Education Center winds up 25th anniversary on high note

Live New Orleans Jazz Nights at The Longboat Key Education Center. From left, Kid Dutch, Cynthia Sayer and Barry Bockus.

Katherine Vershynina Alexander performed as part of a special fundraising series this season.

Andrew Sisters Act are, from left, Meg Carlson, Jennifer Jordan and Keri Kuhn.

Longboaters and patrons Sara and Nelson Fishman. Nelson is a member of The Longboat Key Education Center Advisory Board.

Susan Goldfarb, pianist Michael Royal and Longboat Key Northern Trust Vice President Diane Muir at the 25th Anniversary Baby Grand Series.

Chef Bill Mies serves Lois Gelatt, a patron of the 25th Anniversary Baby Grand Series.

Contributing Columnist

The Longboat Key Education Center celebrated its 25th anniversary in high gear with plenty of style, innovation and record-breaking attendance this season. Field trips included birding in the Everglades, touring the St. Petersburg and Tampa Museum of Fine Arts with art critic Kevin Costello, and being privy to a ballet rehearsal followed by brunch and an informal talk with artistic director Iain Webb.

Thursday nights brought Live New Orleans Jazz nights with bandleader Henry Blackburn playing clarinet and saxophone and an impressive array of talented guest musicians, including the fabulous Kid Dutch on trumpet and trombone and Cynthia Sayers, described as the top banjoist in the world. The Education Center was packed every Thursday night for eight weeks with avid jazz fans who laughed, tapped their toes and begged for more of their favorite jazz tunes.

The newly donated baby grand piano was highlighted in a special fundraising series that brought more than a touch of class when concert pianists Robbert de Vries, Judith Alstadter, Michael Royal and Katherine Vershynina Alexandra performed for discerning and appreciative audiences, who were treated afterward to caviar, harvested by Mote Marine’s own farm-raised sturgeon, and sumptuous appetizers created by Chef Bill Mies. The series was sponsored by private individuals as well as Northern Trust, a longtime, supportive corporate sponsor.

“Theatre Showcase” brought audiences the award-winning play “The Homecoming of Jenny,” written by Marvin Albert and directed by Tom Aposporos, which is a sentimental journey with Bet Stewart portraying Rosemary Clooney, and actors Jenny Aldrich presenting a dramatic portrait of Georgia O’Keefe and Susan Mannino depicting the outspoken American abolitionist Angelina Emily Grimke Weld.

The “Sunday Salon Series” entertained attendees with a Rumi poetry reading; young opera singers presented by the school’s popular opera teacher; RoseMarie Freni-Molinari; the show-stopping Andrew Sisters act featuring Jennifer Jordan, and a swinging afternoon with Dick Smolens singing American Songbook standards accompanied by nationally known jazz pianist Dick Reynolds.

Workshops ran the gambit from golf pro Les Bolland, introducing his swingolf technique to our golf enthusiasts, and author and meditation teacher Ruth Fishel, who taught the more spiritually inclined the joy of aging mindfully.

Lecture Series 2011 offered everything from an eye-opening presentation on world terrorism given by Rich Bergman from the Sarasota-Manatee Jewish Federation to a lecture on the wonderful world of ballet given by Robert de Warren, former artistic director of the Sarasota Ballet. Two lectures remain in the Tuesday afternoon lecture series: “Porgy and Bess: Opera or Musical?” presented by Phillip Gainsley March 22, and “The Art of Flourishing,” presented by Dr. Jeffrey B. Rubin March 29.

The rooms stayed filled every day for seven days a week throughout January and February with popular courses that offered insights into world politics and the Supreme Court, appreciation for art, literature, dance and music, fishing, moviegoing, bridge, yoga, film festivals, social networking, cell phones, watercolor, qi gong, Yiddish, French, book clubs, a woman’s group and believe it or not, a special men’s group called “Just for Men!”

Registrations hovered just under 4,000 for the 2010-2011 season — all that learning, fun and entertainment squeezed into a few months in more than 150 programs! If you missed out on any of this, make sure you are on The Longboat Key Education Center’s mailing list for next season. Call (941) 383-8811 or visit www.lbkeducationcenter.org. The 2011-2012 season will be on the Web in September. Brochures will be available to members by first class mail the first week in August. Everyone else on the school’s mailing list will receive their brochures in early September by third class mail.

Susan Goldfarb is a freelance writer who has been writing feature articles and columns for more than 25 years. She is the executive director of The Longboat Key Education Center. E-mail her with ideas and comments at susan@lbkeducationcenter.org.

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