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PSO violinist to play Boston Marathon benefit

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On April 15, 2013, Susanne Park was following her sister's progress in the Boston Marathon online when the tracking website stopped working.

Ms. Park, a violinist in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, thought little of the technical difficulty and decided to run a few errands. But when she returned, the website was still down, and the Lawrenceville resident learned about the two bombs that exploded near the finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 250 others.

Benefit concert for Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital

Where: Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, 237 37th St., Lawrenceville.

Who: Susanne Park and Sarah O’Boyle, violins; John Moore, bass; Slim Forsythe, voice and guitar.

When: 5 p.m. Sunday.

Admission: Free; donations benefit Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

After four dreadful hours without any news about her sister, Irene Park, whose phone was inaccessible in the frenzy following the bombings, Ms. Park learned that she was safe, although she was unable to finish the race.

On April 21, Irene will get another chance, and Ms. Park will join her sister in running the 2014 Boston Marathon. As a member of the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital's Race for Rehab team, the violinist is raising $5,000 for the Boston hospital tasked with treating the wounds of bombing victims.

To that end, she will perform a benefit recital here Sunday with husband and PSO double bassist John Moore, violinist Sarah O'Boyle and vocalist/guitarist Slim Forsythe. The concert features music by Kreisler, Leclair, Piazzolla, Bernstein and Monroe.

Ms. Park has strong connections to Boston, where she was inspired to start running while attending Boston University and "seeing how the whole city shuts down" on Marathon Monday. She began tackling marathons when she moved to Pittsburgh 18 years ago. Boston will be her 10th marathon, and she'll follow with the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 4. In her view, running has only helped her musical efforts.

"They're just the perfect balance for each other," she said.

Setting and reaching goals is important in both pursuits, whether finishing a 10-mile workout or tackling a competitive orchestra audition. Ms. Park completed her own musical marathon when she won a seat in the PSO's violin section after five tries. With music, she said, "your world gets so small," but running has broadened it.

Although Ms. Park maintains a half-marathon base, her training regimen starts four months before a marathon. She always runs outdoors, even when the early-morning workouts and frigid weather leave her ponytail frozen.

"After that, you can handle anything, a double-rehearsal of Strauss," she said.

Ms. Park doesn't wear headphones when she runs, but she still hears music in her head. "It's usually whatever we're playing at the hall," she said. Wagner's appropriately epic "Ride of the Valkyries," which the PSO performed last month, came to mind. Without the playlists, she can focus on how her body is feeling, on her pacing and on her breathing.

"I really think that running is about being in the moment."


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