Benefit Concert Supports Syria and Türkiye After Earthquake


Abe Frato

The Syria and Türkiye Benefit Concert took place on March 31.

On Feb. 6, Türkiye and Syria were devastated by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake, the largest the region had seen since 1939. Over 18 million people have been affected by the disaster, with over 55,000 dead and millions displaced from their homes. 

Conservatory and College musicians have found a way to utilize their skills to make a difference in the form of benefit concerts. Oberlin’s last two benefit concerts were produced by The Musikos Collective, an Oberlin-based, student-run organization founded by double-degree third-year Daniel Knapp, double-degree second-year Diana Reid, and double-degree third-year Aaron Lieberman. Last year, Musikos put on the Ukraine Benefit Concert, and on March 31 this year, the Syria and Türkiye Benefit Concert. 

“We founded Musikos originally as just a sort of concert series platform,” Knapp said. “Then it kind of evolved more into a presenting organization, and this school year we’ve presented 13 concerts. I think the Syria and Türkiye Benefit Concert was one of the best successes in that regard.”

The concert took place at the Oberlin First United Methodist Church, featuring a large array of student performers across disciplines. Among these performances were compositions from the Western classical canon, Turkish and Anatolian folk songs, and an improvisational jazz piece. One of the performers was College fourth-year Özüm Pamukçu, a multi-disciplinary vocalist and  international student from Türkiye.

“At first I was hurt by the political and racial connotations of people at Oberlin not speaking about this,” Pamukçu said. “Then I heard about this concert happening and was like, ‘I need to do it.’ Oberlin has international students from Türkiye, and personally, I just want to feel supported.”

The College sent an  email expressing condolences, though students felt this was not enough. Still, many students felt motivated to take action, which is exactly what Musikos and the other musicians did. 

“I think it’s really cool that the school is set up to give us the opportunity to make concerts like this,” Knapp said. “This is something that we would’ve done anyway.”

Most of the pieces performed were chosen with the intention of empathizing with those affected by the crisis. Not only does this encourage listeners to take out their checkbooks, but it helped both the performers and listeners better understand Turkish and Syrian culture, making the issue seem more personal and less distant. 

“My group performed a composition called ‘Vazgeçtim’ by Ara Dinkjian, an Armenian-American composer,” Pamukçu said. “It’s a very sad tune that was kind of appropriate for the occasion. It’s about giving up on a loved one, and a lot of people had to give up on their friends and families.”

In the Syria and Türkiye Benefit Concert, Musikos raised over a thousand dollars for three different non-profits including UNICEF and AKUT Search and Rescue Association, which are based in Türkiye, specifically targeting relief efforts for earthquake victims. 

Another factor for producing any benefit concert is making it happen while the issue at hand is still actively being talked about and reported on. With a catastrophic, global event such as the Syria and Türkiye earthquake, the media as a whole tends to hyperfixate on it for a brief period of time, before moving on to the next hot topic.   

“There is a timeliness to it,” Reid said. “But I think that’s also a testament to how quickly people at Oberlin are able to come out to support a cause.”

Despite taking place over a month after the earthquake, there were 30 individual performers, divided into 13 groups.

“Benefit concerts give us something tangible to do,” Reid said. “If we can make music together, raise money, keep inspiring hope and make sure that they know that they’re not alone, I think that’s one of the most powerful things that we can do.”