Malibu pianist lends talent to benefit concert

Proceeds will go toward scholarships for 5th- to 12th-graders.

By Michelle Salzman/Special to The Malibu Times

Local musician Marilyn Bergman Sands will perform a benefit concert for the Malibu Woman’s Club at Pepperdine University this Sunday, March 14. The Malibu Woman’s Club’s main goal is to raise money to benefit the youth of Malibu through education. Each year the organization invites 5th- and 12th-graders from all the Malibu schools to submit essays for a chance to win scholarships. The money the organization raises from fundraisers, like the upcoming concert, is used to fund these scholarships. Sands, a five-year member of the organization, was introduced to the club through a friend. “[My friend] thought it would be something I would love to be involved with and she was right because it’s for children,” Sands recalled.

Sands heads the Scholarship Committee for the 5th-grade applicants. Her passion for children and music are a driving force for Sunday’s performance. She began playing the piano at age four, almost by accident. “My sister was taking lessons, she was five years older,” Sand said. “We had a little upright piano in our living room and apparently I was playing things that she used to play for her lessons without really knowing how to play. I just picked it up by ear.” Sands parents promptly signed her up for lessons. At age nine she began taking lessons from Roxana Byers, a teacher who she would continue to study with even after her college years. Byers, founder of Friends of Fine Arts at Pepperdine, and founder and director of the Hawaii Conservatory of Music, directed Sands toward performing in front of audiences. Under Byers’ tutelage, a 13-year-old Sands entered a competition to perform with the Glendale Symphony Orchestra and won, beating out nearly 200 children in Los Angeles.

Sands continued studying the piano through high school and went on to attend the UCLA School of Music. She is a life member of Sigma Alpha Iota, a national music organization, and frequently performed for the organization’s functions. Her skill on the piano also led her to several television appearances. She performed on television programs with Walter Gross, famous for writing “Tenderly,” and on the shows “Fun in the Sun” and “Gene Norman Campus Club.” An experience held in high esteem, Sands was the first woman to play the first computerized playback Steinway Concert Grand Piano constructed for J.B. Nethercutt for his Nethercutt Collection at San Sylmar. She has also performed on radio and on film.

Sands considers herself an arranger and an interpreter of music although she has composed one piece, which she may perform at the concert. Recently, she produced and performed on two albums featuring her work on the piano, “Basically Bach” and “Chopin, Bard of the Piano,” at the Indigo Ranch Studios in Malibu. “Basically Bach” includes a few original arrangements by Sands. She has previously recorded albums of love songs and children’s music.

Aside from her love of the piano and her work with the Malibu Woman’s Club, Sands names her family as her greatest passion. She credits her family as being very supportive of her music. Sands has also taught piano privately for many years. In the past she was involved in organizing creative performances, directing talent shows at a local school. “I’ve used my music for many things,” she said.

Beverly Taki, a 16-year member of the Malibu Woman’s Club and current publicity chairperson, said of the organization, “The Woman’s Club has been in existence since 1961. The goal is to encourage the further education of our youth. The scholarship winners are shining examples of what further emphasis on education can produce.”

A scholarship luncheon hosted by the organization will take place in May to present scholarships to winners. “Some of the accomplishments of these high school [students] who are going on to college are phenomenal and it inspires the young ones,” Sands said.

This Sunday, Sands plans to perform a wide array of music including love songs, ballads, movie themes, ragtime and classics from the past and present. Her goal is to make the show fun and play unusual works. She says, “It’s eclectic; it’s a variety of pieces.”

The concert will take place March 14 at 2 p.m. at the Smother’s Theatre, Pepperdine University. Tickets are a tax-deductible donation of $25 for adults and $15 for students. They can be purchased through the Pepperdine Center for the Arts at 310.506.4522.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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