Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

June 16, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Symphony Benefit


  • The Phoenix Symphony is hosting a benefit concert for violinist Ioana Dimitriu, who is battling breast cancer. HORIZON presents a profile of the artist.


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
About a month ago the Phoenix Symphony held a benefit concert for one of their own. Ioana Dumitriu has played violin for the symphony for more than two decades. She has been battling breast cancer for more than five years. As Larry Lemmons tells us, her music brought her to Phoenix from half a world away.

Larry Lemmons:
A long time ago, Ioana Dumitriu, flying on the strings of her violin, found freedom in the desert. She escaped the cages imposed by the Communist Romanian government, and now soars on her music with the Phoenix Symphony, but her journey isn't over. Her flight from oppression has become a fight for survival, a battle with breast cancer that threatens to silence her music.

Ioana Dumitriu:
Because it has been there for a while, in 2001 I had a mammogram and they saw something and they called me back. They double-checked and I didn't go back until 2004. At that time I felt that something's happening, it grows and things get more complicated. And I decided to get a mammogram. At that time the cancer has already spread to my lymph nodes and now it is stage four and it's spread to my bones, my chest, I don't know, there is cancer activity in my liver and spleen. I really don't want to know exactly.

Larry Lemmons:
One of Ioana's oldest friends is Dimitri Lazarescu. He defected from Romania in the late seventies, as did Ioana's husband, Dan. Dimitri operates the Coffee Buzz in Ahwatukee. He plays with Ioana and Dan in the Phoenix Symphony.

Dimitri Lazarescu:
When I defected, I defected actually being part of her orchestra, which they hired me as a sub to go on a tour in Italy. My understanding is that since her husband defected already, she was not allowed to leave. So therefore they -- they took some subs from my orchestra, and I guess I was the lucky one that I took her place in that orchestra and I defected from that orchestra. So it's very intertwined.

Larry Lemmons:
Ioana's cancer treatments are expensive. Dimitri and many others helped organize a benefit concert for her. Few in the orchestra knew of Ioana's illness. But upon learning the news, the musicians responded quickly and pulled together this concert in three weeks. This is the dress rehearsal of the benefit that was performed that evening.

Jan Septon:
We had about 1200 people attend. That night we -- there was about $17,000 donated. That's how the response has been. Barry Olson, our principal bass player, also addressed the audience. And after that, people in the audience started walking up to musicians with bills, tens, hundreds, fives, it was just amazing.

Ioana Dumitriu:
If I would put all my happy moments together, you know, a big, big bunch, all the happy moments. There were very happy moments in my life. That was so euphoric, that I can't describe, that my colleagues responded this way to help me out. I couldn't tell you that I knew that that's going to be the way. I mean, I -- it was overwhelming.

Coffee Buzz Customer:
Thank you.

Dimitri Lazarescu:
Enjoy.

Dimitri Lazarescu:
God knows how many hard times we've gone through with the orchestra. And she was one of the most supportive people, always with the laughter, making us laugh a little or a lot. She has kind of been supporting us spiritually. And trying to make things right for us, at least from that point of view.

Larry Lemmons:
She had to leave her mother and father behind, when she was finally allowed to follow her husband to America with her small daughter.

Ioana Dumitriu:
Extraordinary pressure, by my mom especially, because I had one child at that time, and she adored my daughter Monika. She was three at the time. She made me feel guilty, I have to say that, feel guilty that I even contemplated to go. And I did -- I had to make a decision, based on the fact that I loved my husband. The fact that I loved my job and I loved freedom. And after 18 months, I was allowed to go in the United States.

Larry Lemmons:
In 1986, Ioana and her daughter became Americans.

Ioana Dumitriu:
I couldn't believe it. American citizens, I grew up in a communist family. I was so proud of it. And yet I taught myself. Do I deserve that? Do I really deserve that?

Larry Lemmons:
Buried underneath this complicated story is the simple truth that, despite the fact the violin has carried her to this place at this time, Ioana has never felt she could express herself fully through the instrument.

Ioana Dumitriu:
My dream was to play better. It's the music I heard in my head, it bothers me that emotionally, the phrasing, it doesn't come as I would like to. The music, I can't express -- the music I feel with the violin, because you need to transfer the emotions to the fiddle.

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