Apollo Makes History Again

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The World Famous Apollo in New York City made history yet again on May 5th, when The King Maker Foundation in association with The New York City Symphony presented The Inaugural Harlem Cultural and Scholarship Fund Benefit Concert.  And what more perfect venue to put on such an historic and splendid production, displaying the accomplishments of the young, gifted and Black, multi-cultural and magnificent,  than the World Famous Apollo – “A place where thousands of young artists have stepped out into the spotlight and launched their careers. A place ‘where stars are born and legends are made’", www.apollo.com .  The Harlem School of the Arts is the first recipient of the Scholarship.

At the direction of internationally acclaimed conductor, David Eaton, it was a night of breathtaking performances by the young students of The Harlem School of the Arts accompanied and mentored by the astounding New York City Symphony Orchestra.  Delightful 12 year old violinist, Lakisha Gonsalves, a student of The Harlem School of the Arts, adorned in an angelic white above-the-ankle party formal, mesmerized her audience with the innocent chirping and melodic whispers of her instrument, while making J.B. Accolay’s so intricate Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, seem so easy and generated tears from her adoring audience, commanding a standing ovation. 17 year old Clifford Jones’ (also a student of Harlem School of the Arts) piano solo, Liszt’s Trois Etudes de Concert, enchanted us all.  All of the young artists were absolutely brilliant. It is no question that these young people worked incredibly hard to make this a memorable night for us all.

David Eaton’s approach to the young aspiring musicians’ learning experience, which was to blend them right in with the accomplished New York City Symphony professionals, is most admirable and inspiring.  The students were given the opportunity to sit in with the New York City Symphony Orchestra -- one of the most revered orchestras in the world --not only on the night of the performance, but even during weeks of rehearsal.  This gave the students a chance to experience what it is like to work in the professional environment as a seasoned musician.  I applaud David Eaton and The New York City Symphony for their graciousness and generosity in helping to develop our young.  You can’t help but love David Eaton for his genuineness, charm and charisma – Oh!  Did I mention he is an absolutely brilliant and captivating conductor, as well?

Duke Ellington’s legendary jazz classic, Sophisticated Lady was entrusted to 15 year old Melvin Bryson (saxophone) who, to my complete amazement, brought a surprising degree of spirit and emotional richness to the piece (for someone so young).  The Duke Ellington classic was ingeniously arranged by Kelvyn Bell, Director of The Harlem School of the Arts, who with the divine accompaniment of the New York City Symphony and The Harlem School of the Arts Jazz Ensemble, brought it home by dexterously emerging into a 6/8 syncopation.  I had the opportunity to chat with Mr. Bell since the stunning performance and I asked him how someone so young (referring to young Melvin Bryson) could play with such unmitigated feeling.  Mr. Bell shared, “Improvisation is a science.  It’s not just unexpected mental emotion.  It is mental, emotional, physical and intuitive.  This is the kind of thing we teach our students at The Harlem School of the Arts.â€? 

“The Harlem School of the Arts has been empowering children through the arts since 1964.  It was founded by world-renowned soprano, Dorothy Maynor in a Harlem church and has since grown to enrich the lives of over 2000 students annually.  Providing beginning to advanced instruction in Dance, Music, Theatre and the Visual Arts from preschool students to young adults, children come to The Harlem School of the Arts from Harlem and throughout the tri-state area to learn, express and discover themselves in and through the arts.â€?  The Harlem School of the Arts

Laleh and Raoul Joseph brought tears and a standing ovation to the Apollo with their moving rendition of Julie Gold’s From a Distance, arranged by David Eaton with the beautiful accompaniment of The New York City Symphony together with the Harlem School of the Arts String Ensemble.

David Bratton and Spirit of Praise also gave an exhilarating and inspiring performance accompanied by a soulful horn section that raised the roof off the Apollo! A Time to Dance – Second Prize Winner of the 2005 Gospel Explosion was phenomenal.  Send Judah First Step Team from The Riverside Church – First Prize Winner of the 2005 Gospel Explosion were exciting and fresh.  Psalmstress, Jennifer Miller sang beautifully.   The Caribbean Steel Band is a promising group.

Internationally acclaimed performer, Mzuri was extraordinary in her emotional and heart wrenching performance of Still I Rise. All of these amazing performances were part of an initiative to raise money for The Harlem School of the Arts. With the hard work, dedication and compassion of the Harlem Cultural and Scholarship Fund, the Harlem School of the Arts was presented with a check for $10,000 that evening by The Harlem Cultural and Scholarship Fund.

“The Harlem Cultural and Scholarship Fund endeavors to support individuals and organizations dedicated to the pursuit of academic and artistic development in the Harlem community. This endeavor aims to provide a significant opportunity for students and young people in the Harlem community to develop their skills and showcase their talents and abilities.  The Fund is comprised of various artists from the New York City Symphony and a cross section of clergy, business leaders and other distinguished New Yorkers.â€?  Barfield Public Relations, Inc.

Former United States President Bill Clinton stated in a letter supporting the Harlem Cultural and Scholarship Fund and The Harlem School of the Arts, “When we introduce our children to the power and beauty of the arts, we help them to unlock their imaginations, express themselves creatively, think critically, and understand firsthand the sense of reward that comes from disciplined effort.�

Mayor Bloomberg also gave his best wishes for continued success in support of the Harlem Cultural and Scholarship Fund and The Harlem School of the Arts.

Congressman Charles Rangel also sent a warm letter of support stating, “Please know that you can continue to count on my strong support.�

Presenting the $10,000 award to Harlem School of the Arts were (see photo):
Mr. William Terry, CEO, The Harlem School of the Arts
Ms. Lakeshia Gonsalves, Student, HSA
Ms. Michelle Walker, Representing Concert Co-Chair, Rev. Wyatt T. Walker
Ms. Sharon Pasha, Representing Concert Co-Chair, Iman Izak-El Pasha
Ms. Lucille McEwen, CEO, Concert Co-Chair
Sheikh Omar Saleem Abu-Namous, Concert Co-Chair
Ms.Joy Theriot
Bishop Thomas In-Hoi Lee, Chair, Harlem Cultural and Scholarship Committee

Sponsors also included City National Bank, True World Marine, True World Foods Inc and The New Yorker Hotel.

The next highly anticipated production will take place in September.

I applaud all of these great humanitarians for helping to make dreams come true for our young.

The Harlem School of the Arts
645 St. Nicholas Ave.
New York, NY 10030

For more information or tax deductible donation visit www.harlemculturalfund.org

Brenda Jeanne Wyche, Advocating for Solutions and Results ©2006, is Special Correspondent for The Black Star News and CEO of Winning Strategies & Associates, a Public Relations company in New York City.  Contact brenda@blackstarnews.com

To subscribe to or advertise in New York’s leading Pan African weekly investigative newspaper please call (212) 481-7745 or send a note to Milton@blackstarnews.com


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