Bronx Arts set for gala

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It’s been more than four decades since the Bronx Arts Ensemble first came together to perform for the community, and the group is celebrating next Wednesday with its Summer Solstice Gala. 

The evening, a fundraiser for the group’s performances and arts education programs, includes not only a light dinner, but also live music performed by the core members of BAE’s woodwind quintet as well as Young Bronx Artist competition winner Markus Amponsah.

The event also celebrates three members of the ensemble’s community — Dr. E. Heidi Jerome, Dante Albertie and Brandon Muccino. 

Jerome, an associate professor of anesthesiology for pediatric patients at Columbia University, was the ensemble’s board chair since 2013. 

“She’s a very focused and stealth supporter,” ensemble development manager Ellen Pollan said. “She makes connections among the community in Riverdale and the Bronx for us. She’s always available to us, she’s a willing fundraiser, and person who you can always count on will bring a group of people and turn them on to the power of music. She’s a great ambassador for us.”

Outside of the arts ensemble, Jerome also serves on the medical advisory board for Smile Train, traveling around the world helping kids with cleft lips and palates in developing countries.

Albertie, the founder and director of Lehman Stages — the professional performance and rehearsal facilities at Lehman College — has worked with the arts ensemble for more than 20 years. Albertie writes and manages the organization’s family theater, which performs classic children’s stories like “Ferdinand the Bull,” “Tortoise and the Hare,” and “Princess and the Pea” — reimagined in a more contemporary style relevant to Bronx youth. He also currently serves as adjunct lecturer for Lehman’s theater program, teaching classes in performing arts management. 

Muccino is a lifelong music lover who plays the violin, viola, trumpet and saxophone — all while spending the last 17 years as principal of P.S. 83. Muccino sponsors in-school and after-school programs with the arts ensemble, and recently developed a student orchestra, which will perform for the first time later this year.

“He is one of those school principals that just get the value of the arts, and so his school is arts focused and arts driven,” Pollan said.

This year’s Gala is at the Van Cortlandt Park Lake House, which incidentally was where the arts ensemble was based when it was founded by William and Louise Scribner in 1972. 

Among the songs the woodwind quintet will perform include “Bambini Wind Quintet No. 3 in F Major. Markus Amponsah, a violinist and rising at Celia Cruz High School on Reservoir Avenue, will play Bach’s prelude from “Violin Partita No. 3.” 

Gala tickets cost $125, with money funding the ensemble’s arts-in-education program, which brings arts programs to thousands of children in neighborhoods across the borough. The importance of early art education for children is critical, Pollan said.

“Cultural development is equal to community development,” she said. “I couldn’t separate a healthy strong community from the arts.”

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