Get ready for a star-studded evening of entertainment on August 18, all to benefit the Steinway Society and its mission to help children in need take a seat at the piano.
One stage. One night. Thousands of deserving kids.
With an exciting array of artists including legendary bandleader Michael Andrew, Miss Jacqueline Jones, and vocalist Linda Cole presenting a tribute to her uncle Nat “King” Cole, the Steinway Society of Central Florida’s annual fundraiser for area youth promises to be an evening to remember this August.
Hosted by the Orlando Museum of Art, Divas With Michael Andrew in Concert will also highlight the music of Oviedo-Winter Springs Life editor and acclaimed pianist Michael Kramer. A former Steinway Society board member, Michael joins the ensemble with his Swing State Band, featuring Valerie Gillespie on saxophone and vocals.
“We are the house band for the evening,” says Michael. “My son Ben Kramer will join us on bass with Greg Parnell on drums.”
The Steinway Society’s annual concert raises funds to provide the gift of music to young children in economic need throughout Seminole and Orange counties.
“Music has done a lot for me in my life,” says Gary Grimes, the Society’s founder, who owns and operates the Steinway Piano Gallery in Altamonte Springs with his wife, Kathy. “It’s our way of giving back.”
The fundraising concert began as a collaborative effort six years ago when some of the Society’s board of directors – which included talented performers like the aforementioned Miss Jones and The Piano Lady Carol Stein – lent their considerable talents to make the concept a reality. Last year, when Carol’s schedule became too tight to participate, Michael Andrew graciously stepped in to headline the concert.
“We are so grateful for Michael Andrew and our board members, who love music and what it does for these kids,” says Gary. “For 12 years, our mission has been to nourish the musical knowledge and artistic talents of disadvantaged youth and provide an opportunity for young piano students to work toward a higher level of excellence in their schoolwork and personal lives.”
The Steinway Society of Central Florida is one of numerous such societies in the country that independently spread the joy and love of music to those who may never have the opportunity.
“Fingerprints never leave the lives we touch,” says Gary. “This gives them a better chance in life.”
Founded by Gary and Kathy in 2006, the Steinway Society manages a program designed to teach children about music and help them learn how to play the piano. Gary, who has been tickling the ivories for 75 years, says there are three facets that tie the program together each year: piano lessons, piano gifting, and in-school seminars.
Piano Lessons – The Society provides the teachers and pianos to deliver lessons to about 200 children a year. Piano labs are crafted at schools or community centers for hour-long sessions. In Seminole County, piano is taught at the East Altamonte branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs, Winter Springs Elementary School, and Casselberry Elementary. In Orange County, lessons are held at Callahan Neighborhood Center, Dr. James R. Smith Neighborhood Center, and Shiloh Baptist Church of Orlando, the latter of which is where the program began. Lessons are capped off with two recitals a year, one just before Christmas and another in May.
Piano Gifting – With the assistance of Helpful Hands, Inc., an Oviedo nonprofit organization that assists families and children, the Society donates 15 to 20 refurbished pianos to deserving children at gifting ceremonies held three times a year. The kids can be part of the Society’s lessons program or simply nominated by a teacher. “The pianos are loaned to them for three years,” says Carol Wonsavage, a Society board member. “If they are still taking lessons and are still interested, they get to keep the piano. It’s a relationship.”
In-school Seminars – Society volunteers visit 20 to 25 schools a year to conduct playful seminars at area elementary schools. Using projection screens, the 45-minute programs allow the students to watch the fingering of the pianist. The music ranges from Bach to ragtime.
In the 12 years the programs have been in place, more than 10,000 lessons have been taught and pianos worth a combined $400,000 gifted to selected children.
“The idea is to give these kids two to three years of piano and change the way they look at life,” explains Gary. “They may not all become great pianists, but they get to experience what music can do.”
Divas With Michael Andrew in Concert
Want More Information?
Sunday, August 18, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Orlando Museum of Art auditorium
2416 N. Mills Avenue, Orlando
Tickets are $75 ($65 for Steinway Society members) and $100 for reserved VIP seating.
Admission includes heavy hors d’oeuvres, cash bar, and silent auction.
To purchase tickets, visit SteinwaySocietyOrlando.com.
For additional information, please call 407-339-3771.