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Jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli performs for sold-out crowd at BIG ARTS

February 5, 2014
By MCKENZIE CASSIDY ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

BIG ARTS concluded one of its major fundraising events last month with jazz musician and Grammy-nominated artist John Pizzarelli.

Every year BIG ARTS had one fundraiser event called an annual benefit, but organizers decided to shake things up for the 35th Anniversary by putting on multiple events. On Friday, Jan. 24 they hosted a night with jazz guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli and on Feb. 6 they will welcome the Lomazov and Rackers Piano Duo at the Schein Performance Hall.

"Our thing this year was rather than have one big benefit, we were having a couple of smaller fundraisers," said Betsy Bender, director of marketing for BIG ARTS.

Article Photos

Pictured above, Don Rice, Penny Wilkinson, Lee Ellen Harder, and John Pizzarelli. PHOTO PROVIDED.

The artists chosen for both events were meant to cover a broad array of interests from jazz to the classical piano, she said.

Pizzarelli has performed on Sanibel Island three times before, including a benefit five years ago for the 30th anniversary. The Schein Performance Hall, with a seating capacity of 409, was sold out for Pizzarelli's Jan. 24 performance.

"This has been an incredible evening we are thrilled to have a sold-out event for our annual fundraiser, celebrating 35 years of BIG ARTS," said Lee Ellen Harder, executive director at BIG ARTS. "The John Pizzarelli Quartet brought the house to its feet, a true entertainer, Pizzarelli and his band left the audience more than satisfied."

During the performance, Pizzarelli talked to the audience between songs and shared stories about himself and his father Bucky Pizzarelli. There was an official reception with him before the concert and afterwards he signed autographs for fans.

The Benefactor Sponsor for the event was John M. & Mary Jo Boler and Patron Sponsors included 'Tween Waters Inn, Chico's FAS, and The L.A.T. Foundation. Other sponsors included Deborah and John La Gorce, Patricia and Davis Thurber, Congress Jewelers, and Uhler & Vertich Financial Planners.

The Lomazov and Rackers Piano Duo will perform Schubert's "Fantasia," Stravinsky's "Petrushka," and "Piano Sonata in F minor" by Johannes Brahms on two Steinway grand pianos inside the Schein Performance Hall on Feb. 6.

Tickets are available at or by calling the Marks Box Office at 395-0900.

Howard Wheeldon, development director at BIG ARTS, said enthusiasts of the arts on the island should consider signing up for a membership or volunteering their time.

"I would strongly urge everyone who has not done so to consider becoming a member of BIG ARTS or getting involved as a volunteer as we offer so many programs, including a variety of musical programs as well as dance, theater, films, educational discussion groups, workshops and exhibitions," he said.



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