Roya Weyerhaeuser and guests
Sat. Oct. 15th • 8 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Champagne Reception to follow
Thalian Hall • 310 Chestnut St.
Concert, $25; with reception, $50
The last time Roya Weyerhaeuser performed in Wilmington was five years ago. In the time between, the Juilliard graduate has been sharing her original piano compositions, along with some traditional classical pieces, in cities like Boston and abroad. On Saturday, October 15th, she will return to Thalian Hall for a concert that will expose 10 up-and-coming young artists, as well as raise money for a non-profit.
Weyerhaeuser grew up in Tehran, Iran, but came to the United States to pursue her passion for the piano. It spawned, she believes, from her father’s love for music. From her youth it was undeniable she would also grow to be an artist.
Those who have seen Weyerhaeuser know that her fingers move nimbly across the keys, almost as though they play on their own. She sways with the music and appears deeply focused on the process of creating, even while playing something’s she rehearsed again and again. “[Playing piano] comes from within me,” she shares. “I really care so much about music. I love to perform and to share my thoughts with the audience.”
She is the first pianist to receive the Albert Schweitzer Medal for Artistry. As well, she and her husband, Henry, were named two of the top 50 arts community leaders in 2004 by the StarNews, no doubt because they have such big hearts. The Weyerhaeusers participated in projects to have children’s novels translated into other languages, held benefits for patients of Duke Children’s Hospital, and they donated a concert Steinway grand piano to Thalian in 1999—the same instrument on which she will perform on Saturday. Thus, it’s no surprise this show will be a fund-raiser, too.
Welcome Home Angel is a Wilmington-based non-profit founded in 2007 to help families who have a child dealing with a devastating illness or injury. When a young one comes home from the hospital, recovery can be very intimidating, and hope may seem so hard to foster. Parents hear questions like, “Will I be able to walk again?” or “Why did this happen to me?” Spouses, too, may ask themselves, “Why our family?”
Welcome Home Angel seeks to alleviate the stress, worry and suffering by remodeling the child’s bedroom to make it more accessible and inviting as he heals. They even do mini-makeovers on his siblings’ rooms to remind them that they are important and loved as well. Plus, the organization’s “Guardian Angels” offer information to parents on other non-profits and agencies that can provide goods and services to make everyone’s lives easier.
“When I heard about [Welcome Home Angel], it was really close to home,” Weyerhaeuser recalls. “I’m not gonna say that I was in the same position, but my husband had an accident, and when he came home from the hospital in a wheelchair, we had to really try to make the house comfortable. Then, when I heard what the families are going through, especially with the younger children, it was just so heart-wrenching for me to struggle with. It’s wonderful to be able to do something about it, to help out in any way we can.”
Weyerhaueser also hopes she’ll be able to annually introduce new talent to the community, as she’ll be joined by 10 young artists onstage. Featured are Roxanna and Rebecca Goudarzi, two vocalists who grew up in Wilmington and attended Duke University and Davidson College, respectively. Pianist Dr. Lenard Edralin also will perform.
“We’ve been practicing for four months,” Weyerhaeuser explains. “They’re very talented. It’s so nice to be able to promote the Goudarzis, Lenard and the others who will join me—the surprises—on the stage.”
Again, because of her own experiences, Weyerhaeuser feels close to the performers she auditioned. She knows what it’s like to perform tirelessly in pursuit of recognition, and she wants to prove to these artists that their talent is real.
“It is very hard, especially as a young artist, to make a name for yourself,” she says. “When I first started, I played the restaurants; I played at this, I played at that. It was difficult. This, to me, is not [so] I can promote them, because I’ve been there, but just, ‘Hey, let’s do it!’ We have so many wonderful talents in Wilmington—I mean, they are good. But they just don’t have the opportunity to get on the stage.”
Weyerhaeuser says she auditioned so many performers that she will have to continue this benefit in the future, perhaps over a two- or three-night special event. She and her husband even have been considering a series, but for now, the initial show is a trial run.
“I wish I had more time as it was, concert-wise,” she shares. “I’m just scratching at the talent in this town with 10 other people. I know this is going to be good. But next year, I want to keep this going to promote the young artists and for Welcome Home Angel. There were so many talented people that we auditioned—if I put them all together, it would be eight hours of performing!”
Tickets for the concert are $25, available at www.royaweyerhaueser.com or www.thalianhall.com. Immediately following the show will be a champagne reception which is also $25, available on either website. Those interested may also contact the Thalian Hall Box Office at (910) 632-2285. The performance begins at 8 p.m. and is expected to last until 10 p.m.