SANTA MONICA ( — Last spring, a group of musicians with the Santa Monica High School orchestra were preparing for the trip of a lifetime.

“Ending my last year in high school in Europe with my best friend was so fantastic,” said Mira Baum, a student.

All 84 of them were set to play concerts in three different European cities.

“My friend texted me and some other friends in the orchestra and said, ‘Have you guys seen the news,’ ” said Marie Di Franco, another student.

Just hours before they were set to fly out, the Brussels terror attack claimed the lives of 32 people.

The school decided to cancel the trip for the safety of the students.

“It was heartbreaking, you know. It was the day before we were going to leave. We were packed and ready to go,” Di Franco said.

Joni Swenson, the director of the orchestra, reached out to her devastated students.

“I said, ‘You don’t have to come to school. We’re not going to rehearse but if you want to come and commiserate, we’ll be here,’ ” Swenson said. “And the room was packed.”

And it was in that room the day before they were set to leave for Europe that the students hatched a plan, a way to turn their disappointment into something positive.

The students decided to plan a benefit concert, a way for them to share the performance they had painstakingly prepared with proceeds going to the International Red Cross.

“It might not be the same but it is still incredibly meaningful for everyone to be able to play a concert where you know you’re helping other people’s lives,” Di Franco said.

Coincidentally, one of the composers the students studied, Leonard Bernstein, talked once about what they are hoping to do.

“A quote from him is, ‘This is our reply to violence. To make music more beautifully, more intensely, and more devoted than ever before,’ ” said Arya Shapouri, another student.

The students plan to perform Bernstein’s music when they take the stage at the Walt Disney Concert Hall June 12.

Click here to purchase tickets to the performance.


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