Burbank Arts For All Foundation Celebrates a Successful Year At Gala

By On April 23, 2018

The Burbank Arts For All Foundation held its “Party for the Arts” gala fundraiser last Friday at the Globe Theatre at Universal Studios Hollywood, honoring NBCUniversal, Guy Myers, and Penny & Michael Zambrano.

The Burbank Arts For All Foundation’s Board of Directors. (Photo by © Ross A Benson)

It was also a celebration, and the capacity crowd of 450 had much to cheer about.  Since the Foundation’s founding in 2006, 19 Burbank school campuses have received 290 Foundation grants totaling more than $482,000.  More recently, the Foundation has partnered with BUSD to support BUSD’s schoolyear-long “Music Is Instrumental” campaign to repair or replace musical instruments in BUSD’s middle and high schools. “Music is Instrumental” has garnered wide community support, including the “1,000 for $100”, fundraising effort led by Linda Walmsley, Michael Cusumano and Michael Hastings.

A highlight of the night was the announcement from BUSD Board of Education Clerk, Dr. Armond Aghakhanian, that Fifth District LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger will make a $25,000 contribution to BUSD’s “Music Is Instrumental Campaign.”  With this contribution, the campaign is just $8,000 shy of its fundraising target of $120,000.  BAFA asked all the guests to save the date for BUSD’s “Music Is Instrumental” benefit concert at Burbank High on May 11th.

Since the beginning of BUSD’s Arts for All plan adoption, the opportunities for students to learn in creative and innovative ways has increased. In the last few years, Burbank Unified School District secured a $1.6 million State grant to support career technical education programs in areas like hospitality, nursing, finance, digital media and digital technology and theater and studio technical support—all areas offering plenty of job opportunities in the Southern California markets. Indeed, students have gone on to professional careers as studio technicians, after having run sound and light for high school productions on state-of-the-art equipment.

At the Gala, NBC4’s popular weathercaster and Master of Ceremonies Fritz Coleman opened with his trademark quipping about the Southern California weather.  “It’s in the sixties. We call it the polar vortex.”  Shifting to a more serious note he said, “In many schools, one of the first budgets to get trimmed is the arts budget.”  So Coleman was offering more than pro forma gratitude when he thanked the entertainment industry for making the Foundation gala “one of the most inspirational events of the year.” And small wonder.  According to the 2016 Otis report, one in four jobs in Los Angeles County is in the creative industries. 

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Foundation Board of Director Co-Chairs Jill Vander Borght and Tom Vice added their thanks and, in memory of the late Mayor Will Rogers, invited the audience “to think of a moment that makes you smile.” (They noted that Mayor Rogers had created more than his share of those moments.)

Stevenson 5th Grader Audrey Contreras ( Photo by © Ross A Benson)

The SPLASH party band added to the gala’s festive atmosphere, and, post-ceremonies, encouraged more than a few guests to dance away the evening.  But SPLASH was upstaged by two very special performers. Burroughs High student and composer Yoni Fogelman performed his original jazz piece “Free Trade”.  “I like to compose for film, so Burbank’s a good place to be,” said Fogelman, responding to Coleman’s question about his future plans. Stevenson Elementary student and songbird Audrey Contreras made the melodies soar.  She told Coleman that she had no favorite performer as yet. But it was already clear to him she was well on her way to finding her own voice.

Fogelman’s and Contreras’ performances reminded the audience of the ultimate reason for arts education: human flourishing rather than withering, talent blossoming rather than remaining undiscovered. Dedicated parents, teachers and corporate sponsors leverage each dollar a thousand fold with their countless hours of volunteer effort; hence, the Foundation’s annual tradition of honoring them.

Trena Pitchford presents Penny and Michael Zambrano The Champion of the Arts Award. ( Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Penny and Michael Zambrano are the Champion of the Arts Honorees for being constant, active arts education volunteers for over 15 years. “We love these kids and the arts,” said Penny. “And that’s why we volunteer,” added Michael.  Another impetus to volunteer came from their son and daughter, who loved participating in show choirs and dance teams.  (Next month their son will earn a CalArts BFA in dance and choreography.)

Early on, Michael and Penny promised themselves that they would support arts education for all Burbank students.  And so they held volunteer leadership roles in various fundraising and arts education programs for BUSD schools including Thomas Jefferson Elementary, John Muir Middle School, and Burbank High.  They routinely go the extra mile to support the Foundation, be it lending a hand or raising funds. As a family team, they’ve been a caring cheer squad for countless students. And the kids love them back.

Trena Pitchford presents Guy Myers his award (Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Guy Myers was the Arts for All Educator Honoree for the life-changing impact he has had on his Burroughs High theater students both personally and through his award-winning program. The California Educational Theatre Association awarded his program with Top Honors for “The Crucible” (2010), “Flowers for Algernon” (2015) and “The Laramie Project” (2018) as well as an Artistic Merit Award for “Peter and the Starcatcher” (2017).  Many of Myers’ students have received regional and national acting and production awards and have moved on to prestigious collegiate theatrical programs around the world. Recently, Myers has been instrumental in creating a musical theater program at Burroughs.

Myers wants his students “to be comfortable in their own skin.”  When people ask him how he connects with his students, he says that he “shows them that they have a unique and powerful story to share.”  He supports “students exploring and expressing their creativity that gives back to the world in a magical way,” A touch of magic was involved in Myers’ selection of Burroughs High.  After years of freelance work in high school and colleges as a guest artist, he drove past Burroughs one day and “decided that’s where he was going to teach drama.”

Host Fritz Coleman, NBC Vice President Scott Strobel is awarded by Trena Pitchford. ( Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Senior Vice President Operations Universal Studios Hollywood, Scott Strobl accepted the Patron of the Arts Award on behalf of NBCUniversal, which has a corporate commitment to giving back to the communities where their employees live and work. “This is our lifeblood!” exclaims Strobl, referring to the industry’s ongoing need for creative talent. “And a quality arts education truly changes these kids’ lives.” And Strobl knows this first hand as a Burbank resident with school-age children.

As one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies, NBCUniversal has been a source of tremendous support to the Foundation and to the Burbank community. It offers internship and other work-study programs for high school and college students, the better to nurture that crucial supply of talented people combining skill, imagination and a heaping measure of artistic talent.

Coleman continued to cajole contributions from the more-than-willing Foundation guests and egged on the competitive bidding for vacation getaways “Reba Las Vegas!”, ”Bourbon, Baseball, and Bluegrass”, “Escaping to the Big Easy” and more locally, the Geffen Playhouse and Hotel Bel-Air.  (There were dozens of tables’ worth of silent auction items as well.) Though the shekels are still being tallied, it’s clear the fundraising was successful. It needs to be.  About 60% of the Foundation’s revenue comes from its annual gala. The Foundation hopes to grow its fundraising in the next year with planned giving and donations from appreciated stock.

The BUSD School Board and Burbank City Council have supported the Foundation from its inception.  The County became a fan early on. The Foundation has allies at the State level as well.  “I love Burbank Arts For All!” proclaims State Senator Anthony Portatino. “We’re at a time when the State has failed to fully embrace arts funding. To see the community rallying behind the children and these arts programs is just awesome!” State Assembly Member Laura Friedman shares State Senator Portatino’s admiration for the Burbank community’s proactive stance. “Our economy is based on the arts, so investing in the arts is economic development,” she states. “But arts education transcends the economic,” she adds. “It gives young people the tools to deal with their emotions in a healthy way.”

One way or another, the Foundation and the Burbank community will maintain a vibrant arts education. “We want to serve the kids in Burbank even more and inspire Burbank to build the finest arts education program in California,” says Foundation Executive Director Trena Pitchford. That may well mean that Burbank will have one of the finest arts programs in the nation.

Want to learn more? Contact Trena Pitchford, Executive Director, at 818.736.5269 or trena@burbankartsforall.org.

To View additional pictures from this event go to this link:http://goo.gl/cNdrxn