Event Shatters Record; Nets $245,000 to Benefit Its Signature Programs
Records are meant to be broken. Last week, the Music Conservatory of Westchester reached an all-time high with $245,000 raised in net proceeds at its 16th Annual Golf & Tennis Classic, shattering last year’s record ($127,000) by nearly double – and that number will expand as donations continue to come in. The not-for-profit organization held the 16th incarnation of their premier fundraising event once again at Brae Burn Country Club in Purchase.
The June 26 event began with a round of golf and tennis followed by a celebratory awards dinner. This year’s entertainment was emceed by Tony Award nominee Constantine Maroulis and featured performances by fellow Tony nominees Robert Cuccioli and Mary Bridget Davies. Awards were presented to longtime Conservatory trustee and well-known attorney Laurence Keiser, entertainers and charitable couple Chazz and Gianna Palminteri, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darlene Love.
“This was the most successful event the Conservatory has had in the 22 years I’ve been here,” Executive Director Jean Newton said. “From start to finish, it was a triumph, and everyone had a great time!” She noted that it was the first time in its history that the Golf & Tennis Classic “sold out.” There were 120 golf players on the greens that day, and a 300-seat capacity ballroom filled for the entertainment that followed.
Newton said many factors contributed to this year’s success. First and foremost, the dedicated board of trustees helped ensure success. “They invited all their friends and colleagues to share in the festivities.” she said. “They truly love this organization and want to spread the word to everyone they know.”
The executive director, who resides in Edgemont, also noted that her staff worked “around the clock” to make sure every detail was taken care of and that everything would proceed without a hitch. “This event was seamless. I’m so grateful to our staff,” she said.
Lastly, Newton thanked everyone who came out to support the event, the “beautiful” club, and the show-stopping performers and honorees. The weather, she joked, also deserves some credit. “It was a gorgeous day,” she said.
Keiser received the first award of the night for his Distinguished Leadership. Keiser, a partner at the White Plains-based law firm of Stern Keiser & Panken, LLP, is currently the board’s vice president and has served since 2000. Last year’s honoree Rodd Berro, a longtime board member and past president, presented the award to Keiser. Berro’s speech emphasized his colleague’s dedication and hard work, which he does with modesty and humility, for love of the institution – not for the recognition. Following a poignant speech by Keiser, his son Ross, a former vocal student at the Conservatory, paid tribute to his dad with a special performance.
Chazz and Gianna Palminteri received the Conservatory’s Arts Achievement and Community Leadership Award for their extensive charitable work, their arts advocacy, and of course, their film credits. Chazz Palminteri in particular has over 50 film credits including Bullets Over Broadway (Oscar nomination), The Usual Suspects, and A Bronx Tale, for which he was the writer and co-star. In her acceptance speech Gianna stressed the importance of the arts, while Chazz drew on a line from his signature Tale (and a phrase from his own father) – “the saddest thing in life is wasted talent,” pointing out that the Conservatory ensures that no talent is left unfulfilled.
Music icon Darlene Love rounded out the evening by receiving the Conservatory’s Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Board member Nancy Goodman of Larchmont. Conservatory voice student Alice Cabral of Hawthorne was named the first recipient of the Darlene Love Vocal Scholarship. After many thank yous and before bidding adieu, Love ended her speech the same way that she did during her acceptance speech at the 2014 Academy Awards (she represented the forgotten voices featured in the winning documentary film 20 Feet From Stardom): “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,” she sang. As they did at the Dolby Theatre, the audience gave her a standing “O.”
The whole event deserves a standing ovation, according to Board President Joel Breitkopf. “The board is so grateful that we were able to get record-breaking support from families and the business community that will contribute mightily to our scholarships,” he said. “Our children, seniors and veterans are going to benefit by the tremendous success of our best golf and tennis outing ever.”
Proceeds of the event will support three programs that are the heart and soul of the Conservatory: its Music Education Program for students of all ages, its Music Therapy Program for students with disabilities, and its Healing Our Heroes Program for Military veterans. The Conservatory awards sliding-scale scholarships for low income students and full scholarship for military veterans to participate in these programs. Founded in 1929, the Conservatory has provided the extraordinary benefits of music to everyone in the community for nearly 90 years.