The Black and White Ball is the major fundraiser for the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition. It is considered by many as one of the premiere gala events in the Desert, a true testament of quality considering that there are over 675 charity events held here annually.
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Gloria Greer came to the desert in the early 1960s as a columnist and feature writer for: the Pulitzer Prize winning Press-Enterprise for 20 years+, Daily Variety, Variety (weekly), correspondent for Newsweek Magazine, Newsweek News Service, Associated Press, and Town and Country Magazine where one of her contributions was a 23-page by-line spread on the Coachella Valley. Greer covered the Cove Cities of Palm Desert, Indian Wells and Rancho Mirage before and during city incorporation.
She edited Palm Springs Life’s Social Life section and hosted and produced television shows for PBS in Southern California. She spent 25 years as entertainment editor and anchor of the nightly NBC affiliate, KMIR TV; and was founding editor and publisher of Sand To Sea Magazine, which she sold to Palm Springs Life in 1999.
Her personal philanthropies were extensive; especially as Founding President of ACT for Multiple Sclerosis.
2015 Honorees: Wells Fargo Bank, Gary Hall accepting and The City of Palm Desert, City Councilmember Jan Harnik accepting.
Gala Chair: Donna MacMillan
Honorary Chair: Gwen Weiner
Performance by 2007 Concerto 1st Place Winner Brian Lin.
As a Senior Vice President with Wells Fargo – The Private Bank, Gary Hall not only runs a significant business and is adviser to about 50 families, but also gives countless volunteer hours to his community. Mr. Hall is instrumental in getting significant Wells Fargo dollars to our community nonprofits in need, including the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition’s Education Outreach program. Wells Fargo has underwritten buses and concerts for thousands of local children both at their schools and to bring them to the Competition. The 2013 Carnegie Hall Solo Prize was named for Wells Fargo.
Entrepreneur, humanitarian, and philanthropist, Harold Matzner has made his home in the desert for 30 years. The owner of Palm Spring’s popular Spencer’s Restaurant and CEO of a NY/NJ based branding, advertising, and marketing company, Mr. Matzner is credited with revitalizing the Palm Spring International Film Festival and founding the successful business concept of targeted “shared mail.” He also rescued and revived the world famous Palm Springs Tennis Club and turned its lunchroom into Spencer’s, one of the city’s hottest see-and-be-seen restaurants. Spencer’s is named after Matzner’s beloved 110-pound Siberian Husky. Mr. Matzner is beginning his 6th year as the Chairman of the Board of the McCallum Theatre and is presently First Vice Chairman of the Palm Springs Art Museum, and is also Chairman of the Palm Springs International Film Festival. He serves on the board of Trustee of the Eisenhower Medical Center and Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center. He has received many awards from the charities that he supports. He was honored by the AFP as the “Philanthropist of the Year,” by Gilda’ Club as the “Man of the Year,” by the McCallum Muses as “Man of the Year, as “Angel of the Year” by Angel View Children’s Foundation, and by Desert Samaritans as “Samaritan of the Year.” Mr. Matzner has been a benefactor to many other non-profits, both here and on the East Coast. Among the many local charities benefitting from his philanthropic efforts are the Clinton Health Initiative, the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, Shelter from the Storm, AIDS Assistance Program, Desert Cancer Society, ACT for MS, Eisenhower Medical Center, Desert AIDS Project, Stroke Recovery Center, Temple Isaiah, Mizell Senior Center, Well in the Desert, FIND Food bank, and Pegasus. This past season, Mr. Matzner co-chaired the 25th Anniversary Gala of the McCallum Theatre and this season is an important sponsor of the 75th Anniversary Celebtration of the City of Palm Spring and the Palm Spring Art Museum. Mr. Matzner’s Star is located at the foot of his friend Sonny Bono’s Statue in the heart of Palm Springs.
Joyce and Joe Stein are giants in the world of philanthropy. Through the Stephen Philibosian and the Sirpuhe and John Conte Foundations the Steins continue the family tradition of supporting educational, cultural, and humanitarian efforts. The were very active in Philadelphia’s cultural life and health services from 1960 to 1979. Once in California, their cultural and educational philanthropy resulted in Joe serving as a member and President of the California State Board of Education and Joyce served as a member of the California Arts Council. Joyce is the most proud of receiving the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Her parents immigrated to the US through Ellis Island, and her father was one of the founders of Beirut’s Haigazian University. The Steins continue to support humanitarian and scholarship efforts in Lebanon and Armenia, and Joe continues to serve as vice chairman of the United Armenia Fund. Locally the Steins support the Philharmonic and the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition, as well as other worthy endeavors.
2012 Honorees: Longtime desert dweller, classical pianist and competition namesake Virginia Waring and cellist / international arts icon Marta Casals Istomin were honored at the 28th Annual Black and White Gala for their musical contributions and encouragement of young musicians.
Gala Chair: Rev. Patty Spice
Dinner Chairs: Sherrie and Ron Auen were Dinner Chairs
Performance by special youth performers 2011 Prize Winners Zihui Song and Allison To.
Virginia Waring: A lifetime of music, nurture and public service cannot be detailed in a single small page of text. The multitude of accomplishments and awards which have earned her inclusion in over twenty worldwide “Who’s Who” listings must await a larger format. Born in Dinuba, California, her talent gained musical honors at Mills College, which in turn led to a full scholarship at the renowned Music Academy at Fontainebleau, France. There she studied with the greatest of that pre-war period, notably Robert Casadesus and Nadia Boulanger. While at Fontainebleau Virginia joined with another gifted American pianist, Livingston Gearhart, to form a piano duo, and in time a marriage and family. Click here for information on ordering recordings of Gearhart and Morley.
The specter of impending war brought the duo back to the United States where they toured extensively as “Columbia Artists” for thirteen years, appearing regularly on the “Fred Waring Show.”
In 1954, Virginia married Fred Waring and became not only wife and mother, but an integral part of the extensive Waring music and publishing organization. With Fred’s declining health, Virginia assumed the baton as conductor and master of ceremonies, becoming Chairman of the Board of Fred Waring Enterprises and President and owner of Shawnee Press, a highly regarded publisher of choral music.
As longtime residents of the desert communities, Virginia and Fred were instrumental in the development of a great many cultural resources, notably the McCallum Theatre and the College of the Desert. To this long list she continues the tradition by lending her name and her many talents to this International Piano Competition, now dedicated in her honor.
Condoleezza Rice was born into a life of music and foreign affairs on November 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama. Musical talent ran in her family and surrounded her as a child. Dr. Rice’s Mother, grandmoither, and great-grandmother all played piano, leading to Dr. Rice’s musically-inspired name. (Condoleezza is a variation on the Italian musical term “con dolcezza,” the direction to play “with sweetness.”) At the young age of 3 she could read music before she could read text.
Growing up in the turbulent and segregated South, Rice stayed focused on her music lessons, and at age 10 was the first black student admitted to study at the Birmingham Southern Conservatory of Music. Dr. Rice competed in piano at the Conservatory and continued for several years as her family moved to Colorado. She won her first musical competition playing Mozart’s D Minor Piano Concerto, and later performed with the Denver Symphony Orhcestra.
A former Provost of Standford University, National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush, and U.S. Secretary of State, Dr. Rice had originally planned a career as a concert pianist. It was not until her junior year of college at the University of Denver that Dr. Rice enrolled in an international relations course and found a passion for Soviet politics. Foreign affairs became her academic and professional interest, but music remains a major part of her life. During her government service, Dr. Rice had the pleasure of performing with world-renowned musicians and for heads of state. Most recently, she played before German Chancellor Angela Merkel upon her visit to Stanford University and with the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, at Philadelphia’s Mann Center for Performing Arts.
Dr. Rice’s favorite composers are Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, and Prokofiev, and her favorite compositions include Mozart’s Concerto in D Minor, Beethoven’s Christ on the Mount of Olives, and Brahms’ Variations on a theme by Joseph Haydn for two Pianos and Piano Quintet in F Minor. Dr Rice is particularly fond of the operas Khovanshchina and Boris Godunov by the Russian nationalist composer Modest Mussorgsky.
2010 Honorees: Betty Barker and Leonore Annenberg, in memoriam.
Betty Barker is an outstanding member of our community who has devoted her life to others, and in particular children and families and the arts. It is with extreme pleasure that we present Betty Barker with the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition’s 2010 Outstanding Community Leader Award as a Patroness of the Arts and Sciences.
The most important thing in Betty’s life is her relationship with God, something she shared with Lee Annenberg. Betty is so grateful for the wonderful years she’s had to apply the skills learned in her professional career to the nonprofit organizations she loves so dearly. It is with this aura of peace and confidence that Betty Barker has contributed her leadership and experience, holding board positions on many of the Coachella Valley’s philanthropic, community and cultural organizations.
Betty is a native of the Philadelphia-Ardmore area in Pennsylvania. For 35 years she enjoyed a highly successful career working, mainly in Chicago and New York, on national and international projects in the field of industrial design. She broke ground in a field dominated by men. Among her accomplishments is the 1960’s space planning for the Federal Aviation Agency Building and for the World Trade Center in Manhattan.
Betty also enjoyed a Glamour Girl Career and modeled for Clairol, saying she was “the little old gray haired lady” and she was only 40! She adapted her professional life to her real life career as wife, mother of 2 sons and grandmother of 3. She retired to the desert in 1976, where her life has been full of “innumerable opportunities and adventures,” including a retail shop on El Paseo.
However her real passion lies in giving to others, especially to children and families. She was co-founder of The Children’s Discovery Museum, serving as Chairman on the Board from its inception in 1996. She and Dick Oliphant co-chaired the fundraising campaign for the Palm Desert Campus of the California State University, San Bernardino – the first state university campus built with private funds, and now a prototype for other collaborations between government and private organizations.
She has received dozens of awards including a Jefferson Award for Public Service, an Athena Award, California Woman of the Year and an award from the City of Palm Desert. She has been a Christian Science Practitioner for the past 25 years, is very active with the local church, and was once a partner in the original ownership of the Chicago Bulls! She has had the exciting and unique opportunity to meet many heads of state, celebrities, politicians, artists and entertainers – just about everybody who is anybody. But her real focus has been and will always be that the arts, sciences and education for all are the cornerstones of a free & great democracy.
Byron Janis is internationally renowned as one of the world’s greatest pianists. He made his orchestral debut at age 15 with Toscanini’s NBC Symphony Orchestra and, the following year, was chosen by Vladimir Horowitz as his first student. At 18, he became the youngest artist ever signed to a contract by RCA Victor Records. Two years later, in 1948, he made his Carnegie Hall debut which was hailed as an unparalleled success. He has played with every major symphony orchestra in both the U.S and abroad.
Mr. Janis was the first American artist chosen to participate in the 1960 Cultural Exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union and was hailed on the front page of The New York Times as, “an ambassador in breaking down ‘cold war’ barriers.” His many recordings appear on the RCA and Mercury Phillips labels. His two latest recordings for EMI are “Byron Janis Plays Chopin” which received National Public Radio’s “Performance Today Critics Choice Award” and the Chopin/Liszt CD “Byron Janis True Romantic.” Sony Classical has recently released an 11-CD box set titled “Byron Janis The Complete RCA Collection.” A letter of honor from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was presented and in the letter he stated, “For a remarkable 69 years, your tremendous talent has thrilled audiences around the world, and your consistent presence on New York’s performing arts scene has made you a fixture of our City’s thriving cultural life.” Michael Bloomberg then declared that May 4th is “Byron Janis Day.”
He has made numerous television appearances on such programs as The Tonight Show, 20/20, CBS Sunday Morning and Good Morning America, amongst many others. In recent years, he has been concentrating on writing music for stage and screen as well as a cycle of art songs. He has composed the score for a major musical production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and has written the score for The True Gen, a feature documentary on the 20-year friendship between Gary Cooper and Ernest Hemingway.
In spite of the development of psoriatic arthritis that was first diagnosed in both hands over thirty years ago, Mr. Janis has continued to play and has become a spokesperson for the Arthritis Foundation as its National Ambassador to the Arts.
Recently, he has become a Yamaha Artist and has been appointed as the first Presidential Advisor to the Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute. He has recently launched the extraordinary new technology of Yamaha’s Disklavier CFX Piano.
In celebration of Byron’s 85th birthday, Sony Classical marked this milestone by bringing together Byron Janis’s complete RCA Victor recordings for the first time in one collection. The Byron Janis Collection brings together his entire discography on RCA, with no fewer than seven first on CD releases.
The list of honors he has received both nationally and internationally attest to the preeminence of his reputation and to the courage he has displayed in refusing to become overwhelmed by a disease that would have brought the career to most other artists to a standstill. A TV documentary on his life, The Byron Janis Story, is now being aired nationally on PBS and his memoirs, Chopin and Beyond: My Extraordinary Life in Music and the Paranormal, published by J. Wiley, was released in November 2010.
He was recently written into the Congressional Record of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, honoring him as musician, diplomat and inspiration.
He is married to Maria Cooper, daughter of Gary Cooper, and he have a son, Stefan.
Maestro Carlo Ponti is known for taking audiences of all ages on musical journeys of unique interpretive depth.
He has worked at the Conductor’s Institute in Connecticut under Harold Farberman, with Andrey Boreyko, Mehli Mehta and Zubin Mehta in Los Angeles, and furthered his musical studies in Austria at the Vienna Music Academy under Leopold Hager and Erwin Acel.
Maestro Ponti was awarded Italy’s Premio Galileo award in 2006 for exceptional musical achievement. In the United States, he was the recipient of the 2008 Artistic Achievement Award from the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition and the 2009 Spirit of Hope Award from the Childhelp Foundation for his contributions to the development and advancement of young musical talent throughout the world. In 2011 he was co-recipient of the Lupa di Roma prize in Rome, and received the Premio Civitas 2014 award in Naples, Italy.
Ponti has been associate conductor of the Russian National Orchestra since 2000, served as music director and principal conductor of the San Bernardino Symphony from 2001 to 2012, and in 2013 founded the Los Angeles Virtuosi Orchestra, an ensemble that emphasizes music’s educational value, which is currently performing its inaugural concert season in Los Angeles, California, at the Theatre Raymond Kabbaz.
He has also appeared with the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, Orquesta de Valencia, Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Coro e Orchestra del Teatro San Carlo, Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra, Orchestra della Repubblica di San Marino, Orchestra della Magna Grecia, Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia, Orquesta Sinfonica de Mineria, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Ural Philharmonic Orchestra, Samara Philharmonic Orchestra, Tbilisi State Opera Orchestra, Moscow Chamber Orchestra, Budapest Strings, Budapest Concert Orchestra, Alba Regia Symphony Orchestra, Cyprus Symphony Orchestra, Napa Valley Symphony, Verbier Festival Orchestra, Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, American Youth Symphony, Pro Arte Orchestra and UCLA Philharmonia.
International festival engagements include Festival d’Echternach, Festival Vancouver, Taichung Music Festival, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Bratislava Spring Music Festival, St. Petersburg Palaces Music Festival, Hungary’s Royal Days Festival, Festival Internacional de Musica de Villena, Festival Napa Valley, Tuscan Sun Festival, and the Köln Musik Triennale.
Celebrated as “a brilliant debut” (Audio and Record), Ponti’s recording with the Russian National Orchestra of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition on Pentatone Classics quickly garnered critical acclaim. A second album with the RNO featuring Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade was hailed as “superb” (All Music) and “a work in which every little instrumental timbre has a meaning all its own” (Audio Video Club of Atlanta).
Ponti’s work has been profiled on ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, PBS, Fox News, Leonard Lopate, Dennis Miller, Symphony Magazine and the Associated Press. His performances have also been featured on American Public Media’s Performance Today and America’s Music Festivals radio programs.
2007 Honoree: Earl Wild
Gala Chair: Twila Wernicke
Performance by 2007 Junior Solo 1st Place Winner Colton Peltier.
To excite, educate, and engage the community at large with the joy of classical piano by presenting, promoting, and nurturing classical music through live piano performance including international competitions, concerts, and local educational outreach programs for all ages.
Alive and Well in the Contemporary World