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Usdan Center Gala
08/05/2009 - By McKinley Ampitheater

Usdan Center Gala


Usdan Center For the Creative and Performing Arts (www.usdan.com), whose alumni include Natalie Portman and Mariah Carey, and which was named a 2009 ³Best Of² class or camp by TimeOutNY/Kids, NY Metro Parent and Long Island Press, honored violinist Rachel Lee with a Distinguished Young Artist Award at its annual Gala Concert on Wednesday August 5. The performance, preceded by a Patron Dinner, was presented at Usdan Center¹s McKinley Ampitheater, on its 200-acre campus at 185 Colonial Springs Road. The rest of the performance featured Usdan music, dance and theater students, as well as an exhibit by the visual arts department.

Gala guests included Broadway leading lights (Tony Award-winner Cady Huffman, Jose Llana of Rent and The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee, playwright Michele Lowe of String Of Pearls and The Smell Of the Kill); prominent philanthropists (John R. Bransfield Jr. of the Roslyn Savings Foundation, John and Kristin Miller, Mrs. Horace Hagedorn (her late husband created Miracle-Gro and The Hagedorn Foundation), local civic figures (Suffolk County Legislator Jon Cooper), and other figures from the arts (Lesley Friedman Rosenthal ¬ Vice President and General Counsel of Lincoln Center For the Performing Arts, choreographer Maurice Brandon Curry -Prince, Diana Ross tours, special Broadway events).

Usdan Center¹s Executive Director Dale Lewis said ³We are thrilled to present Usdan¹s highest award to Rachel Lee, a true Usdanite, one whose artistry is celebrated throughout the world. The Center was among Rachel¹s first presenters, and her loyalty to our students is unique. She has embraced a tradition of annual appearances at Usdan, and we welcome her back to receive this very special award.² A performance last year by the teenaged Rachel Lee caused the Chicago
Tribune to rave that the performer ³already commands an impressive musical profile ¬ her sound is luscious, her bow work has dazzling dexterity, and she pours out endless floods of ardent lyricism.² The young artist has already appeared as soloist with the Chicago Symphony, National Symphony, Seoul Philarmonic and Berlin Staatskapelle, and has given recitals at the Verbier Festival and the Louvre recital series in Paris. A favorite of Usdan students, she has performed at the Center for each of the past 10 years, beginning at age nine. In 2008 Rachel was named a ³Usdan Lifer² in celebration of her many performances there. Usdan Center has introduced the arts to more than 50,000 Tri-State Area children since its founding in 1968. The Center is open to all young people from age 6 to 18. No audition is needed for most programs ¬ rather, admission is based on an expression of interest in the arts. Each summer, 1,600 students are transported to the Center in air-conditioned buses each day. One-third of Usdan¹s students attend on scholarship. Although the mission of the Center is for every child to establish a relationship with the arts, the unique stimulation of the Center has caused many to go on to arts careers. Alumni include singers Jane Monheit and Mariah Carey, actresses Natalie Portman and Lisa Gay Hamilton, and members of major music, theater, and dance ensembles such as the Boston Pops and the New York City Ballet.

In addition to its regular programs, Usdan offers special opportunities for advanced high school-age performing and visual artists. These include Music Staff Internships, a Summer Ballet Intensive, and a year-round program of immersion in the visual arts for selected high school students, the Usdan Honors Art Collective. The Collective, open to talented art students in grades 9 to 11, begins at Usdan Center during the summer, and continues through the following May with bi-weekly meetings at Usdan, and at New York¹s great museums and galleries.

Photos: Photos by Elaine Ubiña

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