By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Conservatory of Music held its Red Hot Winter Gala at Roulette on Atlantic Avenue on Thursday night with food, dancing and music to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the conservatory's Music Partners program.
There were many members of the conservatory and their friends on hand as well as some local politicians to support the program that has brought music education to nearly 5,000 people in more than 30 public schools and senior centers in Brooklyn and Queens.
“We spend a lot of time telling families, young people and adults about the importance of eating healthy,” said Borough President Eric Adams, the gala’s honorary chair. “Food nourishes our body, and art nourishes our spirit. There are people that are malnourished and going through a spiritual obesity. We can show the entire city how Brooklyn will become the cultural and artistic mecca of the universe.”
“That's the goal and it's not to do it in certain districts. We can have a Brownsville cultural district and a Bay Ridge cultural district, and the artistic spirit will flow through the veins of the entire borough.”
Music was provided by Arturo O’Farrill and his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. The mistress of ceremonies was 106.7 Lite FM’s Helen Little. Co-chairs were Florence Hutner and Phyllis White Thorne. The conservatory’s Executive Director Karen Geer and Board Chair Joel S. Kress had the biggest hand in putting the gala together.
“I can trace being a musician all the way back to fourth grade, when I was buzzing a mouthpiece in band class,” Geer said. “I didn't know it them, but that time transformed my entire life. It was in fourth grade when my trajectory took off. This is what our music partners try to do every day. They transform lives through music education.”
Janis Winehouse, from the Amy Winehouse Foundation, was on hand to donate $50,000 to the conservatory.
Awards were given out to Grammy-winner and children’s musician Dan Zanes, philanthropists Jerri and Tom Mayer, Music Partners Program Director Dorothy Savitch, as well as City National Bank and the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation.
“I look at the conservatory, and I think about the subway platforms under the Barclays Center,” Zanes said. “I think about who is coming through the door at the gala, and I look forward to the day where the conservatory and the subway platform at the Barclays Center look one and the same.”
Savitch spoke about the community needs that the conservatory’s work provides.
“Music education and music scholarship are diminishing in New York City,” Savitch said. “Many schools and community-based organizations can no longer fund any kind of music education for their students. The conservatory is in a unique position to make this incredible bridge and tapestry in the community. Through our programs, we have built a bridge that you don't see at a university or at schools anymore.“
While the conservatory gave out awards to people who have contributed to its success, all of the honorees spoke about the great work it does and were simply glad to have helped out.
“Before we started with the conservatory, the instruments in our school, if they existed, were in the janitor's closet or the basement and they were gathering dust,” said Michelle Neugebauer, executive director of the Cypress Hills Community Development Corporation. “Now we have beautiful music, young people who are mastering music and appreciating music. It's about their self-esteem and music skills. We look forward to another generation of talented young people.”