Annual concert pays tribute to teen’s brave struggle with brain cancer
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
For seven years, a tribute to a teenage boy who excelled in academics as well as music and other extracurricular activities has grown in scope and popularity.
Although Jonathan Martin Beech lost his four-year battle with brain cancer on March 10, 2007, just eleven days after his 15th birthday, his family has turned his valiant struggle into a crusade to help others.
On Saturday, March 15, at 2 p.m., the Seventh Annual Jonathan Beech Memorial Concert will be held in the Kennett High School auditorium. This year’s concert will benefit Camp Sunshine, a camp in Maine for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.
Donna Beech, Jonathan’s mother, said this is the second time the camp, which has inspired their outreach, has been the beneficiary. The family attended the camp’s brain tumor sessions three times with Jonathan, and has returned as volunteers each summer since 2008.
The proceeds from the 2010 concert enabled the musically-gifted Beech family to purchase a piano and 12 Orff instruments for the camp, where they helped establish a music program, said Donna Beech, a longtime piano teacher and music director at her church. Her husband, Martin Beech, retired recently after 39 years as orchestra director at Kennett High, and their younger son, David, is a music major at West Chester University.
Donna Beech explained that the impetus for the annual concert came from Jonathan, a talent pianist and cellist. About a month before he died, he expressed frustration that he would never be able to repay all of the people who had helped him. She said her son fondly remembered the thank-you community concert that marked the end of his initial cancer treatments. He sang in that chorus, did a reading, and helped raise $10,000 for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, she said. “He was so grateful for everything people had done for him,” she said. “We promised to do this [annual concert],” she said.
This year’s choral concert will include adults, teens, and children from schools, churches and communities in southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware, with orchestra accompaniment, under the direction of Donna Beech. Participants will include the Kennett High School Chorale, the Delaware Children’s Chorus, students from West Chester University School of Music, and members of Kennett Middle School Select Chorus.
“This is the first year that West Chester University has been involved,” Donna Beech said, adding that her son David, a piano player and cellist, and fellow music student Theresa Whitehead did the organizing. “We’re looking forward to that.”
Among the featured works will be selections from “The Peacemakers,” a new composition by British composer Karl Jenkins, who sets to music the inspirational writings of Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King Jr., Anne Frank, and other peacemakers.
Donna Beech said the family’s choice of dates serves two purposes: It provides musical entertainment before the “onslaught of spring concerts and activities,” and it helps the family recover from the back-to-back pain of Feb. 27, Jonathan’s birthday, and March 10, the day he died. “It’s a very effective tool in helping us through” that difficult time period, she said.
She said the family has many people to thank for their assistance in organizing the concert and she hopes the community will continue to support the effort.
A suggested donation for attending is $20 for adults and $10 for children. All contributions are tax-deductible. Anyone who can’t come to the concert, but would like to contribute, can write a check to Camp Sunshine or to Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church. Enter Jonathan Beech Memorial Concert on the memo line and mail it to Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church, 101 Old Kennett Road, Wilmington, De., 19807.