The Harlem School of the Arts Masquerade Ball and after-party was held Monday, Oct. 22, at The Plaza Hotel in New York City, hosted by Fox 5’s very own, Lori Stokes, who shared the podium with her 9-year-old co-host Jayden Hairston, one of HSA’s outstanding student ambassadors.
The gala, which has become the organization’s main fundraising event, went over the million- dollar mark for the second straight year in a row. These funds have a direct impact on the level and quality of programs the organization can develop and offer. Additionally, the money raised on this night will ensure that students who need financial support to continue their training can count on it.
Throughout the night, guests were treated to spectacular performances by some of the school’s most impressively talented and gifted young music, voice and dance students. The evening opened with the HSA All-Stars and the Maynor Singers, taking on the Bill Withers classic, “Lovely Day,” under the direction of Yolanda Wyns, HSA’s music director. HSA’s dance ensemble, under the direction of dance director Aubrey Lynch, took the stage with two original dance pieces, choreographed by Leyland Simmons, a teacher at the school, titled “In Search of our Mother’s Gardens” and “Four Women.”
As in previous years, this night honored and celebrated individuals who represent excellence in the arts and education communities. Actor Liev Schreiber, who recently paid a visit to the school and was thoroughly impressed with what he saw, was this year’s recipient of the Visionary Artist Award. Even though he had recently undergone back surgery, the star of the hit Showtime series, “Ray Donovan,” showed up to accept his award in person. In his speech, he talked about growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and about his mother, a taxi driver who had to apply for food stamps on occasion but who “understood implicitly that the arts belong to everyone … and that no child should be deprived of their power simply because they were born into the wrong economic conditions.” Exactly the reason Dorothy Maynor, internationally acclaimed concert soprano, founded HSA at a time when the community was in desperate need of such a place.
The Visionary Lineage Award was given posthumously to the late fashion icon Amsale Aberra, who died in April 2018, and to her daughter, singer/songwriter Rachel Brown. Aberra’s husband, Neil Brown, accepted the award on her behalf and was visibly moved by the honor, by his daughter’s tribute to her mother and by the evening and all it represented.
Outstanding young actor Caleb McLaughlin, an alumnus of the HSA and one of the breakout stars of the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” was unfortunately not able to attend because of a conflict with the shooting schedule for Season 3 of the series. But in a video message, he thanked his teachers, who played such a key role in helping him achieve the success he currently enjoys, and he made clear the importance of keeping HSA thriving. This message carried throughout the night.