Charlotte Concerts celebrated its 85th season of bringing national and international musical performances to Charlotte during the Stompin’ at the Savoy Jazz Ball benefit gala on Feb. 21 at Myers Park Country Club. The jazz theme was chosen because in 1930, when the group first formed, jazz music was the rage. And in keeping with the theme, the nonprofit’s next concert, Friday at Halton Theater, is The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra performing a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald (details: www.charlotteconcerts.org).
The music series is the heart of Charlotte Concerts, but its soul is the money it raises to support music education in Mecklenburg County. Last year, it raised more than $100,000 for projects including underwriting all expenses for the CMS Middle School Honor Orchestra, the CMS High School Honor Band and Honor Chorus; and presented new instruments to underserved students in middle and high schools.
Ball chair Pam Furr, in a gold Jenny Packham gown, told guests why she and her husband, David, support the group. “Charlotte Concerts gave him a French horn 43 years ago, and it taught him responsibility, self-confidence and teamwork. He turned out pretty well, thanks to that French horn.”
Students from the Jami Masters School of Dance entertained with a dance medley, choreographed by Bo Broadwell, celebrating the history of jazz. After an energetic live auction led by WCNC weather anchor Larry Sprinkle, guests danced to music from the Savoy Jazz Orchestra. If everyone was light on their feet, it may have been because their pockets were empty: Sprinkle had them in a frenzy of bidding wars on items ranging from a stay at a Montana ranch to a private dinner for 30 from Porcupine Provisions with music from pianist Paul Nitsch and violinist Peter deVries.
One of the night’s most special moments was a tribute to longtime Charlotte Concerts supporters Carolyn and Sam McMahon. In his remarks, Sam credited his wife for taking him to his first classical music concert years ago and opening him up to the fact that music is a gift everyone should be able to enjoy. The dedicated couple have been instrumental in keeping the mission of Charlotte Concerts going strong.