Photo Flash: NYC Mission Society's 'Champions for Children' Benefit Honors Arturo O'Farrill

The New York City Mission Society honored Afro Latin Jazz Alliance (ALJA) Founder and Artistic Director and multiple Grammy Award-winner Arturo O'Farrill at its annual Champions for Children Gala on Wednesday, April 13, 2016. Scroll down for photos from the event!

Led by Jean Shafiroff, this year's Gala committee included: Fiona and Stanley Druckenmiller, Colbert Narcisse, and Katrina and Don Peebles as Honorary Chairs; Peggy and John Bader, Missy Kilroy and John Moorhead, Leah and Stan Rumbough, and, Yemi and Patrick Vatel (Committee Members); and, Brooke Laing (Auction Chair).

The benefit supported the Mission Society's programs and services that help youth and families in our city's most underserved communities break the cycle of poverty and achieve success. Medgar Evers College/CUNY President Rudolph F. Crew, who previously served as New York City Schools Chancellor, delivered the keynote address at the event, and was introduced by former New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr.

The Gala was held at the Mandarin Oriental, and attendees included former New York State Governor David Paterson, Cole Rumbough, and Fox News Channel Reporter Harris Faulkner. WABC-TV Anchor Bill Ritter served as emcee, and the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble performed. During the evening, the Fat Afro Latin Cats performed.

"The Mission Society is all about creating partnerships to improve lives," said Gala Chair Jean Shafiroff. "It is a recognition that none of us can accomplish this alone, but together we can give back and create monumental change. I am proud to partner with the Mission Society."

"I am grateful that tonight, you chose to support the New York City Mission Society," Elsie McCabe Thompson, President of the New York City Mission Society, told the audience of several hundred. "Now more than ever, it is important for all of us to not only make an effort, but a longstanding commitment. With over one million nonprofit organizations in the United States, we know that by joining forces, we can exponentially increase the creativity, compassion and commitment needed to bring about meaningful change in the lives of those we serve each day."

Arturo O'Farrill received the two-century-old nonprofit's Visionary Partner Award. Last year, ALJA partnered with the Mission Society to launch GRIOT (Global Rhythms in Our Tribe), an educational program that provides free musical instruction to youth in Harlem and surrounding areas.

With a focus in academic enrichment, GRIOT is rooted in a multi-cultural focus on global rhythms of the African Diaspora, providing approximately 60 middle and high school students with an understanding of foundational musical concepts, proficiency and skill on an instrument, reinforcement of critical science, technology, engineering and math skills, as well as opportunities for solo and ensemble performances.

A pianist and composer, O'Farrill founded ALJA in 2007, endeavoring to develop new audiences for big band Latin jazz and create a robust educational program for young performers. ALJA is dedicated to preserving the music and heritage of big band Latin jazz, supporting its performance for new audiences, and educating young people in the understanding and performance of this important cultural treasure.

With the support of a group of prominent leaders from the worlds of jazz and Latin culture, O'Farrill launched ALJA to serve as a non-profit organization that could advance both the performance and educational aspects of this uniquely Pan-American art form. ALJA's programs serve schoolchildren throughout New York City, and since inception ALJA has presented more than 45 concerts showcasing the full range of Afro Latin jazz from all over the world.

O'Farrill was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City. His debut album with the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Una Noche Inolvidable, earned a first Grammy Award nomination in 2006. His next album Song for Chico, earned a Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album in 2009. The 2015 release of The Offense of the Drum was yet another Grammy Award winner. Arturo was, in addition, the winner of the Latin Jazz USA Outstanding Achievement Award, and a Cubadisco Award for The Offense of the Drum in 2015. His newest album release, Cuba: The Conversation Continues (Motéma), was nominated for two Grammys this year and won one Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition.

Photo Credit: Patrick McMullan

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