Melodies of Auschwitz

Tue, 03/29/2016 - 4:21pm

I attended the event “Melodies of Auschwitz” at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington D.C. on Thursday, March 10, 2016, hosted by PNC to recognize USC Shoah Foundation for its work in genocide education and preserving testimony of genocides around the world. The event was educational and meaningful, bringing together PNC clients, employees, and all other guests into a conversation about the importance of preserving testimony and what USC Shoah Foundation is all about.

The night specifically showcased Alex Biniaz-Harris and Ambrose Soehn, two very talented USC graduates and former USC Shoah Foundation interns, who had previously composed a musical piece titled “Melodies of Auschwitz” while at USC. The piano suite they wrote honors Holocaust survivors by incorporating various musical elements that reflect the stories, including several melodies derived from traditional Jewish songs. Everyone who attended the event was able to experience the piece firsthand through a live performance and watch a short documentary on the creation of ‘Melodies of Auschwitz,’ which also featured footage from one of Alex and Ambrose’s most powerful performances of the piece at a special reception in Poland for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

From getting to know both Alex and Ambrose, it’s remarkable to me that their experiences composing and performing this piece are almost seamless and natural for them both. Although their incredible talent played a huge role in the composition,their concern and urgency for educating others about genocide and fighting intolerance is what makes this piece so meaningful and what makes them unique as young people. I could feel just how captivated everyone was by how eloquently they both spoke about each topic they were asked to discuss during the Q&A portion of the night, and how affected everyone was as they performed.

After having previously seen their documentary and watched them perform their piece, I thought I knew what to expect going into that evening; however, I’ve walked away from that night just as inspired and affected as I was the first time I witnessed it. I have also grown close with Alex and his family over the past year, which made the event particularly inspiring to be reminded of the ways in which their family has continued to educate others and had a large impact on many lives through all of their remarkable accomplishments. 

I can easily assume that those who attended the event went home that night with an expanded view on the Holocaust, genocide, and even their own lives. As we left, various people pulled both Alex and Ambrose aside explaining to them how thankful they were for the experience they shared that night and that they would walk away never forgetting the impact that evening had. It was very exciting to see how inspired people are through survivor testimony and to have ongoing conversations about genocide and how to combat intolerance throughout the world.      



Emily Kocontes