I founded my organization, Children Helping Children (CHC), when I was seven years old. I knew at that early age that I wanted to pursue neuroscience and neurosurgery as an adult, because I believed the brain was the final, great frontier for medicine. When I read renowned pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Fred Epstein’s autobiography, I was inspired by his compassion and innovations in the field and was motivated to write requesting an interview, which was granted, and amounted to a personal epiphany. I was driven to learn more. After a two hour interview, which I taped and later transcribed, and a tour of the pediatric ICU that exposed me for the first time to children who were suffering from incurable diseases, I decided that I would find a way through my musical gifts to help these and other young patients with neurological illness, even though I was only seven. I left with a strong determination to bring these children some measure of peace, temporal enjoyment, a little contagious enthusiasm, and a reminder of what’s outside that ICU door. Grave illness leads quickly to feelings of abandonment, and it is my instinctive compassion that called me to take action and help. It was then that I created Children Helping Children which has burgeoned beyond my wildest dreams into a musical fundraising arm for the medical community, and is now a center of great import in my life.
As a concert violinist, I am in an unusually public position to take an effective leadership role in creating a synergistic relationship between medicine and music. I began by gathering other musical prodigies from Juilliard and producing monthly performances at a number of hospitals in the tri-state area. After a long day at conservatory, we would continue our music at pediatric neurological and neurosurgical ICUs and playrooms to brighten the children’s day. The true charter of CHC became apparent when I realized I would be able to use my name as a headline performer in the classical music world to draw large audiences at major concert halls throughout the country to benefit worthy medical organizations in need of funds. I drew upon my contacts in the classical music world to enlist entire symphony orchestras to join my performances to create Gala Evenings at the Symphony as at Carnegie Hall in 2005 and The Wortham Center in Houston in 2006. As with my two recital performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2006, every dollar collected from these benefit events was donated to a specific medical charity: National Multiple Sclerosis Society, The Institute for Music and Neurological Function, Beth Israel Medical Center’s Hyman-Newman Institute for Neurology and Neurosurgery and The Children’s Hearing Institute. It has been in this manner that my efforts have raised over $1.3 million for these charitable causes to be used for vital materials for music therapy in pediatric playrooms, medical equipment, cutting edge research, and further media awareness. The hours of rehearsal and networking to realize my dream for each benefit concert has been well worth it to me because I’ve seen the difference one young person can make in the world. The humanity of charitable works is not something reserved for adulthood.
With dedicated, purposeful and direct use of my talents, I have discovered I can sound an alarm through my performances and lectures and cause people to pay attention to the plight of desperately ill children who need more than medication and proper hospital facilities – they need evidence that other young people are working in their behalf, uplifting the community through deeds, not words. I discovered that I do not have to wait until medical school to make a difference in the lives of children in need. I can speak at medical conferences about the new cutting edge research I am working on as an intern at Stony Brook Medical Center and Harvard University Med School’s lab where I researched this past summer in MS and have been invited back for next summer. Because of my unique position as a solo artist, I can mobilize the talents of my generation now to raise millions of dollars for the seriously ill and under-served populace of kids across the globe. I beheld the power music has to heal and stimulate the brain when I performed at Beth Israel Medical Center’s 10th floor playroom, and witnessed the movement of a previously unresponsive child who had recently undergone neurosurgery. She suddenly began to react to the music I was playing. Every monitor she was hooked up to commenced beeping and calling out to the surprised resident physicians, as they raced to her in overwhelming excitement. It was a moment I will never forget—such elation, surprise and new hope--an symbiotic reaction between medicine and music to which I will devote my life’s work. From the age of seven I have believed in the spiritual and practical marriage of medicine and music, and now I want to inspire a new generation of young philanthropists to use their artistic gifts and their creative voices to help the medical world because it takes the ideals and energy of the young in tandem with the wisdom and experience of the old to raze the diseases of our time.