Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Gift Begins with Local Performers

May 7 Talent Showcase benefit will save children’s lives

On Saturday, May 7, 15 local performers will showcase their talents to help the Rotary and Interact Clubs of the Caldwells raise money for a pediatric cardiology surgical mission. Tickets are available at the West Caldwell Public Library, on line at, or at the door. The curtain goes up at 7; doors will open at 6. Tickets are $10 and $7 for students. Children 5 and under will be admitted free.

Rotary chose to host the Talent Showcase as a way to involve the community, giving people an opportunity to directly help save the lives of children through the Gift of Life program, whether by donating their talent or attending the show. All proceeds from the event will be used to sponsor heart surgeries for children who would otherwise not have access to the medical care they need to survive.

Since 1974, Gift of Life is credited with saving over 11,000 lives, including 18 children in the Dominican Republic whose surgeries were sponsored by the Rotary Club of the Caldwells in 2007. The club hopes to raise enough money through the support of the community to save approximately 25 children.

The response to the club’s call for auditions was tremendous, attracting a diverse group of talented performing artists, both established and emerging. The showcase will be a wonderful mix of rock, pop, gospel, Broadway and classical music, with some magic and a few surprises mixed in. The show will be enjoyed by people of all ages and is a special way for families to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Recording artist Stephanie White said that her band, The Pfilth Harmonic, is “always eager to be part of local efforts for a greater cause. These children need help and what better way to unite and educate people than through music.” Garrett Bell agrees, “We are here to support the kids through music”. Bell and his GNGR band mates Jason Inguagiato, Owen Daly-Smith and Aidan O’Connor will bring a mix of punk, rock, alternative and pop to the stage.

Many of these artists have donated their talent for other causes in which they believe over the years. Don’t Look Back’s members Bobby Norgard. Olivia Polci, Ryan Peter, Danny Spadaro and Patrick Wu, have helped raise money for the people of Darfur and The Children’s Specialized Hospital. Spadaro and Erik Parian, winner of the “Rutgers Idol” competition, will also perform as Cousins Live. And, Patrick Wu will give us a taste of his award winning beatboxing. “Every human being deserves the gift of life, “ said Wu. “Everyone, no matter where they come from, should have the opportunity to have their wishes realized and their dreams come true.”

When he’s not performing off-Broadway, for Fortune 500 companies or groups like Chicago and Earth, Wind and Fire, professional magician David Corsaro donates his talent to Habitat for Humanity and the Lions Club. Nicole Garamella, who volunteers regularly at West Caldwell Handicap Canteens and will grace the stage with a selection from Phantom of the Opera, explains “To actually make a difference in someone’s heart makes me proud of the gift that God has given me.” Accomplished gospel artist, Johnnie Jones, agrees, “By the grace of God, I am able to help these young people experience that gift of life, that they may prosper and be in good health, even as their souls prosper. ”

The audience will also be treated to performances by veteran artists of all genres. Barbershop and acappella singer Anthony Procino has performed with the Morris Music Men, Dapper Dans, and The New Jersey Connection. After six years with the US Navy Band, Pianist Cass Gilbert performed with Jimmy Santo's Latin Band, The Hecklers, The Silver Starlite Orchestra and Tune Toppers. Staci Beth Block, a member of the Bergen County Players, has years of theater performances in NYC and NJ to her credit and will give us a taste of cabaret. Professional actor Alex Oleksij has spent over twenty years on stage in a variety of musicals. “Children are our greatest natural resource,” said Oleksij. “Rotary and Gift of Life should be saluted and supported in their ongoing efforts to give children the full, rich lives they deserve.”

A diverse group of solo performances will include guitarist and music instructor Mark Caccioppoli who can be enjoyed at local coffee houses or his regular “Sunday Gig” at Notre Dame Church. Lenny Meranus, known as “Livingston Leo” to members of his band, has toured both locally and with international acts such as Los Lobos. Leon Richardson, who has multiple concert choirs, swing choruses and musicals to his credit, will bring soulful R&B to the stage. We’ll also hear an acoustic performance by David Ciaro, drummer for Goth-Punk outfit, Blackpool, and the band, It Ain’t Pretty, who can be seen at bars up and down the NJ coast. And, Jordan Whiting, an extremely talented fifth grader from Washington School, will impress us with a Hayden piano concerto.

Rotary members have been extremely moved by the outpouring of support from these artists, local business sponsors such as The Animal Emergency and Referral Center and North American Eagle Construction, and members of the community. They have adopted the motto “The Gift Begins Here…with YOU” because the ability to save a child is within everyone’s reach.

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