Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center and Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus Partner to Save Lives and Preserve Culture
Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center is entering into a unique collaboration with the world-renowned Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus of North America (UBC) to use poetry and music as a means to raise awareness and funds for the benefit of Ukraine.
The Bandurist Chorus will hold “Amplify the Voice: A Benefit Concert for Ukraine” on Saturday, June 25 at 7 p.m. at Severance Music Center, Mandel Concert Hall, in Cleveland. The benefit concert will feature the performances of the UBC, also known as the cultural ambassador of Ukraine. For more than 100 years, the UBC has been “the guardian of the bandura, a majestic 60-stringed musical instrument.” This will mark UBC’s only concert in Ohio this year and its first full concert in Ohio since 2018.The UBC includes musicians from the Greater Cleveland area, Akron and Youngstown.
U.S. Sen. Robert Portman (R-OH), U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova, will be the featured speakers at the concert. Portman is the co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and recently visited Ukraine. Kaptur is a co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus.
An official proclamation from the office of Cleveland Mayor Justin M. Bibb will be shared with the audience on the night of the concert. Stephanie D. Smith, a professor in Kent State's School of Media and Journalism, who has worked closely with Wick, will be narrator for the evening.
“The money that has gone into our past concerts has helped buy first aid kits that have gone to the front lines,” said Oleh Mahlay, artistic director and conductor of the UBC. “It’s not just a matter of entertainment. It’s a matter of protecting and preserving Ukrainian culture, sharing that with the world, and literally saving lives.”
Kent State has furthered its recent humanitarian efforts on behalf of Ukraine through the involvement of Wick Poetry Center’s initiative Dear Ukraine, “a global community poem that provides a space for individuals around the world to speak to the unfolding atrocities of the war against Ukraine and its people.” Poet Julia Kolchinksy Dasbach, who emigrated from Dnipro Ukraine as a Jewish refugee in 1993, wrote the model poem.
Audience members will share their reflections during an interactive part of the program, as well as have an opportunity to view the Dear Ukraine pop-up exhibit in the lobby. Students from Hryhory Kytasty Cleveland School of Bandura in Parma also will join the UBC on stage for a song.
“The Wick Poetry Center is thrilled to offer audience members at Severance an opportunity to share their reflections and, collectively, to amplify our voices,” said David Hassler, director of Wick Poetry Center. “The arts play an important role during times of crisis. Music and poetry can raise our consciousness, connect us with one another and offer solace. We are honored to collaborate with the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus and to bring our expressive writing platform to their benefit concert.”
Kent State’s Commitment
Melody Tankersley, Kent State’s senior vice president and provost, will give remarks at the concert on the university’s efforts to aid and support the people of Ukraine. She will also share a Dear Ukraine poem that she authored.
“Our students, faculty and staff are committed to providing humanitarian aid to the people of Ukraine and others in the community who are in need,” Tankersley said. “It is an extension of our belief that ‘Flashes take care of Flashes’ by stepping in to lend a hand to the global community with compassion and caring.”
Included in Kent State’s support efforts is the recently created Ukrainian Scholar Support Fund which can be accessed on the Dear Ukraine website. In addition, the Dear Ukraine project now has sponsorship from Kent State’s School of Peace and Conflict Studies and the Lakewood Public Library, where the Wick Poetry Center will install pop-up installations with cloth banners and an interactive iPad kiosk for patrons to share their voices.
In other relief efforts, graduate student Lydia Lisowsky led the Kent State community in collecting medical supplies for Ukraine during the spring semester. The effort engaged 150 Kent State students who donated their time to help Lisowsky pack the supplies for transport to Ukraine.
The UBC has a storied history, resettling in the United States after World War II and touring worldwide for 70 years. The Bandura has been described as an “icon of Ukraine’s national identity, voice and the bearer of its soul.” The musicians reside throughout North America and volunteer their time to UBC.
Now and throughout its long history, the UBC has strived to convey the Ukrainian culture and the fact that Ukraine exists, to counter the false rhetoric that it is not a real country.
“There was a theory that Ukraine isn’t real or shouldn’t be in existence,” Mahlay said. “One of our missions over the last 100 years has been to convey the history, to convey the culture and convey the essence of Ukrainians. What this war has shown us is the need to amplify that.”
Tickets for “Amplify the Voice: A Benefit Concert for Ukraine” range from $35 to $100 and can be purchased online via Severance Music Center or by calling 216-231-1111.