Wichita composer holds concert to fund student instruments

Updated: Sep. 15, 2021 at 4:30 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Wichita native and musical composer Alex Wakim is putting on a show at the Wichita Center for Performing Arts to raise money for instruments at USD 259 Wichita schools and pediatric cancer patients in Lebanon.

Wakim spends most of his time in New York, but he calls Kansas home. He said there is one thing in particular that makes Kansas extra special.

“You have everything in New York, but you don’t have stars. That’s the one thing,” said Wakim.

Those stars, and a comet he saw in Kansas one summer, were the inspiration for his album “Dust and Ions.”

He’s combining his music with dance and poetry for a live performance on Friday and Saturday. A portion of the proceeds will help the children of Wichita and Lebanon, where his family is from.

Wakim is working with musicians from the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, singers from the Wichita Grand Opera, the Regina Klenjoski Dance Company, as well as composer Juan Dussán, to actualize a new 90-minute live version of “Dust and Ions.” He is collaborating with award-winning poet and writer, Yara Zgheib, to mix in poetry and story.

Wakim also wrote 40 minutes of new original music for the performance.

According to the event Facebook page, “This show reminisces on the purity of creation and the joy of unity in an evening that is sure to transport all who attend.”

A portion of proceeds will go to the Kids First Association, to fund medicine for pediatric oncology patients in Lebanon, and the WPS Fine Arts Gift Fund through Education EDGE.

Wakim graduated from Northwest High School, where he learned from the director of instrumental music Dr. Gary Leopold. Leopold even let Wakim compose a band piece as a student there.

“Playing music is one of the few activities you can do that engages the entire brain all at the same time,” said Leopold.

USD 259 Fine Arts Coordinator Shawn Chastain said fine arts is an established priority for Education EDGE. The program works to put musical instruments into students’ hands starting in middle school.

“Seeing all the different instruments and how to play them and how they all sound together and come together is really cool,” said freshman trombone player Isaac Gehrer.

Students we talked to agreed the band becomes like a tight-knit family.

“When you’re with other people who are playing the same sounds at the same time, it’s just a really beautiful thing,” said freshman trumpet player Isabel Santiago.

Education EDGE wants to make more instruments available to students.

“Between the high schools, we’re having to borrow each other’s instruments and sometimes we don’t have enough,” said Leopold. “The nice thing is we’re getting more students involved in music ed, so now we need even more instruments.”

Wakim, a professional musician and composer now, wants to help.

To young, aspiring artists, Wakim says, “Try it out. Enjoy it. Enjoy the journey. And just have a lovely time with it. It’s a big, beautiful world of music.”

Go to the DUST AND IONS LIVE Facebook page for event details.

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