(BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ) -- Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts has announced that its annual gala on Thursday, April 22, 2021 raised over $208,000 to support community arts education and the life-changing music programs at the New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS), Paterson Music Project (PMP), and Performing Arts School (PAS).
Over 130 students performed five works by Academy Award-nominated composer John C. Debney at the virtual event, notably an arrangement of SpongeBob Out of Water for the NJYS Youth Symphony, Brass, and Percussion by PMP student Xander Baltuano, age 13. A prolific composer, Debney’s works include Hocus Pocus, Liar Liar, The Princess Diaries, Iron Man 2, Chicken Little, Bruce Almighty, Sin City, Elf, Passion of the Christ, Jingle Jangle, and Come Away amongst many others. He was honored as the recipient of the 2021 Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts Lifetime Achievement Award.
“We are extremely grateful to our exceptional honorees this year for their contribution to the industry and accepting our Lifetime Achievement and Education Awards,” said Peter H. Gistelinck, Executive Director at the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts. “And a big thanks goes as well to all of our amazing individual donors and corporate sponsors who were exceptionally generous. They stepped up to the plate to turn this event into a huge success to secure the continuation of our education programs in these challenging times.”
An inaugural Education Award, established to recognize significant contributions to arts education, was presented to Robert B. Morrison and Arts Ed NJ for their tireless advocacy of arts education in the Garden State of New Jersey. Recognized as one of the nation’s leading researchers and advocates for arts education, Morrison is the founder and CEO of Quadrant Research, the nation’s preeminent arts education data analytics and market research firm. He serves as the Director of Arts Ed NJ, the statewide arts education policy group for the state of New Jersey.
Said Debney, “What an amazing honor to receive the 2021 Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts Lifetime Achievement Award. I am so deeply humbled and grateful that my passion and love for music has touched so many people around the world. My heartfelt thank you to the Wharton board of trustees, students, faculty, and staff. Your hard work doesn't go unnoticed. To all the talented young musicians at the virtual gala, I am so proud of you all, and thank you for blessing me with your beautiful music and smiling faces."
Entitled “Messengers of Hope,” the annual gala celebrated Wharton’s thriving community of performing arts students and recognized the dedication of the young musicians who continue to share the gift of music despite the challenges faced during the global pandemic. To support the programs at Wharton Arts, including the New Jersey Youth Symphony, Paterson Music Project, and Performing Arts School, visit WhartonArtsGala.org.
The mission of Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts is to provide the highest quality performing arts education to a wide range of students in a supportive and inclusive environment, where striving for personal excellence inspires and connects those we teach to the communities we serve.
Wharton is New Jersey’s largest independent non-profit community performing arts education center serving over 1,200 students through a range of classes and ensembles including the 15 ensembles of the New Jersey Youth Symphony, which serve 500 students in grades 3 – 12 by audition. Beginning with Out of the Box Music and Pathways classes for young children, Wharton offers private lessons, group classes, and ensembles for all ages and all abilities at the Performing Arts School. With the belief in the positive and unifying influence of music and the performing arts and that arts education should be accessible to all people regardless of their ability to pay, Wharton teaches all instruments and voice and has a robust musical theater program. Based in Paterson, New Jersey, the Paterson Music Project is an El Sistema-inspired program of the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts that uses music as a vehicle for social change by empowering and inspiring children through the community experience of ensemble learning and playing.
Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts is located in Berkeley Heights, New Providence and Paterson, NJ and reaches students from 10 counties. All of Wharton’s extraordinary faculty members and conductors hold degrees in their teaching specialty and have been vetted and trained to enable our students to achieve their personal best.