A few years ago, free-lance violinist Suzanne Friedman kept noticing the street people as she traveled to the Kennedy Center, where she was performing with the Washington Opera Company. She wondered how she could help.

"I would often see seven or eight of them huddled around a grate, and think about the well-dressed opera-goers, and how different they looked," says Friedman.

And that was how Concerts to End Hunger began. Friedman approached Jody Gatwood, a local violinist, to do the first benefit concert in 1981. Now a musicians' group meets monthly, "discussing how each of us as musicians can combine music and helping the poor."

They also assemble the series, tapping other performers to volunteer their services. Each concert's proceeds, which average around $2,000, are then donated to a previously designated charity. Tonight's concert will benefit Bread for the City, a local food and clothing assistance organization.

The performance features Toshiko Kohno, the National Symphony Orchestra's principal flutist, and pianist Brian Ganz. They will perform works by Bach, Reinecke, Vaughan Williams -- and the U.S. premiere of "YeFei Nof" by Yardena Alotin. The concert begins at 7:30 at the Bethesda United Church of Christ; during intermission, the audience may view a short film about tonight's chosen charity.

"I haven't had one artist that I called to play in the concert say no," says Friedman.