The stars came out on Broadway on December 5th for The Salvation
Army Greater New York Division, 14-time Grammy Award-winning music
producer Phil Ramone, and the innovative music-education initiative for
children that carries both their names.
Valerie Simpson, part of
the legendary duo Ashford and Simpson and now a solo artist;
singer-songwriter-pianist Peter Cincotti; and the evening's headline
performer, the "Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin --- all of whom had
worked with Ramone during their careers --- performed on stage at the
Marriott Marquis in Times Square at The Salvation Army's 65th Annual
Gala which recognized the career and humanitarian work of Ramone, the
evening's recipient of The Salvation Army's "Pinnacle of Achievement
Award." Ramone is a partner with The Salvation Army in the creation of
The Salvation Army Phil Ramone Orchestra for Children, a music-education
program for children in underserved communities modeled after the
landmark Venezuelan social-movement-through-music initiative, "El
Now in its second year, the Orchestra serves 76 boys
and girls, all students from three public schools in East Harlem,
providing opportunities for learning and performing music. In addition
to music education, the program also serves its young participants by
teaching discipline, building self esteem, and encouraging leadership
Simpson's performance led off the tribute concert that
culminated the evening and featured renditions of "Reach Out and Touch
(Somebody's Hand)" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," two timeless
Motown classics Simpson wrote with her late husband, Nicholas Ashford.
Peter Cincotti's exhilarating performance at the piano included odes to
Billy Joel and Ray Charles, both Phil Ramone "alumni." Headline
performer Aretha Franklin got the audience clapping and swaying with two
of her most beloved signature tunes, "Chain of Fools" and "Respect."
All three artists gave their own spoken tributes to Ramone as well during their respective performances.
addition to Ramone, The Salvation Army also honored the late Robert M.
Frehse, Jr., former Executive Director of The Hearst Foundations and a
long-time humanitarian who helped establish The Salvation Army's Hearst
Endowment Fund for Family Strengthening and Preservation. Frehse's wife,
Dale, a member of The Salvation Army Greater New York and Westchester
Advisory Boards, accepted "The Community Service Award" on behalf of her
husband, along with other members the Frehse family, and Frank A.
Bennack, Jr., CEO of The Hearst Corporation.
during the Gala included Bob Martin for his work and leadership as
former Chairman of The Salvation Army Greater New York Advisory Board,
and NYPD Officer Lawrence DePrimo, whose selfless act of buying a pair
of boots for a shoeless man on the streets touched the hearts of New
Besides the honorees, other speakers at the Gala
included Commissioner Israel L. Gaither, Territorial Commander of The
Salvation Army Eastern Territory, who offered an uplifting Christmas
message; Lt. Colonel Guy D. Klemanski, Divisional Commander of The
Salvation Army Greater New York Division, who provided the audience with
a history of the Phil Ramone Orchestra and summary of The Salvation
Army's disaster-relief response to Hurricane Sandy; and Kenneth Burton,
Director of the Phil Ramone Orchestra, who talked about the impact of
the Orchestra program on the lives of the participating students,
several of whom came forward to give their own personal testimonies.
videos, one focusing on the Phil Ramone Orchestra, and the other on the
disaster-relief response to Hurricane Sandy, punctuated the depth of
The Salvation Army's work in the Greater New York area.
featured musical artists, the program also included music by The
Salvation Army's Greater New York Youth Band and Chorus, which performed
a medley of Christmas carols, including the program finale, "O Come All
Ye Faithful," led by Commissioner Eva D. Gaither, Territorial President
of Women's Ministries for The Salvation Army Eastern Territory.
New York Advisory Board and Gala Committee members Erin L. Esparza and
Marcia Larson served as MCs to open and close the program. Reverend Jeff
White of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church Downtown pronounced the
Invocation, while Rabbi Yamin Levy of the Orthodox Sephardic Community
of Great Neck and Kings Point, Long Island, gave the Benediction.
Salvation Army Greater New York Division's annual holiday Gala,
formerly a luncheon, began in the late 1940s and has evolved into a
much-anticipated staple of the New York City holiday season.