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Bodhi Tree Concerts Perform Musical Acts of Kindness

For the founders of the music-oriented nonprofit, philanthropy is a way of life

A performance of All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914

When you’re running a nonprofit, planning your programming, delivering services, and balancing budgets can easily be overwhelming. But for one local performing arts group, after all the other questions have been answered, one remains: Where are we going to donate the profits?

Diana and Walter DuMelle created Bodhi Tree Concerts seven years ago to “perform random acts of kindness by presenting music events,” with a twist—the group donates 100 percent of its profits to other charitable causes. “We also hire exclusively local artists, to inspire community engagement, philanthropy, and enlightenment through music,” Diana adds.

Bodhi Tree Concerts, named for the tree under which the Buddha sat when achieving enlightenment, has so far donated over $25,000 from 30 concerts to 30 charities. Among those partners are Mama’s Kitchen, Voices for Children, Erase Poverty, Foundation for Women, the Immigration Justice Project, Diversionary Theatre, the Seany Foundation, the International Rescue Committee, the Alliance for African Assistance, and many more. 

Bodhi Tree Concerts founders Diana and Walter DuMelle with Peter Oman and son Obang, whom they housed for three months

The DuMelles aren’t interested in doing your run-of-the-mill musical productions. They created a niche in the San Diego music scene by presenting premieres and rarely performed work, like 1945’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, or putting their own twist on old favorites, like a Gilbert and Sullivan sing-along. Even on a tight budget, the quality of their productions has been recognized with a coveted Craig Noel Award, a San Diego Bravo Award, a Best of Fringe Award, a Critics Choice Award, and most recently “Best of Fest” and “Best Male Performer in an Opera or Musical” at the San Diego International Fringe Festival. Their premiere of All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 attracted so much attention when they performed it to sold-out crowds in 2016 and 2017 that San Diego Opera coproduced the show with them at Balboa Theatre, as part of its Detour season.

Inspired by Ópera de Tijuana’s annual Ópera en la Calle event, in 2017 Bodhi Tree Concerts presented the first-ever Music en la Calle, a free multicultural music festival and street fair in City Heights. “We love the diversity and multiculturalism of our neighborhood,” Walter says. “There are so many countries and cultures represented in the population of this slice of San Diego; it’s such a rich environment.” Diana and Walter’s philanthropy is at least partially motivated by a desire to model the values they care about—love, kindness, generosity, and hope for a peaceful world—for their 10-year-old son, Dylan. And they take it a step further than most people would: Five years ago, they took a homeless family of five into their small home for six months. Then, in 2016, they hosted an Ethiopian refugee and his son for three months while they looked for an apartment. They hope the life lessons gained from bringing families in need into their home will last a lifetime. The impact of their philanthropy in San Diego certainly will.

For Bodhi Tree Concerts’ 2019 season and to buy tickets, visit bodhitreeconcerts.org.


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