Darien teen, classical pianist, to perform benefit concert for Friends of Animals

When 17-year-old Christopher Jessup, a resident of Darien, classical pianist, composer, singer and animal lover, learned via social media about the brutal, tragic death of Africa’s Cecil the Lion at the hands of a trophy hunter back in July, he felt compelled to take action.

So Jessup, who currently studies piano privately at The Juilliard School in New York City and has performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall on multiple occasions, decided he would perform a benefit concert for Friends of Animals, an international animal rights organization headquartered in his hometown.

The hour-long concert will take place at 7:15 p.m. on Nov. 21 at the Darien Town Hall auditorium, 2 Renshaw Rd.

christopher1“I first learned about Friends of Animals years ago when I was looking for an organization to support that fought for something I strongly believed in,” Jessup said. “Friends of Animals fights for the rights of animals, which is a cause I support immensely. I decided that to use my passion for creating and playing music towards the benefit of incredible animals who are at the brink of extinction would be a wonderful cause that would inspire others to take action and to become more aware of the environmental situation the world is currently in.”

Cecil’s Law, a historic bill drafted by Friends of Animals that would ban the import, possession, sale and transportation in New York of five species of animals native to Africa, is currently making its way through the New York legislature.

Jessup’s compassion for animals began at an early age thanks to Scout, a Golden Retriever the family got when Christopher was in first grade. “Scout was an incredibly soulful animal,” Jessup said. “He would look at you with his big, beautiful brown eyes, give you his paw and even make a little grunt to express what he desired, which was nothing but love.”

Jessup was just eight years old when he decided to become a vegetarian. “I had discovered the truth behind the meat industry via some articles and photos that I had read/seen in third grade, and in a blink I was through with supporting the murder of innocent animals for eating. Animals are not things; they are beings, and they deserve to be treated as such,” Jessup said.

Jessup will perform Bach’s full first Partita, along with works by Beethoven, Edvard Greig and several original works. “I hope the audience will connect as well as I do with these pieces and these composers, for each one is very special to me in my heart, and I hope that this is conveyed in my performance,” Jessup said.

Jessup will be joined on stage by Miho Zaitsu, a renowned cellist from New York City. She has performed throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. Zaitsu is the founding director of Interplay Chamber Music and coaches and performs with Jessup in New York.  

Jessup’s performances have won many accolades, most recently as a first place winner in the American Protégé International Competition of Romantic Music (2015). At the winners’ recital at Carnegie Hall in March 2015, Jessup received the “Best Performance” award. In May 2015, he received second place in the young artists category (18 and under) in the G. Gershwin International Competition.

Jessup hopes the audience will feel inspired and motivated to make a difference when they leave his “Concert for Cecil.”

“I hope they feel that they have the power to make a difference in this world that needs a whole lot of help, and that every little thing that they can do towards the betterment of the situation for animals and the environment can make a big difference,” said Jessup, who is also in the process of starting a non-profit called Trash Dash, which would organize local cleanup competitions.

“I hope people are filled with a sense of optimism that will inspire them to use their abilities or passions to change the situation for the beloved animals and habitats of the world,” Jessup said.

The suggested donation for the concert is $25 and up. To reserve a seat, you can purchase a ticket in our online store here or send a check made out to Friends of Animals, 777 Post Rd, Darien, CT, 06820; Please reserve seat by Nov. 18.