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ETM Rocks at Children’s Benefit Gala

On May 1, ETM and over 200 guests honored Dr. Louis E. Bisogni at the 2012 Children’s Benefit at the Grand Hyatt in midtown Manhattan.  This year’s gala featured performances by ETM partner school students, the cast from Broadway’s hit musical Million Dollar Quartet, and former New York Yankee Bernie Williams.

A longtime supporter of ETM, Dr. Bisogni is an accomplished chiropractor, and he also studied percussion starting at the age of 12 and continues to play today.  ETM Executive Director Katherine Damkohler noted, "Louis’s life is a testament to how music can shape the course of one’s career, and we are thrilled to celebrate his diverse accomplishments tonight.  His passions for music and natural healing make him an ideal role model for our aspiring students."  Those students were well-represented throughout the evening, as over 80 students performed from four ETM partner schools: M.S. 180- Dr. Daniel Hale Williams Middle School, M.S. 529- One World Middle School, St. Anselm School, and St. Athanasius School.

Guests were welcomed by a middle school string orchestra in the entrance hall, and duos and trios of jazz band students played during the cocktail hour and silent auction.  On the main stage, before dinner, the cast of Million Dollar Quartet transported the crowd back to 1956 when Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley came together in Memphis, and their energetic medley got the guests up and dancing between the tables.  Guitar ensemble students from St. Anselm School performed alongside the professionals, as parents and other students cheered and danced from the back of the room.

ETM Board Member and Event Co-Chair Rick Dobbis thanked the show’s cast and crew, pointing out, "These actors took the time to personally rehearse with our students after a show; they went above and beyond, and they gave these kids an incredible experience that they will long remember."

A multi-school chorus captivated the audience with a 1950s medley featuring the night’s honoree, Dr. Bisogni, on drumset.  The students’ energy and enthusiasm, and the quality of their performances, inspired both the audience members and the performers themselves.  Patricia Wynne, principal of M.S. 529, a school in its first year of partnership with ETM, shared that one of her students, "who has regularly [cut school] and was thinking of joining a gang a few months back sang his heart out on that stage while his mother cried next to me. As he left Tuesday evening with her he asked me, ‘When are we doing that again, Ms. Wynne?’ … I could go on and on about the fire that was sparked in every student on Tuesday.  I cannot thank you enough."

Sara Friedlander of Christie’s led a live auction, with guests bidding on items including visits to a Hollywood set, the 2012 World Series, and the 2012 Masters Golf Tournament.  ETM Board Chairman Michael Schaefer thanked the crowd: "Your presence here tonight will make a real difference in the lives of our students.  Your contributions will translate into sheet music for our teachers, instruments for our ensembles, and priceless musical experiences for each student involved in ETM’s program."

The night also included the unveiling of ETM’s new logo by ETM Board Member and Event Co-Chair Heather Hanssen, who thanked the branding specialists at the creative agency Gabardine.  (As noted on page 1, ETM will be launching a rebranded website this summer.)

After dinner, former New York Yankee Bernie Williams and the Gil Parris Quartet took the stage to round out the evening with some jazz.  Between songs, the four-time World Series winner and five-time All-Star centerfielder took a moment to speak to the audience about the significance of music in his life.

Honoree Dr. Bisogni urged the crowd to take action: "If I can be a small advocate, and each of you can be small advocates, we can make a change in our nation’s scholastic culture and we can do truly great things for children in need."

Guests left the evening sated by delicious food, great company, and the knowledge that their contributions made a difference in the lives of inner-city children.

ETM thanks all of the sponsors, donors, guests, partner school principals, music teachers, students, staff members and volunteers for their time, effort and support in making the event a success, and we extend special thanks to Dr. Louis Bisogni, Rick Dobbis, Heather Hanssen, John McCoy, Robin Steinthal, and Bernie Williams.