Sunday, May 29 , 2016, 2:21 pm | Overcast 63º

Tony Bennett Delivers — in Art and Song — for UCSB Arts & Lectures Education Fund

Guests turn out at Montecito Country Club for annual benefit that includes a unique watercolor of Rome

By Rochelle Rose, Noozhawk Contributing Writer | @NoozhawkSociety |

[Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery from the event.]

Legendary singer and 17-time Grammy winner Tony Bennett was the musical headliner for UCSB Arts & Lectures’ recent fundraising gala to support its arts education outreach programs. A sold-out crowd of nearly 250 guests enjoyed the sunset during the social hour at Montecito Country Club prior to dinner and the much-awaited concert.

The annual fundraiser also featured a live auction that was managed by Council for Arts & Lectures co-chairman Dan Burhnam and Eric Sonquist.

One item garnered a great deal of attention: an original watercolor of Rome signed by Bennett himself. Although Bennett is best known around the world as an entertainer, one of his first career ambitions was to be a painter. His early painting as a child growing up in Astoria, N.Y., developed into a lifelong passion for art, as well as music and performing. Some of his work is displayed at the Smithsonian, the National Portrait Gallery and the United Nations. He signs his work with his family name, Benedetto, and travels frequently to Italy to capture Italian landscapes in his artwork.

Miller McCune executive director Celesta Billeci opened the program before dinner and credited Lieff Wines for the Sauvignon Blanc and Auberge Road Cabernet, which everyone was enjoying. She described the extensive outreach and education programs that are made available to students from first grade to graduate school, including hands-on workshops for artists, master classes for musicians, classroom visits, and imaginative problem-solving and leadership workshops with innovative thinkers and students.

Auction bidding was lively. Packages included an Epiphone banjo signed by Steve Martin plus six box seats to Martin’s upcoming Hollywood Bowl concert, an Eastman cello signed by Yo-Yo Ma plus a meet and greet with the cellist at an upcoming recital, and a nine-day trip for two to Cuba.

UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry Yang and his wife, Dilling, greeted many supporters, including Premier Sponsor Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree, Luci and Rich Janssen, Carla Hahn, Fla-de-Dahs, National Geographic Expeditions, Gretchen and Robert Lieff, S.R. Hogue & Company, LimoLink and Santa Barbara Frame Shop.

Donning a smart black hat was Lynda Weinman with her husband, Bruce Heavin, who represented, UCSB Arts & Lectures Corporate Season sponsor.

Event table sponsors included Marcy Carsey, Margo Cohen-Feinberg and Robert Feinberg, Brian Frederick, Irma and Morris Jurkowitz, Susan McMillan and Tom Kenny, Sara Miller McCune, Nina and Eric Phillips, Stephanie and Jim Sokolove, Frederic Steck, and Anne and Michael Towbes.

Other UCSB Arts & Lectures benefactors in the audience included Noelle and Dick Wolf, Nancy and Larry Koppelman, Connie Frank and Evan Thompson, Judith Hopkinson, Betty Stephens, Susan and Duncan Mellinchamp, Eric and Nina Phillips, and Annette and Richard Caleel. Sage Publications and the Orfalea Foundation were Corporate Education and Outreach Sponsor and Community Partner Sponsor, respectively.

Applause erupted when Bennett strolled on to the blue-draped stage with his quartet, which included bassist Marshall Wood, guitarist Gray Sargent, drummer Harold Jones, and pianist and music director Lee Musiker.

“Rosemary Clooney and I were the first American Idols,” Bennett quipped. “In 1949, Pearl Bailey recognized our talent and asked us to open for her in Greenwich Village. She had invited Bob Hope to the show. After that Hope decided to take us on the road with him, which exposed us to millions of listeners.”

Bennett performed a long and varied set of songs, including standards such as “Sing You Sinners,” “The Way You Look Tonight” and “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

Funds raised at the gala support the Campaign for Arts & Lectures, which has a goal of $20 million to support programs and to build a permanent endowment to secure the future of UCSB Arts & Lectures. Click here for more information, or call 805.893.2174.

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow her on Twitter: @NoozhawkSociety and connect with Noozhawk on Facebook and Pinterest.

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