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Gershwin benefit concert in Sonoma on March 10

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Nationally renowned pianist Richard Glazier will present his show, “Our Love Is Here To Stay: The Music of George and Ira Gershwin” on Saturday, March 10 at the Hanna Auditorium.

The event, billed as a wildfire trauma relief concert, will raise funds to support four local nonprofits leading trauma-recovery and resiliency projects for children in the Valley – including the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, the Boys and Girls Clubs, Hanna Boys Center and the Sonoma Charter School.

Glazier, who calls himself a “raconteur and cultural historian,” has performed at Carnegie Hall and the Library of Congress, and has been featured in three PBS television specials. Glazier’s repertoire is dedicated to the American Popular Songbook, and holds a special place for the music of the Gershwin brothers who, in the 1920s and ‘30s, penned such standards as “I Got Rhythm,” “Rhapsody in Blue,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Summertime,” and many others.

“The music of the Gershwins represents the voice of America and what our country represents – the land paved with gold and opportunity,” says Glazier. “They were first-generation Americans whose parents came here for a better life and while growing up on the lower east side of New York heard Jewish music, black music, European music, Western European classical music and Russian music.”

Glazier says they combined those influences to create “a unique American voice.”

“Their melodies are part of the fabric of our culture and their music is timeless,” Glazier says.

The producers and underwriters for the event are Gary and Marcia Nelson, longtime supporters of live performing arts and education. The Nelsons are currently supporting a trauma-informed care program through the Hanna Institute; the program is also in place at Sonoma Charter School. The Nelsons are investors in Sonoma Media Investments, which publishes the Index-Tribune.

“When I realized the extent of the trauma affecting our students and families as a result of the October fires, we wanted to put together something that would help the families and the nonprofits supporting them,” said Nelson, in announcing the event. “Music and storytelling are soothing. Richard’s personal story is inspiring to young kids. I thought if we could offer that and raise money for the local groups helping our kids, the event would be a win-win.”

The Nelsons are offering to match up to $25,000 in funds raised for each of the four nonprofits’ resiliency and trauma programs.

“It is not a handout, but a hand up, a way for us all to work together,” says Marcia Nelson.

Lee Morgan Brown, executive director of Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, one of the recipients of the funds raised, said the fires have brought an “emotional devastation” previously unknown in the Valley.

“We want to expand the support our youth-centered community organizations provide in the face of this tragedy,” said Morgan Brown.

Glazier began studying piano when he was 6-years old and, after meeting his hero Ira Gershwin in person when he was 12, was inspired to follow his dreams. He went on to study at Indiana University School of Music and the Cleveland Institute of Music, which later awarded him its Alumni Achievement Award for his contributions to American popular song.

Glazier says that he has played private concerts in Sonoma several times and that he feels a special connection with the town.

“It is an honor to bring this special and unique Gershwin show as a benefit for the community,” he said. “Sonoma is truly magical and through the caring and the kindness of all its residents, the area is quickly returning to the heaven on earth it has always been and will continue to be.”

Glazier will present three performances, weaving historical video footage, piano performance and personal commentary to highlight the history of the Gershwins’ music. The first performance will be a 45-minute specially-priced concert for families, kids, mentees and mentors, starting at 1 p.m. with post-concert snacks at 1:45 p.m. Evening performances will follow at 4 and 7 p.m. for adults.

Tickets for the March 10 event are $75 general; $125 for the show and VIP champagne reception with Richard Glazier. The 1 p.m. special children’s performance will be offered for a $1 donation.

Tickets and information at gershwinforgood.org.