Shortly before entering his sophomore year at The Harker School, Los Altos resident Jason Lin raised $31,000 at a benefit concert he organized for the nonprofit Tahirih Justice Center. A year later, Lin has raised approximately $40,000 more for the cause with a concert held Aug. 17 at the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View.
The proceeds will support the Tahirih Center’s efforts to provide legal representation for immigrants fleeing gendered violence, according to Lin.
“As long as there is a need for Tahirih’s work, this concert has a place in our community,” he said. “Tahirih fills a void for these immigrants in a very effective way – they are incredibly successful at what they do.”
Lin said the inspiration for his first concert was a presentation about the situation at the border by Morgan Weibel, executive director of Tahirih, which he attended in the summer of 2018. Lin attended a follow-up talk by Weibel this summer.
“I had expected that since last year, the situation would have ameliorated somewhat since so many people have worked to address it,” Lin said. “To my surprise, I found out that it had worsened.”
Once he understood the need was still there, Lin was determined to host another concert.
The model Lin used to plan the concert was student-driven. He said there were between 15 and 20 volunteers, and they were divided into teams with different focuses: marketing, outreach and event planning.
This year, Lin took a different approach to outreach; last year, he relied heavily on social media, while this time around he asked his volunteers to focus on personal interaction.
“It can be hard to mobilize about 200 people for a paid concert,” he said. “We actually ended up overbooked, but the only reason we succeeded was because of the people behind (this concert).”
The concert had four main sources of income: ticket sales, online donations, checks received at the event and corporate sponsorships. All four rely heavily on a personal connection to really inspire people to donate, Lin said. Although his team and the Tahirih Center are still counting the money and securing more sponsorships, they have already raised approximately $40,000 – exceeding all their goals.
Last year’s success largely helped pave the way for this year’s concert. Lin said it was challenging to find performers the first year; this year the performers came to them.
“The lineup this year was more diverse and well received than I could have hoped for,” he said. “I was completely amazed by how positive the audience reaction was.”
The audience was not only entertained by live music and dance, but also by best-selling author Khaled Hosseini. The author of “The Kite Runner” recorded a video about the importance of helping the refugees and also donated signed copies of his latest book, “Sea Prayer,” which were sold at the event.
The refugee crisis spoke not only to Lin and his audience, but to the performers as well. Teen musicians Cassandra May, Gabriel May and Spencer Cha of Los Altos, who played Schubert’s Piano Concerto No. 1 as a trio, were all moved by the experience.
“I am glad we took part in the event, especially because it’s such an important cause,” Cassandra said. “I am happy to be a part of helping this cause because the money raised goes toward helping women and girls have equality and safety that everyone deserves.”
Older brother Gabriel added, “It was nice to work toward something, and the concert was a great experience. We were impressed with all the other performers and enjoyed being a part of the event.”
Lin anticipates that he will continue holding these concerts in future years as well, though they will change based on circumstance and what is needed at each specific time.
“Organizing these concerts has shown me that people in the community are willing to unify and donate for an important cause,” Lin said.
To donate, visit classy.org/event/tahirih-justice-center-benefit-concert-august-2019/e241425.