Music is Magic: A Radiant Evening at the Benefit for Bright Futures

Thursday, November 30th, was a highly anticipated day for the Midori & Friends community. Season of Lights: Benefit for Bright Futures created a space for people to join in a celebration of the holiday season with a purpose-driven benefit to nurture young minds through music education.  Marilyn Cohen, Vice Chair and Treasurer of the Midori & Friends Board of Directors, welcomed the community with these powerful words: “Tonight we come together to celebrate this remarkable journey. Tonight we come together to celebrate all of you. Midori & Friends not only makes music for today, but more importantly builds futures of tomorrow by fostering self confidence, creativity and ambition in young minds.”

The stunning view from the Ohana Floor in the Salesforce Tower served as a picturesque backdrop for the benefit. The city lights enveloped the attendees as Young Professionals Board members Leah Dowdy and Justin Bass guided us through the impactful lineup for the evening.

The Harmony for Change Award

Midori & Friends was thrilled to honor the Harmony for Change Award to Randall Goosby. “We are thrilled to honor Randall Goosby as the inaugural recipient of the 2024 Harmony for Change Award. His talent and unwavering passion for promoting equity in the classical music community has inspired countless individuals, amplified marginalized voices, and ignited positive social change,” expressed Midori & Friends Founder, Midori, who presented Randall Goodby with this award at the Benefit for the entire community to celebrate. “This award is a symbol of harmony resonating with the belief that when we invest in the potential of young musicians, we are investing in the brighter and more harmonious future.”

The Harmony for Change Award bestows upon Randall Goosby these invaluable opportunities:

  • The prize of $15,000.
  • A recital in the prestigious 2023-2024 Crescendo Circle, featuring Midori, Jonathan Biss, and Yefim Bronfman.
  • Two appearances at Midori & Friends partner schools in New York City where Goosby will engage with young musicians and demonstrate the transformative power of music.
  • One masterclass with NextGen Teen Musicians to mentor the next generation of aspiring musicians and nurture their talents and artistic growth.

“It’s an honor to be a representative of the ideals, goals and values of this organization because although I feel that I am at the beginning of my career, I have a clearly defined purpose, and it’s not limited to the moments I have on stage,” says Randall Goosby as he accepted the Harmony for Change Award, “some of the most fulfilling moments of my musical career at this point have been surrounded by young people, by the next generation.”

Festive & Dazzling Performances

Midori & Friends music programs not only teach students how to play instruments, but they encourage, embrace and empower students to perform. Led by talented Midori & Friends Programs staff members, Laurent Grant Williams and Yearim Yi, and Teaching Artist Shafiq Hicks, the fourth grade choir from P.S. 62Q brought abundant holiday cheer to the Salesforce Tower by performing several festive tunes. The atmosphere brimmed with joy as everyone present relished a profoundly delightful moment, witnessing firsthand the tangible impact of Midori & Friends programming.

“Music is happiness. It is a beautiful thing that can bring joy to the world. I want to bring joy to the world with music,” said Joshua, a passionate fourth grade chorus student from P.S. 62Q.

The choir students were a tough act to follow, but we had performers in the room who were up for the challenge. The attendees were enriched by the virtuosity of Midori on the violin accompanied by Maxim Pakhamov on the piano. They delivered a spellbinding performance of Five Pieces in Folk Style Op. 102 by Robert Schumann. Later in the evening, the Ohana Floor was dazzled by performances from special artists including multi award winning jazz singer and composer Melanie Scholtz accompanied by brilliant pianist, Miki Hayama.

Powerful Moments from NEXTGen Musician Alumi

A shining highlight from the evening centered NEXTGen Musician Alumnus, Wilton Martinez, who was a part of the 2023 cohort until he graduated in the spring and started his higher education at Manhattan College in the fall. Wilton did not continue playing the violin in his first few months of college and this weighed on him immensely. “I didn’t know how important music was to me until I lost it,” reflected Wilton. Recounting an experience from his first year of college, he shared moments of walking by the practice rooms, captivated by the melodic hum of string instruments. One day, a particular violin’s sound coming from the practice room served as a sign for him. In those moments, Wilton longed for the connection he felt when playing the instrument and embracing his identity as a musician. Driven by this sentiment, Manny Alvarez and Barry Kolstein from Kolstein Music Inc. graciously gifted Wilton with a new violin, ensuring he has a musical companion to accompany him on his journey through school. “It’s not a tool just for creating music, Wilton, it is a vessel for your dreams, aspirations and the limitless potential that music carries,” expressed Larisa Gelman, Executive Director of Midori & Friends, as she presented Wilton with his new violin. Gratefully accepting the gift of the violin, he expressed, “All I can say is thank you, thank you so much.”  

The generous representatives from Midori & Friends programming extended beyond the Play to Learn students from P.S. 62Q. NEXTGen Musician alumni showed up to volunteer and speak about how the program inspired them to grow and advocate for music education. “Things like this should be more accessible for younger kids. We need more of this,” says NEXTGen Alumnus, Parker, who shared an impassioned testimonial about the impact of the NEXTGen Musician program. “I used singing as an outlet for my emotiona and I feel like kids who are younger than me need to have that, too.”



World Premier of “bulb.” by Marcus Amaker

First Poet Laureate of Charleston, South Carolina, Marcus Amaker, crafted a poem specifically inspired by the impact of Midori & Friends music programs. Images of the programs illuminated the expansive screen on the Ohana floor, accompanied by the enchanting flow of beautiful poetry resonating throughout the room.

“Dreaming of transformation through music, its impact, and rhythmic soulful light, and dreaming for those who were born with wings already ready for flight. And in those dreams, we aspire to be light beings with bright futures, so powerful that we are never afraid of the dark because every season is a season for spark.”

Thank You!

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all our patrons for contributing to the magic of the Season of Lights Benefit for Bright Futures. Your presence and support light the way for a brighter future through music education. Our generous sponsors include MUFG, Kolstein’s Music, Zev Rovine Selections and the American Fundraising Association. Thank you to Salesforce and all of the staff on the Ohana Floor for giving us a stage for a night to remember. Midori & Friends is extremely grateful for the generosity of the American Fundraising Association for providing the Season of Lights: Benefit for Bright Futures Travel Auction. New Board Member, Heidi Aronin, won a fabulous trip to Iceland while also raising money for Midori & Friends music programming.