Sing for Siteman
Eight world-class vocalists will raise the roof at John Burroughs School June 12 when Sing for Siteman takes place for the eighth year. All the singers are featured in Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ 2017 Festival Season and will be led by internationally renowned pianist Carol Wong, the event’s founder.
Wong came up with the idea shortly after her father passed away from liver cancer and her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was a graduate student at Juilliard at the time, and via a circuitous route, came into contact with Kim Eberlein, both an OTSL board member and wife of Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center director Dr. Tim Eberlein. “I knew Siteman was one of the best places [for cancer research] in the world and having recently organized a hospital benefit in Santa Fe, I thought doing something similar for Siteman made perfect sense,” Wong says.
She started modestly—in a small Washington University auditorium. “We raised less than $10,000,” says Eberlein, who has co-chaired the event since the start. “But today, our goal is more like $100,000.” Susan and Jack Musgrave are Eberlein’s co-chairs this year.
“We play to a packed house!” says Wong, who chooses the evening’s repertoire—a mix of popular music, Broadway numbers and opera music. “There’s no theme. I just always want to be sure to incorporate a little bit of everything.” That means a variety of voices (from high soprano to low baritone), an equal number of male and female singers, and a cross-section of music—from lighthearted, popular songs to more emotional pieces. She adds that the concert is kept strictly to an hour in length, but a reception afterward offers guests the opportunity to mingle with the singers.
Mezzo-soprano Cecelia Hall returns this year, having performed in 2016. “I am so delighted Carol asked me again,” Hall says. “It’s a wonderful, celebratory event—a joyful way to give back with our art.” The evening’s other vocalists are Susannah Biller, Michael Brandenburg, Deanna Breiwick, Tobias Greenhalgh, Theo Hoffman, Christopher Magiera and Laura Wilde.
“I was brought up to make a difference, but always worried that being a musician wouldn’t allow me to do that,” Wong reflects. “Sing for Siteman offers just that opportunity.” Money raised goes directly to Siteman’s Discovery Fund, which funnels funds quickly into the most promising research projects. Each year, more than 450 Washington University physicians and scientists treat more than 9,000 newly diagnosed cancer patients at Siteman, and have at their disposal around 500 diverse therapeutic clinical trials that might help them.
“I go to a lot of concerts for concerts’ sake,” Eberlein says. “But this isn’t one of them. It’s a tribute to those touched by cancer, and to research. Sitting there and listening to that beautiful music, everyone in the room is connected. It’s very powerful.”
The eighth annual Sing for Siteman benefit concert will be held June 12 at the Performing Arts Center at John Burroughs School. Tickets are $100 for preferred seating and $50 for general seating. For tickets and information, contact Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ box office at 314.961.0644, or visit singforsiteman.org.