with special needs.

    “For Hearts in Harmony, by watching kids fight through their limitations, it has taught me how to be humble, to step out of my comfort zone,” said Ben, who plays the clarinet with great skill. “It motivates me to want to serve the community and recruit others who can share their love of music.”

    When Ben was five, he was the youngest founding member in Connections.

    This year he has received the Prudential Spirit of Community Service Award, the President’s Award for National and Community Service and was the Pasadena Playhouse’s Junior’s Got Talent Symphonic Instrumentation winner.

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