Cissy Houston Honored At Harlem’s Mama Foundation Gala

May 19, 2014

062012-shows-beta-cissy-houston-6Harlem’s Mama Foundation for the Arts will celebrate its 15th Anniversary at its second annual Gala, which will take place at St. Martin’s Cathedral (230 Lenox Avenue at 122nd Street) on Monday, June 16th from 6 – 9 PM. The special evening of food and entertainment — which benefits Gospel for Teens, a program of the Mama Foundation for the Arts’ School for Gospel, Jazz, and R&B Arts — is graciously underwritten by Larry Scott and Lawrence Scott Events. Tickets for the Gala are $250.00 and $500 (VIP) and are now available by calling the Mama Foundation for the Arts at (212) 280-1045.

That evening, Mama Foundation for the Arts Executive Director Vy Higginsen will honor two-time Grammy Award-winner Cissy Houston, who served as a consultant and instructor for the Gospel for Teens program when it began in 2006. Ms. Houston (who sang with Ms. Higginsen’s sister, the late Doris Troy, in the 1960s) also appeared in Ms. Higginsen’s production of This Is My Song at Madison Square Garden in 1996, and released the EP “Walk on By Faith” on Higginsen’s Harlem Records label in 2012.

The Mama Foundation for the Arts is a non-profit arts organization located in Harlem whose mission is to present, preserve, and promote the history and fundamentals of gospel, jazz, and rhythm and blues music for current and future generations. Inspired by the worldwide success of her 1983 gospel musical Mama, I Want To Sing (co-written and produced with Ken Wydro), Ms. Higginsen established the Mama Foundation as a cultural space in Harlem where both youths and adults would have access to quality training and employment in the performing arts. Through the Foundation’s Gospel for Teens program, which began in 2006, musical instruction in the art form of gospel music has been offered to young people between the ages of 13 and 19 at no cost, providing desperately needed support to musically gifted children by replacing the arts programs taken out of many inner city schools. Gospel for Teens was the subject of an award-winning “60 Minutes” feature story (two 2012 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Feature Story in a News Magazine) as well as a 2012 National Association of Black Journalists Salute to Excellence Award.

The talented young people who have received their training through the program make up the Gospel for Teens Choir, an award-winning professional ensemble which has had the privilege to perform alongside artists such as Cissy Houston, Madonna (2010 “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon), and Arsenio Hall and Clay Aiken (2012 “Celebrity Apprentice” finale). The Gospel for Teens Choir recently performed at the 2013 Christmas Tree Lighting in Rockefeller Center with Ariana Grande, the 2014 Super Bowl Players Ultimate Tailgate event; and the 2014 Google/You Tube Brandcast Upfront Presentation with Pharrell Williams. The Choir also currently appear in the Mama Foundation’s productions of MAMA, I WANT TO SING: THE NEXT GENERATION (which recently returned from a tour of Japan that celebrated the musical’s 25th anniversary there), and WE ARE!, an original musical about the Gospel for Teens program. The Gospel for Teens Choir will tour Australia later this year.

The Mama Foundation for the Arts’ Second Annual Gala will feature performances by the Gospel for Teens Choir, as well as performances from the Mama Foundation’s current production of ALIVE!, a new musical that celebrates a generation in song, featuring a full company of performers who are age 55 and over. The cast of ALIVE! is comprised of “real people, telling real stories” — talented people from all walks of life who until now never realized their desire to perform live, and who prove that it’s never too late to live a dream. ALIVE! features a unique blend of gospel, jazz, R&B and pop music – songs that served as a soundtrack for the Baby Boomer generation. ALIVE! will be the subject of a new “60 Minutes” feature that is currently filming, and which is scheduled to air in October 2014.

The Mama Foundation for the Arts’ Second Annual Gala is graciously donated by Larry Scott, the Creative Director and founder of Lawrence Scott Events (LSE), one of the most sought-after event planning firms in the NY metro area and the firm behind many of the biggest parties and charity events from New York to the Hamptons. Whether it is a wedding, celebrity celebration, charity event or Bar Mitzvah, Larry is known for setting the trends in entertaining and creating one-of-a-kind events.

Confirmed attendees for the Gala include Lesley Stahl, Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent (the Gospel for Teens Choir performed at the couple’s recent nuptials), five-time Grammy-winner Dionne Warwick, and basketball legend Walt Frazier.

Support for the Mama Foundation for the Arts’ Second Annual Gala was provided by an Honorary Committee that included politicians Inez Dickens and Charles Rangel; performers Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Porter, Tamara Tunie and Vanessa Williams; TV and radio personality Ann Tripp; Executive Director of AUDELCO, Grace L. Jones; and Broadway producers Ken Davenport, Wendy Federman, Willette Klausner, and Ben Sprecher.

Generous annual support for Gospel for Teens and the Mama Foundation for the Arts is provided by Myrna and Freddie Gershon.

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