Music, Students, and Charity: A Look at the Annual EarthTones Benefit Concert

By Anna Stabb

EarthTones is an annual benefit concert which has been running since 2000, and showcases talented students and faculty members while supporting initiatives that aid children around the world. The EarthTones Benefit Concert is co-hosted by the University of Toronto International Health Program (UTIHP) and the Faculty of Medicine, but it’s open to performers from all disciplines.

This year, EarthTones is donating their proceeds to Covenant House Toronto, a local charity that provides a range of services for the GTA’s at-risk youth. The 2018 show is this Saturday night at the George Ignatieff Theatre, and you don’t want to miss out on tickets.

Demo caught up with co-chairs Grace Manalili and Rachel Lui and CEO Meejin Park, to learn more about the origins of EarthTones and its thriving community of musicians and leaders.

When thinking about a charity event founded by the Faculty of Medicine, a benefit concert isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. How did EarthTones come to be?

Grace: From what I’ve heard, U of T Medicine members are actually quite enthusiastic about music and performing, so it didn’t come as a surprise when I found out that EarthTones started with them. The first show was actually at Convocation Hall back in 2000. It was a group of medical students who were also musicians and leaders, and who wanted to support aid initiatives for children locally and globally. 18 years later, EarthTones is still continuing as one of U of T’s longest-running talent shows, although it’s more cross-discipline now.

Is it difficult to find musically talented individuals within the Faculties of Health Professionals?

Meejin: No, not at all – there was actually a really large number of students who auditioned this year to be a part of our concert! We had so many students from different faculties, brought together by the shared enthusiasm and passion for music and the willingness to help children. I was also shocked at the range in age amongst the performers, as our performers range from first years to grad students and medical students. I found it heartwarming that so many students donated their time to be a part of the concert and support such a good cause.

How does EarthTones choose the charity they raise money for?

Rachel: EarthTones works closely with the Faculty of Medicine and each year, the first year medical students have a charity they choose to donate to for their events. We thought it was best to work together and unify for one cause, so we agreed to donate to Toronto Covenant House, which seeks to help and support homeless youth. The charities we support always help improve aspects of global or local health, which relates strongly to the goals of the University of Toronto International Health Program (UTHIP), our parent organization.

Finally, what should someone who’s never been to an EarthTones concert expect from this years show?

Grace: We chose George Ignatieff Theatre for this year, because we really want the artists to have a genuine connection with the audience. And we have students/alumni from departments from all over the University of Toronto performing at the concert. We even have one professor bringing his band with him as our first act! We always have bands that play familiar pop songs, but this year we’re featuring jazz and classical music as well. And Dr. Kenneth Yip has so kindly volunteered to be our MC. It’s going to be a great show!


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