In celebration of its 23rd year, the Aurora Foundation welcomes jazz pianist Tadataka Unno on Saturday, Dec. 4, at 2:30 p.m. for a benefit concert at the Aratani Theatre, 244 S. San Pedro St. in Little Tokyo.

Born in 1980 in Tokyo, Unno started playing the piano at age 4 and jazz piano at age 9. He began his career as a musician at age 18 and was a standard-bearer for the young generation, performing with many leading musicians such as Yoshio Suzuki, Kimiko Ito, and Masahiko Osaka.

In 2008, in order to further pursue the roots and culture of jazz, Unno moved to New York, where he now resides. Despite beginning from square one in a new world, Unno was welcomed by top musicians like Hank Jones, Jimmy Cobb, Roy Hargrove, and John Pizzarelli as their first-ever regular band member from Japan. In addition to performing on world tours, Unno also plays in his own trio.

About 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 27, 2020, Unno was viciously and violently attacked in a Manhattan subway station by a young mob yelling “Chinese” and “Asian,” verbally abusing him. Unno was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, having suffered fractures to his right shoulder and right arm as well as bruises on his entire body, including the head — critical injuries potentially ending his career as a pianist.

This incident was widely reported in the news, and support poured in from all over the world. Determined not to give in to discrimination or violence, Unno now sees it as his mission to “express through music that negative energy can be converted into positive energy.” He has endured surgery and intense physical therapy, which have allowed him to make a long-awaited comeback to the stage.

The Aurora Foundation wishes to share this message of dream, hope, and courage with him, and stands in solidarity against all hate crimes.

Visit his website, https://www.tadatakaunno.com/. He is also on Twitter (https://twitter.com/tadataka_unno) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/tadatakaunnojazz/).

Tickets are $100(concert and reception), $40 (reserved seats) and $20 (general admission). For more information, email aurorafoundation@usa.net or visit www.jtsf-aurora.org.

Guests must show proof of full vaccination or proof of negative COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours prior to entering the theater. A photo ID is also required. Guests must wear a mask fully covering their nose and mouth at all times while in the theater, and must sanitize their hands when entering the theater. Stay at home if you are sick or have COVID-19 symptoms.

With an eye toward the future of global peace, and a deep passion for contributing to a better world for young educators, the Aurora Japanese Language Scholarship Foundation was established in 1998 as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization by Dr. Akiko Agishi, who serves as its president.

The primary goal of the JLSF Scholarships is to encourage teachers of Japanese language or graduate students of Japanese language education to experience living in Japan and further their understanding of the language, improve their teaching abilities, and enrich their appreciation of Japanese culture. All their future students will share in the benefits realized from these scholarships.

The Aurora Challenge Grant is awarded to a U.S. citizen who resides in California and has a unique dream, in any field of endeavor, related to Japanese culture and that would never be realized without traveling to Japan. The award goes to an individual with a creative dream or challenge that if fulfilled, would contribute to global goodwill and intercultural appreciation.

By awarding this grant, the Aurora Foundation hopes to help the winner enhance the pursuit of their truest, most heartfelt dream by providing them with the opportunity for a once in a lifetime experience. Through this experience, and by furthering the pursuit of their dream projects, the recipients continue to gain and share a better understanding of Japan.

To encourage the younger generation, the Aurora Foundation holds a speech contest for non-native Japanese-speaking high school students in the U.S., in association with American Association of Teachers of Japanese and the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles. The winner is invited to take part in the Oversea Japanese Speech Contest held every summer in Japan. To date, the Aurora Foundation has bestowed scholarships and grants to 80 recipients.

In 2009, the foundation started the Japanese Culture and Language Program, which was designed to give an introduction to selected aspects of the Japanese culture and useful language relevant to the culture. Participants were encouraged to explore their own cultural heritage in comparison to the Japanese culture and language.

The Aurora Foundation holds several fundraising events throughout the year, including the Japanese Film Screening and the Charity Golf Classic in the spring, and the Award Dinner and Benefit Concert in the fall. Net proceeds fund the foundation’s scholarship programs and Aurora Endowment Fund. In addition, they have become signature events locally, and the foundation is proud to be part of the Japanese American community in Southern California.

It is the Aurora Foundation’s goal that the learning experience attained by the scholarship recipients and the support generated through fundraising events will positively affect the mainstream U.S. and will enhance goodwill between the U.S. and Japan.

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