Thursday, May 14, 2015

It was a beautiful evening, too

The dinner table last night for an "Evening of Music" to honor the legacy of Maestro Lorin Maazel and to benefit the 2015 Castleton Festival. 10:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, May 14, 2015. Another beautiful summer-like day, yesterday in New York.

It was a beautiful evening too when I went down to the Pierre to a dinner hosted by the Bachman-Strauss Dystonia & Parkinson Foundation and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research; and honoring Bonnie Strauss.  They were celebrating the alliance between the two foundations.

Dr. Susan Bressman with her friend and patient Bonnie Strauss.
I had been invited by Bonnie Strauss who created the foundation and who has recently forged the alliance with Michael J. Fox’s foundation. I’ve been to the ballroom of the Pierre many times. I never saw it as crowded as it was last night. Packed with tables and every table packed. Michael Bloomberg was there, as was Michael J. Fox. They were at Mrs. Strauss’ table. Mr. Bloomberg’s foundation underwrote the evening. He has been a supporter of Bonnie’s foundation since its inception. He is an old friend of Bonnie and her husband Tom Strauss. The two men worked together at Salomon Brothers early on in their careers and have remained good friends ever since.

Dystonia. You’ve never heard of it, maybe?  Even worse, it is very difficult to diagnose the early symptoms. It affects people of all ages including small children. Because it is a neurological condition, it can ruin people’s lives. It is also an enormous burden for children who are afflicted with it to grow up with. That is one of the things that Bonnie and her associates and contributors/ supporters, are dealing with.

Bonnie has lived with her most of her adult life. She contracted it after her second pregnancy. (She has three children.) When she told her father about her diagnosis, he told her she could do one of two things: Nothing; or Something. If she wanted to do Something, he advised, she could seek solutions for herself and also for others.
Jake Silverman, namesake from the Jake's Ride for Dystonia Research that has raised $2 million for the research. Jake was diagnosed at age 11 and is now finishing his freshman year at American University.
She was close to her father and respected his thoughts. She took his advice. She started the foundation. In the past 20 years she and her friends and co-workers at the foundation have raised $36 million for research on Dystonia. Her personal physician, Dr. Susan Bressman told the guests last night that since the foundation’s establishment, they have made great strides in their work for find a cure including identifying the gene at the root of it.

Today there are four Bachmann Strauss Dystonia Centers at Beth Israel Mount Sinai here in New York, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, at UC San Francisco, and at the University of Florida. Most of the millions they’ve raised as gone for research grants.
Todd Sherer PhD, CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, and Michael J. Fox.
The evening’s host was Willie Geist. They honored The Silverman Family Nancy and Jeff -- whose son Jake was diagnosed when he was ten. Young Jake is now at American University.  Jake spoke about his condition and how when he was finally diagnosed, he had deep brain stimulation surgery at Mass General that restored his quality of life.

His parents were determined after that to help others with the condition and connected with the Foundation. Jeff Silverman joined the foundation’s board and young Jake became a spokesman for it. The Silvermans with dedicated neighbors and close friends also organized a cycling event called Jake’s Ride for Dystonia Research. The Ride has raised $2 million for Dystonia Research also.
Michael Bloomberg speaking about his longtime friends Bonnie and Tom Strauss before presenting each an award.
They also honored Xandra O. Breakefield, PhD with the inaugural Prize for Excellence in Dystonia Research.  Dr. Breakefield at Harvard Medical School. They also honored Ted Dawson MD, PhD  professor of Neurodegenerative Diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Michael Bloomberg announced that there was a “secret” honoree – an award for someone in the room who was unaware of it – Tom Strauss, the founder’s husband. Mr. Bloomberg also presented the same silver tray to Mrs. Strauss. Then Michael J. Fox was also honored.

This was an evening of speeches in the crowded ballroom. Unlike many such evenings where the guests’ table conversations make it impossible to hear the speeches from the podium, the several hundred guests last night all listened attentively. Long ago Bonnie Strauss, brave courageous and dependable, had taken her father’s advice and did Something good and big not only for herself but for many many others.
Tom Strauss surprised at hearing of his award, speaking of his partner in this endeavor, his wife Bonnie.
While over at the Metropolitan Club, Deitlinde Turban Maazel and Daisy Soros hosted an "Evening of Music" to honor the legacy of Maestro Lorin Maazel and to benefit the 2015 Castleton Festival. Alec Baldwin, Oscar Yao, Sherrill Milnes, Vale Rideout, and some rising stars of the Castleton Festival joined in the celebration, which included a moving tribute film, a wonderful musical program introduced by Mr. Baldwin and hosted by Mr. Milnes, and a formal dinner on the third floor of the Club.

Honorary Chair, Daisy Soros.
The Castleton Festival, which premiered in 2009, was founded by the late Maestro Lorin Maazel and his wife Dietlinde Turban Maazel to bring classical music, theatre and opera to the rolling hills of Rappahannock County, Virginia. The Castleton Festival has grown to become a world-class performance venue and an unparalleled training and mentoring program for emerging opera stars, instrumentalists, and conductors.

The Festival's seventh season will take place July 2-August 2, 2015. The 2015 program will showcase Castleton's rising stars alongside world-renowned artists in new productions of Gounod's Roméo et Juliette (Romeo and Juliet), a new production of Ravel's L'heure espagnole (The Spanish Hour), a world premiere of Derrick Wang's comic opera Scalia/Ginsburg and a Castleton production of Thornton Wilder's classic play Our Town. Jazz at Lincoln Center, in conjunction with JALC founder Wynton Marsalis, is hosting a summer Jazz Academy residency for high school musicians, who will also present four concerts at Castleton from July 19-August 2. For more information, click here.
Alec Baldwin opens the evening.
The musical program.
Sherrill Milnes, Deitlinde Turban Maazel, and Hilaria and Alec Baldwin.
Davone Tines (bass-baritone), Stephen Saharic (baritone), Eric Silberger (violin), Oscar Yao, Cristin Colvin (soprano), Sherrill Milnes, Deitlinde Turban Maazel, and Vale Rideout (tenor).
Michael Albaugh and Christopher Wall, Chairman. Pianist Tzu-Hwa Ho and bass-baritone Eduardo Chama.
Dinner following the musical program.
Catching up. More than 200 art-loving supporters celebrated the SCO/Family Dynamics 5th Annual Art Auction & Cocktail Party two weeks ago Tuesday at Site/109 in Manhattan. The successful sale of 26 pieces of artwork by local and nationally-renowned raised critical funds for SCO/Family Dynamics’ after-school art programming, which serves hundreds of children and teens in high-need communities throughout Central Brooklyn.

Contributing artists included: Honorary Artist Chair Harif Guzman, as well as Ryan Keeley, Richard Phillips, Alison Jackson, Ron Diorio, Robert Szot, Deborah Brown, Erik Parker, Clayton Calvert, Andrew Fladeboe, Eric Demarchelier, Patricia Avellan, Ashley Woodson Bailey, Georgia Elrod, J Grabowski, Ann Jackson, Richard Jacobs, Anthony E. Kieren, Glenn Paul Smith, Ross Watts and Brian Pearson.
Interim Executive Director Douglas O’Dell said: “Art matters greatly, because students in many low-income NYC neighborhoods receive little or no arts education. It offers our young people a rich exposure to creativity – a critical doorway to dreaming and self-expression.”

The event was co-chaired by longtime Family Dynamics supporters Jeremy FitzGerald and Joni Grossman, with famed contemporary artist, Harif Guzman, serving as this year’s Honorary Artist Chair.  Previous Honorary Artist Chairs for the Auction have included Julian Schnabel in 2011, Dustin Yellin in 2012, Donald Sultan in 2013, and Erik Parker in 2014.
Brooke Perry with Honorary Artist Chair Harif Guzman.
Family Dynamics is a program of SCO Family of Services. It is committed to protecting children and strengthening families. Based in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick and Brownsville, Brooklyn, Family Dynamics serves 5,000 children, youth and community members at nine locations throughout Central Brooklyn with programs including after-school and summer school activities, as well as workforce readiness, youth mentoring, music, recreation and the arts.

SCO Family of Services provides human services for 60,000 children, youth, families and adults each year in New York City and on Long Island. For more info, go to
Committee member Alex Alger with contributing artist Robert Szot.
Douglas O'Dell, Interim Executive Director, SCO Family of Services.
Dolly and Jack Geary of Geary Gallery with Elizabeth Bradley.
Contributing artist Ryan Keeley and Committee member Natasha Prince.
Peter Ginsberg and event Co-Chair Jeremy FitzGerald.
Scott Grossman, event Co-Chair Joni Grossman, Committee member Nancy McCormick, and Kyle Herman.
Eden Williams, Kristin Mirsepahi, and Julia Humphreys.
Governing Body Members Antonio Ocasio and Sharon Zambrelli with Michael Zambrelli.