More than 500 music lovers celebrated at the JCC Thurnauer School of Music’s annual Gift of Music Gala Benefit concert, held at the Bergen County Academies in Hackensack last month. The concert featured mezzo-soprano Naomi Louisa O’Connell, who sang a repertoire of classic operatic pieces along with Irish ballads and other selections. She later joined Thurnauer’s student ensembles to perform popular songs from “West Side Story” and other Leonard Bernstein favorites to honor the composer’s 100th birthday.

The evening also celebrated the 20th anniversary of the school’s Music Discovery Partnership with Englewood public school system. That partnership gives the district’s children access to a high-quality music education, regardless of their financial means The program, which began with eight children in 1997, now reaches more than 2,000 children from elementary through 12th grade, offering instrumental classes, musicianship, ensembles, and a chorus.

Funds raised at the concert go toward scholarships to MDP students and other children in the community who want to study music, but whose families cannot afford it. Speaking at the concert, Englewood’s school superintendent, Robert Kravitz, talked about his appreciation for the partnership and his admiration for the students accomplishments.

Another highlights of the evening included the presentation of the Gift of Music Visionary award to Tracey Blumberg, a long-time supporter of Thurnauer’s vision and mission, who believes that all children in the community should have the opportunity to receive a quality musical education.

“We are committed to bringing the joy of music to as many people as possible and believe everyone should have the opportunity to enrich their lives through the transformative power of music,” Thurnauer’s director, Dorothy Kaplan Roffman, said.

The annual Gift of Music Benefit Concert was established by Drs. Joan and Alan Handler, who continue to bring the joys of music-making to a broad student population in a nurturing and supportive environment. To make a donation, call Nina Bachrach at (201) 408-1406 or email her at nbachrach@jccotp.org.