Leisure Features

Sing for Siteman

In “Trenchtown Rock,” Bob Marley famously sings, “One good thing about music, when it hits, you feel no pain.” Life can deal all sorts of painful blows, and one of the most devastating is a cancer diagnosis. Millions of Americans receive the news each year, and St. Louisans have a unique way to fight back: through song. Since launching in 2010, the Sing for Siteman musical event has featured world-renowned artists performing to honor cancer patients and benefit research at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.

Sing for Siteman was founded by Carol Wong, an internationally lauded concert pianist. She came up with the idea shortly after her father passed away from liver cancer and her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Through this personal connection, she witnessed the importance of cancer research and funding for organizations like Siteman. Wong still serves as artistic director for the event and accompanies the singers during the concert.

Robert Mellon | Photo courtesy of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is a strong partner of the event, providing world-class performers to ensure a memorable evening. “The fact that Opera Theatre donates its time and performers says a lot about the importance of community to its mission,” says Robert Mellon, a baritone performing in this year’s concert. “It’s really a testament to both the company and the community as a whole.” This is not Mellon’s first year with Sing for Siteman. He’s been helping out at the event both backstage and as a performer for three years. “Carol Wong asked if I’d be interested in doing some off-stage work, and it was impossible to pass up helping with such a positive effort,” he says.

Mellon also has a personal connection to the cause. His grandfather is a cancer survivor, having beaten non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “It is possible to fight this disease, but there is always a necessity for more research and funds to support cancer care,” he says. “It’s something very near and dear to me, and I’m very glad to be a part of Sing for Siteman.”

The evening features four singers and a varied repertoire, and Mellon says people can expect an exciting night of music. The concert will include pop, opera and show tunes. “For some of the songs, we changed the lyrics to fit an opera background,” he says. “Hopefully people will get the jokes!” As fun as the evening is, it also can be emotional for those impacted by cancer. “We want to create an environment of love and understanding to support the cause,” Mellon notes.

All proceeds from the event benefit the cancer center’s Discovery Fund, which allows Siteman to recruit faculty and researchers, acquire the latest research equipment and tools, and support new research projects. According to Siteman, for every $1 invested, an additional $25 is obtained through organizations such as the National Institutes of Health. Without the initial Discovery Fund investments, secondary funding is often unattainable.

The ninth annual concert will be March 17 at the Performing Arts Center at John Burroughs School, and because of the earlier date, it’s been dubbed ‘Spring for Siteman.’ When attendees purchase tickets, they have the opportunity to enter to win one of two door prizes: an Alexandra Clancy Ashdon handbag donated by the designer and a diamond necklace donated by Simons Jewelers. Tickets are $100 for preferred seating, $50 for general seating and $25 for students. For tickets and information, contact the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis box office at 314.961.0644 or visit singforsiteman.org.