Legendary Disney composer Richard M. Sherman and Burbank music teacher Steven Hollis were honored Sunday evening, December 7, at the Education Through Music – Los Angeles’ Ninth Annual Benefit Gala. Held at the Skirball Cultural Center, Sherman and Hollis were presented with Shining Star awards, recognizing their contributions to music and music education over the years.
Students from Burbank’s Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School joined children from other elementary schools throughout Los Angeles that participate in ETM-LA music programs for a rousing rendition of “Let’s Go Fly A Kite,” with Hollis playing piano.
Sherman, the Academy Award-winning composer and lyricist, who, with his brother Robert, wrote the songs for many Disney films including Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Jungle Book and Winnie the Pooh. They also wrote scores and songs for many other productions, such as the enduring film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, starring Dick Van Dyke.
The Sherman Brothers also composed the most translated song in the world, “It’s A Small World (After All),” for the Disneyland theme park attraction.
“I felt very fortunate as a young man because of the fact that music was a part of the academic career,” commented Sherman. “Unfortunately today, we don’t have the funding we should have. I’m happy to know that Education Through Music-Los Angeles is now working constantly, bringing the wonderful gift of music to youngsters because it’s so vital – it’s so important.”
Sherman played a medley of several of his famous songs, peppered with anecdotes, including a story about how he met with Walt Disney in his office at the Burbank studios every Friday afternoon and they would talk about their projects. Every week, Sherman said, Disney would eventually look up towards the Burbank Verdugos and ask Sherman to “play it” – “Feed The Birds” – Disney’s favorite song.
“I think music is a unifier. It’s something that gives people a sense of teamwork,” Sherman continued. “They learn how glorious it is to hear the various parts blending together. It’s a wonderful exultation of the human spirit.”
Hollis teaches at three Burbank Unified School District sites: Roosevelt, McKinley and Edison. He works with over a 1000 students every week. Up until last year and the advent of additional funding for music programs, he taught close to 2000 BUSD students every week. While he teaches general music programs at McKinley and Edison, Hollis instructs the pilot ukelele program at Roosevelt Elementary.
Hollis points to the introduction of deaf and hard of hearing students into his school music classes, the implementation an integrated music, art, drama and dance curriculum for FAME (Fine Arts Methods in Education) and the development of a web site for engaged learning using Blues music and improvisation techniques as some of his most rewarding accomplishments.
A professional pianist for more than 35 years, Hollis has performed as a solo artist and a member of a 16-piece show band, playing alongside Marvin Hamlish, Smokey Robinson, The Gatlin Brothers and Joan Rivers. He holds degrees of Bachelor of Music Education in Vocal/Instrumental K-12 and Masters of Arts with a music curriculum emphasis.
Hollis has taught for nearly 20 years, mainly in the Chicago area. He has taught music for BUSD for the past six years. He also teaches over 30 students piano, voice, percussion, theory and guitar lessons from his studio on Olive Avenue in Burbank, Steve Hollis Music.
Honorary chairs of the gala included music education champions and celebrities such as Ellie Kemper, Ed Helms, John Debney, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Michael Feinstein, Michael Giacchino, Richard Kraft and Laura Engel, Christopher Lennertz, Alice and Leonard Maltin, Rickey Minor, Randy Spendlove and the Honorable Zev Yaroslavsky.
Other special presenters and performers featured were Josh Gad, (Actor/Singer, Olaf – Disney’s Frozen), Grammy Award-winning R&B/Pop Group All for One, Evelyn Halus, Karen Dotrice (Actress, Jane Banks – Mary Poppins) and Dr. Tom Kissinger, Assistant Superintendent of the Burbank Unified School District.
At the end of the evening, the Roosevelt Elementary School students joined Sherman onstage for an “It’s A Small World (After All)” sing-a-long with the audience.
Proceeds from the event benefit ETM-LA, a nonprofit organization provides music instruction and programs to more than 7000 children. The organization hopes to add another 1000 children to the tally by 2015.