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Augusta musicians join forces in benefit concert to help Japan earthquake survivors

Maestro Z conducting

The Augusta Symphony's Maestro Z conducted a concert to benefit the victims of the devastating earthquakes and tsunami in Japan. (March 27, 2011 / WRDW-TV)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Sunday, March 27, 2011

AUGUSTA---Musical powerhouses came together for a concert to help those on the other side of the world. While the music has now stopped, the notes of hope still carry.

It's been more than two weeks since Japan's deadly earthquake and tsunami. Emergency workers have now run into more problems trying to get control of a damaged nuclear plant. Water leaking from one of the reactors is one thousand times above normal radiation levels which is forcing workers to keep their distance. In addition, people are worried after a 6.5 magnitude quake shook the coast prompting a tsunami alert.

But on Sunday afternoon, people from across Augusta came together for a concert benefiting survivors in Japan. Local groups have already raised thousands of dollars. Sunday's concert was the result of one man--known as "Maestro Z"--who is hoping to bring healing and help through music.

Symphony Orchestra Augusta and the Red Cross joined forces with Augusta State University and organized a breathtaking concert. St. Paul's Church in Augusta was packed and organizers say it was a success.

Dozen of professional musicians from the Symphony Orchestra Augusta and those from the U.S Army and from Fort Gordon volunteered their time for a good cause. "As a musician, really the only way to help other people is through sound." Shizuo Z. Kuwahara is the symphony's musical director and was born in Tokyo. He's also known as "Maestro Z." When he heard about the tragedy in Japan, he says he felt he had to do something. For him, it's all about unity and having people feel the energy of the music and see hope. He was blown away by how many people attended the show. "I don't say big success because of numbers, but I say big success because of how music was able to bring people together," he says.

Mayumi Tanikai came to the concert with her husband and also invited tons of friends and family. She was touched by the American and Japanese music. She says, "The music was beautiful. It makes me cry." Her family still lives in Japan and she wants to help. "I've been thinking, but I have no idea...what should I do? All I can think is to donate," Mayumi says.

The Red Cross uses those donations to make a difference in Japan. Jennifer Pennington, Executive Director of the Red Cross, says, "We're still counting the dollars, but we have over $7,000 that's been raised." That amount was just for Sunday's concert.

After the earthquake and tsunami, "Maestro Z" waited nine days to hear if his family was okay. Now he's happy the event is striking a chord with local people. Through music and donations, they can help in the process of rebuilding Japan. "The will of people to do something about it. To have so many people involved in this project. That was a success. So I think it's not just the Orchestra. This is Augusta's success," he says.

Local donations have helped bring in around $12,000 for the Red Cross to help Japanese victims. The money comes from donations in the past few days from three concerts that were held in the area. Aside from helping out with food, Red Cross says around 390,000 people are staying in shelters supported by the Japanese Red Cross. They're handing out thousands of blankets and helping people with emotional support as well as helping them with medicine.

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