When Jessica Mada, 14, walked into her high school’s auditorium Thursday night, it took her a minute to realize almost 200 people had shown up for a benefit concert that had been organized for her.
Jessica, a freshman at Marcos de Niza High School, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last month. Her former band teacher, Arlie DuPlessis decided to throw a concert to raise funds for her.
DuPlessis put together a large concert band to play songs that Jessica requested, which included a mix of Lady Gaga hits and Earth, Wind and Fire songs.
Jessica’s passion is music, and she has played violin, flute, bassoon, alto and baritone saxophone in the six years she has been involved in band.
“She’s one of my favorite (and) most dedicated students,” DuPlessis said. “I thought there was something I could do, so I asked her and her family if they were comfortable with me organizing a concert, and they said yes.”
Jessica was a band member at Fees College Preparatory Middle School, where DuPlessis teaches, and they have remained close ever since.
DuPlessis said everyone she talked to while preparing for the event was very excited and immediately agreed to perform.
“It’s a great display of people coming together through music,” she said. “It’s amazing what happens when people just come to the rescue of someone in need.”
In the lobby of the auditorium people could record messages of love and support for Jessica on a blank canvas that soon filled up. The messages said things such as “Stay strong, Jessica!” and “Keep your head up, beautiful!”
Music education senior Ryan Salcido, who is part of the ASU Trumpet Octet that performed in the concert, is a student teacher at Marcos de Niza’s rival, Corona del Sol High School. He directed the high-school band during its opening song.
“I think it’s an excellent cause,” he said. “It’s fantastic that all these bands are combining to make this possible.”
Jessica said that when DuPlessis told her about the concert she did not believe it would happen, nor did she think people would actually show up.
The concert marked the first time Jessica had seen many of her friends in almost a month.
“I’m excited to see everyone I’ve missed so much,” she said. “When I came in, I thought it was unreal or that it was the basketball game. I didn’t think there would be so many people.”
Jessica said she was excited to see the bands perform and to see her old teacher.
“I love Ms. DuPlessis with all my heart,” she said.
Her father, Ray, said that many of Jessica’s friends who went to other high schools had offered to perform in the concert.
Music is Jessica’s biggest passion, Ray said.
“It was very touching when I heard about the concert,” he said. “We didn’t ask for it, but it definitely made us realize we have a lot of friends and support.”
Ray said he was touched to see all the people that had given their time to perform, including those who don’t know his daughter personally.
Jessica is strong enough to fight the disease, he said.
“She’s definitely our feistiest,” he said. “She’s been strong enough for all of us during this whole process.”
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