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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

‘Be the Change’ concert expresses the urge for racial equality
Musicians, vocalists and poets perform in program
Published Thursday, July 9, 2020
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Chelsea Karpeh, a clarinetist and Blumenthal Performing Arts customer service representative, collaborated with violinist Malik Johnson to organize “Be the Change,” a benefit concert to address social justice for African Americans.

Artists are turning to their craft to express what words cannot in the face of racial injustice.

Chelsea Karpeh, a clarinetist and brand-new Blumenthal Performing Arts customer service representative, was approached by her friend Malik Johnson, a violist who studied music with Karpeh at UNC Charlotte, about creating a benefit concert to address social justice for Black people.  

“We wanted to do a concert that indicated our emotions better than words could,” Karpeh said. “We chose to play pieces that are mainly by African American composers. Most of the musicians are African American, but we also included some of our allies to portray the message of community and unity.”

Karpeh reached out to Blumenthal CEO Tom Gabbard about hosting a concert following his company email addressing the death of George Floyd, who was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25. That conversation resulted in the recording of “Be the Change” at McGlohon Theater, featuring dance, music and spoken word.

“I wish you could have seen me grinning with pride,” Gabbard said. “She wrote me an email about it, saying, ‘here’s what I’d like to do, and here are the organizations I want to support.’ I was just so proud of her initiative, because it was so thoughtful. It aligned with our mission. We’re an arts organization and yet we need to be a part of timely discussions going on. My role and Blumenthal’s role was just being an enabler to take one of our team members and lift them up, and give them an opportunity and the resources to do something really good for the community.”

The show, which will air on Blumenthal’s YouTube channel on July 10, encourages people to donate to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP and Campaign Zero, which Johnson chose.

“Before talking to [Johnson], I had never heard of Campaign Zero,” Karpeh said. “He told me how they work to end police brutality nationally by limiting police interventions, improving community interactions and ensuring accountability. They stand for a lot of good that our community needs. We felt it was appropriate to put our money somewhere that would make a positive difference in this world. We also chose to donate to the NAACP because we wanted to help out our community, which is why it’s the local chapter.”

Participating artists include spoken word artists Bluz, Jordan Bailey and Jay Ward; Elsie Mufuka and Camerin Watson are spoken word artists and dancers; pianists Malcolm McKinley, Kaarin Record Leach and Zaiba Sheikh; Jackson Cini and Bryan Patterson on saxophone; Baba Ayinde (Freddie Rivera) and Daniel Ferreira on drums and Johnson on viola; Karpeh on clarinet. Mezzo-soprano Jen Wiggins will sing.

Karpeh, a native Charlottean who attended Butler High School, began playing the clarinet in fifth grade. While she aspires to join a symphony orchestra, her end goal is to be a studio musician.

“Studio musicians record in a music studio and they produce soundtracks for movies or television shows, even soundtracks to games,” Karpeh said. “That while simultaneously being an orchestral musician would be the dream.”


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