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Chester County Press

Violinist, area youth both shine at Garage benefit

04/21/2015 02:04PM ● By Richard Gaw

For the better part of an hour, concertmaster and violinist David Kim of the Philadelphia Orchestra held the 300 people gathered last Friday at the Kennett High School auditorium in the very palm of his hand. Yet, it was his warm-up act that may have stolen the show.

Stirring addresses by three Kennett High School students whose lives have been positively influenced by their involvement with The Garage Community and Youth Center served as a cornerstone of The Garage's annual benefit event, which raised funding for its programs and activities.

After a short, introductory video that featured testimony about The Garage from West Grove Police Chief Michael King, Kennett High School Assistant Principal Ray Hernandez and Garage staff and volunteers, Juan Hernandez, Naja Jackson and Tony Gomez each spoke about the arc their lives have taken in recent years.

Hernandez, a ninth grader, talked about the humble beginnings of his family, his upbringing in Kennett Square, and the societal pressures that led him to a life of drug use. He smoked marijuana regularly, became a self-described "troublemaker," and was eventually suspended from school for ten days. While performing community service at The Garage for his punishment, Hernandez became a part of the Center's Mentor Program, which he told the audience is something he eventually wants to become for others.

Jackson, an eleventh-grader, told the audience that she admires the courage of her mother, to go from being a single parent at 20 to going back to college. Influenced by a mentor she referred to as "Maggie," The Garage has become "a second home" for her and a source of inspiration, which she intends to use when she attends college to study psychology.

Gomez, a junior, spoke about his introduction to The Garage in the fifth grade. When he entered the seventh grade, Gomez began to be mentored by Pastor Andrew Smith of the Presbyterian Church of Kennett Square.

"I want to go to college," Gomez said, who intends to study aeronautics. "I want to prove to my grandfather that we as a family can do better. The Garage has had such an impact on me, but I'm not the only one there helping to break the cycle."

Individual scholarships were also awarded to Erica Lopez, Lorena Bernel and Jasmine Cordova.

Accompanied on piano, Kim delivered a masterful performance that intermingled selections on the violin with the story of his life, which began in Clarion, Pa. With violin lessons at the age of three. Kim spoke about his childhood with both irreverence and honesty, sharing tales of an overbearing mother intent on making her son into an internationally-known musician.

By the time he was 11, Kim said, he was spending every other weekend flying to the Juilliard School and Lincoln Center in New York City from the family's new home in North Carolina, in order to study with the best teachers.

Before he had become a teenager, Kim was a child prodigy, but after he lost his mother to cancer a few years later, his father took Kim, an only child, with him to Buffalo, N.Y. Kim eventually enrolled at Juilliard, and in 1986, he won a major competition in Moscow, which led him to travel and performances all around the world. He was named Concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1999, and lives with his wife and two daughters in the Philadelphia suburbs.

The evening ended with a meet and greet between concert-goers and Kim.

Exelon served as the Title Sponsor for the benefit; Genesis Health Care served as its Mentoring Sponsor; and the Calvary Chapel, Christian Life Center, Herr's, M & T Bank, Tony and Barb Proto, Star Roses and Plants, Todd's Landscaping and the Willowdale Chapel all served as Tutoring Sponors.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail [email protected].