When Quality Music Education Meets Opportunity
(White Plains, NY) What a wonderful way to kick off the Music Conservatory of Westchester’s 90th Anniversary! With more than $335,500 raised at the Conservatory’s 18th Annual Golf & Tennis Classic and Gala on Monday, June 24 at Brae Burn Country Club in Purchase, NY, it is truly a time to celebrate. Iconic comedian and Westchester resident Robert Klein and award-winning music composer and lyricist Marc Shaiman, were honored for their illustrious careers with musical performances by Broadway stars Kate Baldwin, Jennifer Damiano, and Gizel Jiménez, emceed by WQXR radio host Elliott Forrest.
“It was incredibly heartwarming to see so many generous individuals come out to support the Conservatory’s mission-based programs – and everyone had a great time!” said Conservatory Executive Director Jean Newton, of Edgemont.
It was a perfect day for golfers with optimal weather followed by a musical evening with a few fun surprises. After a warm welcome from Conservatory Executive Director Jean Newton, and Board President Joel Breitkopf, performer Gizel Jiménez, currently starring in Broadway’s Wicked, opened the Gala portion of the event with her impressive vocal talent with musical selections from Frozen and Little Women the Musical. Six talented Conservatory voice students, Nicole Cayales, Colin Dunsky, Tiana Kaga, Sophia Manalang, Leila Martinez, and Melissa Wang, sang with Tony Award-nominee Jennifer Damiano for a heart-felt rendition of “What a Wonderful World.” A special thank you to Conservatory voice faculty member Mary Elizabeth Poore for helping to prepare our students for this memorable performance.
As thirteen-year-old Conservatory scholarship student who sang at the Gala, Leila Martinez stated, “The Conservatory has really encouraged me.” She added, “I feel like being a singer would be really fun, because then I get to do what I love.”
“Our 90th Anniversary event was a smash success!” said Board President Joel Breitkopf, of Scarsdale. “Our community-based mission of helping children, adults, and Veterans with music scholarships and music therapy is getting stronger. Our talented teachers can bring out the potential in every student.”
Broadway star Jennifer Damiano also performed the Oscar-nominated Marc Shaiman song “Where the Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns. Two-time Tony Award-nominee Kate Baldwin’s voice soared in her performances of “Ribbons Down My Back” from Hello, Dolly! and “New York, New York.”
During his acceptance speech for the Conservatory’s Legacy Award, Marc Shaiman amazed the audience with an unexpected, special performance of a song he wrote for the Emmy-nominated TV show Smash with surprise guest, rising star Sarah Rose Shaiman.
“I have been an advocate for music education my whole life and that’s why it’s been an honor to support the Music Conservatory of Westchester. Playing music changed my life and I know it’s changed the lives of so many. The Gala was a beautiful night with great talent,” said emcee and WQXR radio host Elliott Forrest, of Rockland County. “That’s what happens when a solid music education meets opportunity!”
Robert Klein got the entire room laughing with a hilarious stand-up comedy set as part of his acceptance speech for the Conservatory’s Lifetime Award. He even played an excerpt of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony on harmonica! Both honorees received standing ovations for their decades of contributions to the performing arts.
Generosity was high among the more than 300 guests at the Conservatory’s annual benefit event. The White Plains nonprofit community music school raised funds for its Music Therapy Program for children and adults with disabilities, Healing Our Heroes music therapy program serving U.S. military veterans, and Scholarship Program providing financially-deserving students with the chance to achieve their musical dreams.
The Music Conservatory of Westchester was founded in 1929 by a group of community members and renowned artists. Today, the Conservatory provides the extraordinary benefits of music to all in our community, from absolute beginners to advanced artists, with one-on-one instruction, performing ensembles, theory, composition, early childhood classes, lifelong learning for adults, and free community performances, serving 2,800 students each year from 4 months to over 80 years old. As a not-for-profit organization, the Conservatory is dedicated to serving the community and reaching out to those who would not otherwise have access. Our Scholarship Program provides tuition assistance for financially deserving students. The Music Therapy Institute brings music into the lives of 2,000 children and adults with disabilities each year through on-site and outreach programs. Healing Our Heroes offers military veterans a specialized music therapy program to help with recovery after their service. The Conservatory has inspired generations of students, and contributed to a vibrant musical life in the county, the region, and beyond. www.musicconservatory.org