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Composer John Williams to be Honored at LA Children's Chorus Gala Bel Canto


Embracing its deep roots and far-reaching artistry during its 30th Anniversary Season, the Los Angeles Children's Chorus (LACC) honors four esteemed visionaries who have left their indelible stamps on the acclaimed chorus, including five-time Academy Award-winning film composer John Williams and LACC Founding Director Rebecca Thompson, at Gala Bel Canto, its annual fundraiser, on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, 6 pm, at Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Longtime LACC supporters and arts patrons Eileen and Ken Leech are also being feted for their dedication to the chorus. The celebration, hosted by actress Jane Kaczmarek, includes heartfelt accolades and moving musical tributes by 300 singers from five LACC ensembles, led by Artistic Director Anne Tomlinson, as well as a delectable three-course dinner, exquisite wines and a dazzling live auction. Proceeds benefit Los Angeles Children's Chorus's artistic, educational and scholarship programs.

"We are proud to recognize these distinguished honorees for their immeasurable contributions to the Los Angeles Children's Chorus," says Gala Bel Canto Chair Cheryl R. Scheidemantle (Pasadena). "Without Rebecca Thompson, there would be no LACC. John Williams, whose exceptional music has touched people around the world, has collaborated with LACC on numerous projects, providing unparalleled artistic opportunities for our choristers. And Eileen and Ken Leech have been steadfast supporters of the chorus for nearly two decades, helping to bolster LACC in its mission to provided outstanding choral music training to children."

In addition to Scheidemantle, Gala Bel Canto committee members include Vice Chair Lynn Boberg (Sierra Madre); Dianna Lau Beggs (San Marino); Andrea Bland (Pasadena); Mary Blodgett (San Marino); Joanne Crawford-Dunér (Covina Hills); Elizabeth Grossman Besch (La Cañada-Flintridge); and Andrea Patzakis (San Marino).

JOHN WILLIAMS, who receives LACC's "Bel Canto Award" from presenter James Conlon, Music Director of LA Opera, is one of America's most successful composers for film and for the concert stage and one of our nation's most distinguished musical voices. In a career spanning five decades, he has composed the music and served as music director for more than 100 films, including all seven Star Wars films, the first three Harry Potter films, Superman, JFK, and Home Alone. His 40-year artistic partnership with director Steven Spielberg has resulted in many of Hollywood's most acclaimed films, including Schindler's List, E.T., and Jaws. His has also composed scores for more than 200 television films, as well as themes for NBC Nightly News and PBS's Great Performances, among others. He also composed themes for the 1984, 1988, and 1996 Summer Olympic Games, the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. He has received five Academy Awards and 49 Oscar nominations, making him the Academy's most-nominated living person and the second-most nominated person in history. He has received 22 Grammys, four Golden Globes, five Emmys, and numerous gold and platinum records. In 2003, he received the Olympic Order (the International Olympic Committee's highest honor) for his contributions to the Olympic movement. He has also received the Kennedy Center Honor, was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and received the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the U.S. Government. In 1980, Mr. Williams was named music director of the Boston Pops Orchestra, succeeding the legendary Arthur Fiedler. He currently holds the titles of Boston Pops Laureate Conductor and Artist-in-Residence at Tanglewood.

Former LACC Board Member EILEEN LEECH and KEN LEECH, Chief Investment Officer for Western Asset Management Company, recipients of LACC's Rebecca Thompson Founder's Award, were introduced to LACC through a close family friend in 1998, who suggested that their daughter, Catherine, audition for the chorus. Eileen, a former litigator with the New York law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, found a niche with the chorus. She served on the Board of Directors for seven seasons, with stints as Secretary and as co-chair of the 2008 Gala Bel Canto. A devoted LACC mom as well, she served as rehearsal assistant and an occasional chaperone for LACC field trips. Ken has long been a faithful audience member and supporter of LACC. Ken and Eileen feel strongly that LACC is one of the great institutions in the Los Angeles community and beyond, molding the character of its young charges while simultaneously achieving extraordinary artistry and inspirational musical heights. They both agree, "LACC has played a central part in enhancing the life of our entire family."

REBECCA THOMPSON, who receives LACC's Special 30th Anniversary Tribute Award, is Founding Director of the Los Angeles Children's Chorus, past Children's Chorus Mistress for the LA Opera and was Associate Director of the Appalachian Children's Chorus in West Virginia. A specialist in vocal music for young singers, she holds an MA in organ performance from Marshall University, with doctoral studies in choral music education at the University of Texas. She has taught choral music in public, private and parochial schools, pre-school through university. Thompson recently served as Founding Director of the Choristers Guild Institute, a national teacher certification program for directors of young singers. Her community-based choirs have won national competitions and toured internationally. Her singers have also appeared in films and commercials. Thompson is a member of Screen Actors Guild (SAG/AFTRA), and recently served on the SAG national awards nominating committee. She has conducted All State Choirs, festivals and workshops in over 40 states, and has served the American Choral Director's Association (ACDA) as Western Division Chair of Children's Choirs; West Virginia ACDA State President; and West Virginia ACDA Women's Choir Chair. A composer and arranger as well, she has also served on the National Board of The Presbyterian Association of Musicians and twice served on the National Choristers Guild Board.

Gala tickets are $375 per person with sponsorship packages available. The Millennium Biltmore Hotel is located at 506 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, California, 90071. For tickets and information, please call (626) 793-4231 or visit

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