The Big Easy Foundations salutes New Orleans’ best in opera, dance and classical music

February 9, 2015
Jeanie Riess
Gambit -

Gambit's Foundation for Entertainment Development and Education (FEDE) — with the help of Musetta, the seductress of Puccini's La Boheme — announced winners of awards covering classical arts performances and presentations in 2014 at the 21st annual Tribute to the Classical Arts Awards at the Hotel Monteleone Jan. 29. In addition to recognizing achievement in classical music, opera and dance, special awards went to Diane Laizer Carney, the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music and Chevron.

To celebrate the season of love and indulgence, Musetta (played by Sarah Jane McMahon) performed "Musetta's Waltz" at the top of the ceremony, pulling unsuspecting men from the audience and twirling them. The soprano hosted alongside WWL-TV news anchor Natalie Shepherd.

A Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Diane Laizer Carney, a lifelong dancer, choreographer and teacher. She taught theater classes at Tulane and Loyola universities and Delgado Community College and choreographed and designed productions for the Tulane Opera Theatre and Summer Lyric Theatre, UNO Theater, Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre, Dashiki Theater and the Jefferson Performing Arts Society.

Sally Perry of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), Jacques Rodrigue of the George Rodrigue Foundation, Jenny Hamilton of the New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) and Taylor Landry, a student of NOBA, presented the Arts Patron of the Year Award to Chevron. All four presenters lauded Chevron's support for arts education.

Ellis Marsalis accepted the Arts Education Award on behalf of The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, whose after-school sessions serve more than 200 students every week with everything from homework help to dance classes. "We are a work in progress," Marsalis said in accepting the award. "We're only three years in existence. I hope I'll be around long enough to see the fruition."

Six nominees performed during the luncheon, with pieces including dance, classical music and opera. Gambit, Anne Burr, Hall Piano Company, Uptown Costume & Dancewear, Coleman E. Adler & Sons and WWNO 89.9 FM Radio sponsored the event. Proceeds benefited FEDE.

Photo by Cheryl Gerber.  Gambit Political Editor Clancy DuBos with Ellis Marsalis and Michele Jean-Pierre of the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, which received the Arts Education Award.