As a teenage violinist who served as concertmistress of the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra, Dawn Kittrell of Annapolis was one of the most talented young musicians on the local scene.
So when she graduated from Annapolis High School in 1999 and headed to St. Mary's College, the folks in Southern Maryland felt lucky to have her. And with good reason.
"Dawn quickly became one of the centerpieces of our program," says Brian Ganz, the Annapolis-based concert pianist who teaches at St. Mary's and at Baltimore's Peabody Institute. "She traveled to Europe with us, played in our ensembles and became one of our most beloved student leaders. We all have tremendous respect for her."
But Dawn's musical career at St. Mary's had to be suspended last year when, at age 22, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer that quickly spread to other parts of her body.
Now, a year later, as Dawn Kittrell continues to fight tumors in her liver and spine and contemplates possible disruptions to her medical insurance coverage, her many musical colleagues and admirers are coming together to present a benefit concert on her behalf.
"Evening for Dawn," a night of music will be held at 7 p.m. Sunday at Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, 333 Dubois Road.
Several of Maryland's finest musicians - most of them with ties to St. Mary's College - will be on hand, with Dawn herself (health permitting) playing Igor Stravinsky's Suite Italienne, a work that was to be performed in the St. Mary's Senior Recital she was not able to give.
"I'm so excited about it," Dawn says. "I was thrilled to find out my friends were planning this, and I'm very grateful."
Compositions by Jules Massenet, Felix Mendelssohn, Maurice Ravel and Fritz Kreisler will be performed, along with works by Mozart, Schubert and others in what Ganz calls "a feast of chamber, solo and vocal music."
Ganz, who will play works by Chopin and accompany other musicians, including Dawn, has appeared as a soloist with the orchestras of Baltimore, St. Louis and Washington.
Also performing will be violinist Jose Cueto, an artist-in-residence at St. Mary's who also serves as concertmaster of the Baltimore Opera Orchestra, the Concert Artists of Baltimore and the Annapolis Symphony; and baritone Michael Ryan, a voice instructor at St. Mary's and a former soloist with the Marine Corps Band.
Pianist Beverly Babcock, flutist Karen Johnson and violinist Ronald Mutchnik, who was Dawn Kittrell's teacher in high school, also are on the bill.
"Dawn's spirit, her attitude and her mental health are so positive, so remarkable, that she's a pleasure to be around," says Sydnia Jacobs, who is producing the concert for the Unitarian church. "This is a wonderful person to help and a wonderful cause for the community to get behind."
Said Ganz: "Hers is a courageous and beautiful soul. If anybody can fight back from this and come out on top, it'll be Dawn."
General admission tickets for "Evening for Dawn" are on sale for $25; $15 for students. Donations to the Dawn Kittrell Breast Cancer Fund may be made, and advance tickets purchased, by calling 410-266-8044. Tickets may be bought at the door the evening of the concert.