Benefit For Musical Arts Institute Of Chicago

Arranged, organized, and carried off like a Hollywood superstar gala, we celebrated and raised money for a two-year old musical arts school for kids. It was beautiful.

When Mike Manson, the school’s director, who plays bass in George Duke’s band, asked me to sing at a fundraiser “for his music school,” I imagined a few kids in a church basement with a scrambled assortment of instruments and a couple of teachers showing them how to play without squeaking. If my figures are right, the freshmen class at the University Of Illinois – Chicago Music School would have approximately 200 students doing music studies. This new school, in its short run, is serving around 130 students. That’s excellent service.

The fundraiser, far from being in a little church basement, was held in a beautiful performing arts auditorium at the University of Illinois Forum.

Lana Manson and staff organized a reception that resembled a red carpet event so that the friends of the institute, and especially their donors, could meet each other and say, “hello,” to me, Gerald Albright, Mike Manson, and the other presenters.

As we walked into the beautiful open foyer of the Forum, we were treated to the sound of a string section from the Institute, about 10 bright and shining faces drawing bows across strings. That’s a lot of kids studying violin and classical music. At any institute that’s a lot of students. And on this occasion, wearing a white shirt and dark slacks, perfect ladies and gentleman. Don’t ya love it?

Mike Manson took the mic, and made remarks at this reception, and made me do the same. It was obvious that everybody here appreciated this special moment where donors and friends could shake hands and hug and congratulate each other.

Mike’s 12-piece band is cookin’. We did an afternoon of rehearsing on the day before and hit the stage burnin’. Saxophone legend Gerald Albright had my own manager oohing and aahing about things that he played. And I did all my “hits,” including a hot new arrangement of, “Sticky Wicket.” Thank you Joe Turano for coming with me and playing in the horns section, and helping me rehearse. You helped make the stuff electrifying.

The audience knew this was something special, and “gave it up” for every performance.

I want to add my congratulations and thanks to all those people recognized by the board for their special contributions to the school and this evening.

Dear Mike and Lana, this was wonderful! Call me again.



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