On March 10th the18th Annual Starlight Serenade Benefit Concert for Hands for Hope honoring the iconic Bill Withers took place at the Harmony Gold Theater. This year’s event was a star-studded affair hosted by Pat Prescott of KTWV 94.7 The Wave and Sinbad. Unfortunately, Sinbad got held up in Portland and sent in the talented, veteran comedian/actor Lewis Dix,Jr. who had the audience laughing at his funny stories about his family.
The Annual Starlight Serenade Benefit Concert is a musical extravaganza that strikes a chord in the community to encourage participation and contribution. This fundraising concert gathers music lovers, professional musicians, and celebrities together to celebrate and support the academic, athletic, artistic, and social enrichment programs provided by Hands4Hope LA for at-risk youth. The event benefited the North Hollywood based Hands4Hope LA free after school and single parent programs. Founder, Lydia Floyd, looking divine in a satiny black gown, welcomed everyone and directed the evening festivities with grace and elegance. “Tonight, we are honoring the great, legendary Bill Withers. We want to the children and everyone else to know how much we respect and appreciate his talent, his philanthropy, his legacy. We hope the children we serve know they could be just like him. We give them opportunities to learn and create music too.”
Before the program began at 7:45 pm, I talked with a few of the Artists, Pat Prescott, and Lydia Floyd on the red carpet.
“The music tonight will be phenomenal. We have the wonderful Gary Taylor and the super talented Melissa Manchester. And Larry Dunn will be killing those keys and Greg Adams will be blowing away on his trumpet. I put together a medley of Bill Withers’s songs and it was so hard to pick just a few because he has so many great tunes.” Gail Jhonson shared.
“I love Hands4Hope. This organization run by Lydia Floyd is critical for our community because it gives the kids wonderful opportunities to learn how to play instruments and sing plus provide the single parent families a place to get support,” Pat Prescott, Host for the evening’s festivities said with much love in her heart.
“Hands4Hope is an organization I founded 18 years ago and we have served over 1,000 children. Tonight we are going to see some of the children perform along with these amazing artists who have donated their time. We are very excited. This event keeps us going in order to raise funds for our programs. Thank you everyone who has supported us.” Lydia Floyd, Founder of Hands4HopeLA.
“Hands4Hope is a great organization because it helps the at-risk youth of today. They are so vulnerable and anything I can do to get involved with this type of cause … I am glad to do so.” Greg Adams, Founder of East Bay Soul.
“Tonight is going to help the children and level the playing field. If we can do something like that to bring joy to the hearts of the children, let’s do it.” Gary Taylor, R&B Vocalist.
“This organization founded by Lydia Floyd is wonderful because it gives the kids a place to be nurtured, to find a dream or a destiny for their future.” Melissa Manchester, surprise Guest Artist.
Following the spirit of musical creativity, The Hands4Hope Teen Girls Choir along with the Rock Band performed a few Bill Withers’s songs before the main concert performances. The kids were given an enthusiastic response from the audience.
There were superb musical performances by Greg Adams (founding member of Tower of Power, Founder – East Bay Soul), Larry Dunn 7-time Grammy Winning Artist (original keyboardist, musical director and composer for Earth, Wind & Fire), Luisa Dunn, Lynn Davis, Leslie Smith and Masta, vocals, Gary Taylor, Jazz in P!nk, Urban Groove, and Gail Jhonson , Musical Director with her all-star Serenade band. (Wayne Linsey, keys,Tony Moore,drums, Geoff Alpert, trombone, Tomoka Nomura-Jarvis, sax, Jeff Jarvis, trumpet,Kevin Chokan, guitar, Dwayne Smitty Smith, bass and Dr. Farid Zariff, percussion.)
The lovely Grammy winning Artist, Melissa Manchester jazzed up the night singing from her newest CD, The Fellas, ”Love Is Just Around The Corner” plus her hit song, “Midnight Blue.”
Gail Jhonson, Musical Director, led the band in a Bill Withers tribute medley that featured Melissa Manchester and Gary Taylor on vocals. Bill Withers came to the stage to receive his award and talked about his background and career. A silent auction was held in the lobby to raise money for Hands for Hope programs. Lewis Dix, lent his auctioning skills onstage for live bidding wars on a necklace, vacation trips, and a very special bass guitar signed by all the musicians. Don Boyette, bass guitarist, (he played on Michael Jackson’s Bad Tour) brought in the bass he donated by walking from the back of the auditorium thumping away on the strings.
Pat Prescott’s birthday was celebrated in the lobby with a birthday cake and Jacki Goodson Smith was acknowledged by the Hands4HopeLA organization for her 18 years of service as Committee Chair. We all bid a fond farewell to Jacki as she pursues her future endeavors.
It was a successful and enthralling night for all involved. Over 20,000 dollars was raised for the programs that benefit Hands4Hope kids.
For more information regarding Hands for Hope go to www.hands4hopela.org
Photos taken by Sheryl Aronson, publicist for 18th Annual Starlight Serenade Benefit Concert, Mikey Adam Cohen, and Smooth Jazz Magazine