Eric Cohen has served on the SDYS Board of Directors for ten years. He began learning the flute at age seven and played through college, where he earned a degree in music education. Eric has also been a longtime sponsor of one of our students at SDYS, Bruno Bello, and now that he’s graduated high school, Eric has established The Bruno Bello Family Scholarship Fund to help future students continue to participate in SDYS programs. Enjoy this interview with Eric and Bruno’s mother, Veronica!
How did you first get involved with SDYS?
Eric: Music education has always been really important to me growing up and throughout my entire life. When I moved to San Diego 18 years ago, I saw a little ad for a Concerto Competition concert. So we went and enjoyed it a lot. Anni Lipper [an SDYS donor] approached us and invited us to an Angels’ Angels event and that’s what got me hooked!
Veronica: I first got involved with SDYS when Bruno joined Opus in 2010. He then joined the Conservatory Program when he auditioned for Debut Strings in 2012.
Eric, What has your experience been like on the SDYS Board of Directors?
Eric: It was my first time being on a board, so I didn’t know what to expect— but it’s been a great experience. This is a really active working board. This is a board where people want to work and want to be involved. I’ve met some wonderful people by being on the board, and I got a chance to make a difference and I think that’s really key.
Veronica, what was your experience like with Opus?
Veronica: The Community Opus Project gave me an opportunity to bond with my community. It was exciting to get together with other parents and to see our children learn to play instruments and to see arts education be reintroduced into our schools.
Eric, How did you first meet Bruno?
Eric: I met Bruno at Encore! where I was sitting next to him [in the orchestra]. He was in fourth grade and one of the first members [of Opus]. I just asked him what he liked about playing the cello and his response to me was “It changed my life”—and that just really struck a chord with me.
Eric, How did you come to be Bruno’s sponsor?
Eric: I approached [former CEO] Dalouge [Smith] about what I could do to make sure that Bruno would always have lessons, because he was doing very well and loving it. I wanted to make sure that Bruno would never be without music. We worked it out with his teacher so that I was able to sponsor his private lessons—and I did that until he graduated high school last year.
Veronica: Mr. Cohen has been a great support for our family, not only because he has given Bruno the opportunity to pursue music education, but also because of the friendship we have built along these years.
Why is sponsorship important to you?
Eric: It’s very special and allowed me to really understand how you can make a difference in a young child’s life. I would encourage everyone to sponsor a student. It just makes concerts so much more personal because it’s like rooting for somebody. You may not have a child in the program, but as a sponsor you almost do in a way. It makes the whole experience so much more personal.
Tell us about the Bruno Bello Family Scholarship Fund.
Eric: I saw the impact that one scholarship had on one student and his family. I wanted to make it possible for other families to have that same experience as Bruno, in perpetuity. I want to make sure that other families can experience that same joy and change that music education can make in their lives. [The fund] was a wonderful way to honor him and all the work that he did to get to where he was and his successes at SDYS.
Veronica: It’s an honor to have a scholarship fund in Bruno’s name because it will give the opportunity to students like him to pursue music at SDYS. I’m tremendously proud to continue to be a part of a great institution like the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Eric: You don’t know the impact that you can make on somebody else’s life. Even just by attending a concert or an Angels’ event—that means so much to the students participating to look out on a full concert hall, and that encourages them to continue. I think we’ve got to keep encouraging people to understand who we are, what we do, and the impact that any one person could have on anybody else’s life.