Rhode Island College junior Alexander “Crespo” Rosario performed a monologue as the Rhode Island College Gala got under way.
“This institution has a long history in the arts, with one of the leading music, theatre and dance programs in New England,” President Frank D. Sánchez told the more than 450 attendees of the Rhode Island College Foundation’s annual Gala, held this year at Twin River Casino Event Center on April 25.
“Not only are we being noticed at the state and regional level, but at the national level,” Sánchez said. “RIC is the first college in America to have a formal partnership with the Miranda Family Foundation, which will be investing over half a million over the next five years into arts programs at RIC.”
That investment includes a first-of-its-kind Miranda Family Scholarship to champion first-generation and underrepresented students in the performing arts. The scholarship identifies rising juniors or seniors interested in pursuing careers in music, theater or dance and who have demonstrated strong talent.
Rhode Island President Frank D. Sánchez invited attendees to join him in a toast at the gala.
Each of the five inaugural Miranda Family Foundation scholars – Alexander “Crespo” Rosario, Orlando Montalvo, Andrea Vargas, Claudius Cooper and Brandon McCrory-Joseph – as well as the Rhode Island College Dance Company staged performances at the gala.
Rosario, a junior musical theater and dance performance major, performed first, stepping atop a prop staircase to act out a five-minute monologue titled “El Zorro,” punctuating his lines with slashes of a rapier.
Rosario said he was especially appreciative of the evening’s theme.
“Celebrating the arts means the world to me,” he said. “It represents opening doors to the future for more people to be called to the arts. I’m hoping incoming freshmen and others can be influenced by someone like me.”
As dinner commenced, the crowd listened to performances by Miranda scholars Cooper, Montalvo and Vargas.
“Having taught Claudius Cooper, it’s thrilling to see his artistic evolution,” Rhode Island College Artist-in-Residence Judith Lynn Stillman said of Cooper’s gala performance.
Cooper, a senior music major, performed an improvisation on the piano.
Describing his performance at the gala as “a dream come true,” Cooper remarked that “I still can’t believe I got the Miranda scholarship and the chance to perform at this occasion.”
Accompanied by Stephen DeCesare on piano, Rhode Island College junior Orlando Montalvo delivered an operatic solo.
After singing Giuseppe Verdi’s “O figli, O figli miel…Ah! La Paterna Mano,” Montalvo, a music performance major, also gave thanks for the opportunity.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” he said. “I’m so grateful to the RIC community, the RIC Foundation and everyone involved for giving me the chance to share the stage with my friends.”
Vargas, who sang “I’m Your Man,” from the Broadway musical “Meet John Doe,” was equally gracious.
Rhode Island College senior theatre major Andrea Vargas performing Broadway musical number "I'm Your Man."
“It’s a true honor to know that I was singing at the gala for people who have supported me so much over the last four years and have my best interests at heart,” she said.
Following dinner, Miranda scholar Brandon McCrory-Joseph joined other members of the Rhode Island College Dance Company on stage to perform “Home,” a work created by hip-hop choreographer and former Alvin Ailey Company dancer Rennie Harris.
Rhode Island College junior Brandon McCrory-Joseph, a dance major, expressed himself in "Home."
Although nervous, McCrory-Joseph said after the company’s performance that it was a good release.
“This was our fourth and last time to perform the piece, so right before we hit the stage we gathered in a circle and told each other to live it up,” he said. “We definitely had fun.”
Rhode Island College Director of Dance Angelica Cardente-Vessella said she and her colleagues "felt the gala was a wonderful opportunity for our students and the dance program to be highlighted among alumni, patrons and members of the local community. Our students are talented, professional and endlessly dedicated to the pursuit of their crafts.”
Members of the Rhode Island College Dance Company offered up a captivating performance.
The gala, hosted and organized by the RIC Foundation, raised $140,000 of which the net proceeds will support student scholarships, academic programs and research and capital improvements.
Also featured at the gala – student artwork – centerpieces on tables were ceramic works by current RIC students, under the guidance of RIC Professor of Art Craig Bachman. Other works for auction (oil paintings, sketches, watercolors, pottery) notable alumni artist Anthony Tomaselli ’76.
Sánchez thanked those who helped make the evening possible, such as alumni Mark Mancini ’90 and Pamela Mancini ’86, who served as the gala’s presenting donors. Their philanthropy continues the couple’s legacy of giving back to RIC. Last year they entrusted $200,000 to the Armand Patrucco Fund, a fund the couple started in 2001 to benefit students demonstrating similar character and commitment to Patrucco, a former history professor at Rhode Island College for 34 years.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my institution,” Mark Mancini said. “I talk about it all the time and the amazing impact it had on me.”