Harlem School of the Arts President & CEO Yvette Campbell (far right) is pictured with honorees Christopher J. Williams, Laurence Fishburne, Gina Torres and Janice Savin Williams and Yvette's husband Michael L. Campbell

Harlem School of the Arts President & CEO Yvette Campbell (far right) is pictured with honorees Christopher J. Williams, Laurence Fishburne, Gina Torres and Janice Savin Williams and Yvette’s husband Michael L. Campbell (Photo courtesy HSA)

*What began in the basement of the St. James Church in Harlem by internationally acclaimed concert soprano Dorothy Maynor in 1947, and eventually became the Harlem School of the Arts (HSA) located at 645 St. Nicholas Avenue, Hamilton Heights, New York in 1964, was founded on the fervent belief that world class training in the arts stimulates the child, strengthens the family and gives pride of ownership to a community.  The core of that belief was threatened some 3 years ago when the school almost closed its doors forever because of financial woes.  However, fables have a happy ending and so does this one.

First, HSA’s board hired Yvette L. Campbell, accomplished Alvin Ailey alumnae who graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in applied mathematics.  Armed with a flair for forceful leadership and a mathematical mind, since her inception Campbell raised more money than her predecessors and successfully cut HSA’s spending budget by 30 percent.  Second, thanks to a generous donation from The Herb Alpert Foundation and NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, along with avid art advocates, the school was saved and the doors opened wide.

Today, HSA serves more than 3,000 students a year in the disciplines of dance, music, theater and visual arts and continues to envision a world where every child in NYC has access to world-class training in the arts in an environment that emphasizes rigorous training, stimulates creativity, builds self-confidence, and adds a dimension of beauty to their lives, empowering them to become the creative thinkers and innovative leaders of tomorrow.

On Tuesday, October 8, 2013 HSA hosted their fall benefit at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Allen Room in New York City hosted by award-winning WNBC news anchor and host of “The Debrief,” David Ushery.  With the dazzling backdrop of the beauteous Central Park, guests enjoyed butlered morsels of delights and premium libations as they delightfully hobnobbed with the evening’s graceful gala honorees that included two celebrated couples — Janice Savin Williams and her husband Christopher J. Williams, and award-winning actor Laurence J. Fishbrne III and his acclaimed actress wife Gina Torres — and the bighearted Ford Foundation.

HSA Board Member and Co-Founder and Senior Principal of The Williams Capital Group, L.P., Janice Savin Williams, and Christopher J. Williams, Chairman, CEO and Founder of The Williams Capital Group, L.P., and Williams Capital Management, LLC, were presented with the Leadership Award by Commissioner Kate D. Levin, Department of Cultural Affairs.  The Visionary Artist Award was presented to actors Gina Torres, star of USA Network’s hit original series “Suits,” and award-winning actor Laurence J. Fishburne III.  The Philanthropy Award was presented by Rona Sebastian, president of The Herb Alpert Foundation, to The Ford Foundation and accepted by Darren Walker, the Foundation’s new president.

“I’m thrilled to celebrate these exceptional honorees — who in their own unique ways — are making it possible for us as HSA to continue bringing the arts to children every single day.  For nearly 50 years The Harlem School of the Arts has made it their stellar mission to enrich the lives of children through the arts, and every honoree, performer, student and attendee is helping make that mission a reality, effused HSA’s President & CEO Yvette L. Campbell.

During the impressive event, guests were treated to performances from the children who currently attend HSA who sang, painted, and even assisted Ushery with Master of Ceremonies duties.  The audience was regaled by musical and dance performances that included “The Prayer” featuring solo pianist Warner Meadows along with HSA students Deja Anderson, Kendal Carter, Naomi Christiansen, Makila Cooke, Errick Grubbs, Jahir Hipps, Naya Lovell, Jaden Michael, Khayr Muhammad, Wander Sanchez, Amar Smalls, Aiyana Smash, Brandon Trent, Allegra Vacin, Gary Walker and Taliyah Whittaker.

HSA artist-in-residence and Grammy award-winning jazz composer and musician, Arturo O’Farrill, thrilled the audience with a performance of “Manteca” featuring the Fat Cats Youth Orchestra and HSA students Gabrielle Garo (flute/alto sax); Dominique Gervais (drums); Maximo Gonzalez (congas); Zack Heinze (bass); and Gabe Nathanson (trumpet).

Strong support of this historic Hamilton Heights institution has reached epic proportions dating back to March 11, 2013 when the Harlem School of the Arts’ iconic home in Harlem was officially renamed “The Herb Alpert Center” in recognition of gifts totaling $6,000,000 from The Herb Alpert Foundation.  Mr. Alpert continues to support the school, and served as the lead chair of the 2013 fall benefit.

President of The Ford Foundation Darren Walker is pictured with Harlem School of the Arts President & CEO Yvette L. Campbell

President of The Ford Foundation Darren Walker is pictured with Harlem School of the Arts President & CEO Yvette L. Campbell (Photo courtesy HSA)

About The Harlem School of the Arts
For nearly a half-century, the Harlem School of the Arts has transformed the lives of tens of thousands of young people.  Located in Harlem’s historic Hamilton Heights, this pioneering, world-class institution brings together music, dance, theatre, visual arts, and musical theatre instruction under one roof.  Serving young people, ages 2 to 18, from the under-served communities of Harlem, across New York City, New Jersey and Westchester County, HSA leverages its reputation for excellence and roster of celebrated alumni to empower youths and constantly revitalize its surrounding community.  For more information about Harlem School of the Arts, visit http://www.hsanyc.org.

For nearly a half-century, the Harlem School of the Arts (HSA), a pioneering cultural institution, has transformed the lives of tens of thousands of young people.  HSA stands apart among the premier arts institutions in New York City, as the sole provider of quality arts education in 4 disciplines – music, dance, theater and visual arts – in an award-winning 37,000 square foot facility nestled at the base of Harlem’s historic Hamilton Heights.

HSA enriches the lives of young people and their families in Harlem and the Greater New York City area by providing, unrivaled on-site arts instruction, vital outreach partnerships with New York City schools; presenting quality community performances and programs attracting diverse audiences to our dynamic cultural arts facility, and providing essential workspace for aspiring artists.  Through these activities, HSA connects students to the rich cultural traditions, diversity, and talent of Harlem.

HSA offers its students access to the arts and the freedom to discover and develop the artist and citizen within themselves in an environment that emphasizes rigorous training, stimulates creativity, builds self-confidence, and adds a dimension of beauty to their lives, empowering them to become the creative thinkers and innovative leaders of tomorrow.

Janice Savin Williams
Leadership Award

Janice Savin Williams is a Co-Founder and Senior Principal of The Williams Capital Group, L.P. Established in 1994 by Ms. Savin Williams and husband Christopher J. Williams, Williams Capital is a full service investment banking firm that serves institutional investors and corporations worldwide in the fixed income and equity capital markets.

Christopher J. Williams
Leadership Award

Christopher J. Williams is Chairman, CEO and Founder of The Williams Capital Group, L.P. and Williams Capital Management, LLC.  Mr. Williams began his career with Lehman Brothers in New York, where he was a Senior Vice President with responsibilities in debt capital markets, derivatives and fixed income securities trading.  In 1994, Mr. Williams founded The Williams Capital Group and has since directed the firm’s strategic effort in investment banking and its expansion into asset management.

The Ford Foundation
Philanthropy Award
Accepted by Darren Walker

The Ford Foundation supports visionary leaders and organizations on the frontlines of social change worldwide.  Ford believes all people should have the opportunity to reach their full potential, contribute to society and have voice in the decisions that affect them.

Gina Torres
Visionary Artist Award

Gina Torres stars on USA Network’s hit original series “Suits,” which is currently in the middle of its third season.  Developed by Aaron Korsh (“The Deep End”) and executive-produced by Doug Liman, the show follows a prestigious Manhattan corporate lawyer who teams up with a street-smart college dropout.

Laurence J. Fishburne III
Visionary Artist Award

Laurence J. Fishburne III stars in Hannibal as Jack Crawford, head of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit.  His mission is to apprehend the most vicious serial killers known to man and his most valuable weapon is profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy).  Fishburne has amassed an impressive body of work not only as an actor but also as a producer and director.  In 1992, he won a Tony, a Drama Desk Award, an Outer Critic’s Circle Award and a Theater World Award for his portrayal of Sterling Johnson in August Wilson’s Two Trains Running.  His appearance in the 1993 premiere episode of Fox TV’s Tribeca landed him an Emmy Award. And to complete the Triple Crown, he was nominated for an Oscar in 1993 for his portrayal of Ike Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It.

New York based award-winning journalist Audrey J. Bernard covers entertainment, fashion & beauty, film, lifestyles and travel for the Electronic Urban Report and other outlets.  Contact her via: [email protected]

audrey bernard

Audrey J. Bernard