Gaynor brings disco back for nonprofits

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The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra 2010 and the PSO Community Partners presentation of Gloria Gaynor at Heinz Hall with violinist Gareth Johnson, conductor Lawrence Loh and Lynn Swann as the honorary chair was a moderate success.

Gaynor gained fame in the ’70s as a disco queen. She and Donna Summer were the biggest names in disco during the ’70s and early ’80s. But when disco fizzled out she went back to her roots of gospel and R&B and she has been blending that with disco ever since.

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DISCO QUEEN—Gloria Gaynor, center, with Lynn Swann, left, and violinist Gareth Johnson.

Gaynor’s has hit some amazing peaks, and some difficult valleys. But it is a life story that is still being written. Gaynor today is as active as ever—performing live concerts, appearing on national TV, releasing new CDs—and she’s more positive than ever. Whatever she sets out to do, you can be sure it will reflect the same deep spirit and transformative ability as the music and life within her.

“This is very important to me because we need to give back to the communities that gave to us. The communities need a lot of help so I am always willing to give back. I commend the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for continuing to have this event each and every year. The audience is what keeps me going year after year. I give them and they give back to me. Doing gospel and R&B in my shows today works well for me. When I first started, of course I received a lot of flack for doing both kinds of music, so I stopped. The Lord told me that is my job to share my experience and love with everyone, so a few years later I started doing both genres of music again and I have never looked back,” said Gaynor.

Kent Bey of Royal Tribe Music was one of many nonprofit organizations that participated in the event.

“We are here today to help local organizations in the Pittsburgh community and Royal Tribe Music is one of the organizations,” said Bey. “Our hope is that we can benefit from this wonderful event. If it was not for the Pittsburgh Symphony having an event like this every year, it would be hard for organizations like Royal Tribe Music to stay afloat. We don’t know if it’s the entertainment or the artist or our ability to connect with the people in the community. If you want to attract the African-American population you have to bring in entertainment that the community will come out to support.

“Just because she is a woman of color and was very successful in her time, she does not connect with the majority of the African-American population that would come out to an event such as this one. If the Pittsburgh Symphony wants to know what kind of artist would attract the African-American community, then they can speak with Royal Tribe Music and we would be glad to help them in that area. They want to appeal to an audience that is going to support these types of events that is across the board. What they tried to capture with this event tonight was a diverse audience which isn’t a bad thing, but you tend to lose your African-American in the process. The good news is that a lot of women identify with Gloria Gaynor because of the anthem song ‘I Will Survive,’ so they definitely showed up to this event.”

The PSO’s Community Partners concerts have raised more than $470,000 for partnering nonprofit groups since they began in 2004.

It is an annual collaboration with 50 Pittsburgh area nonprofit organizations. In 2010 it celebrates its seventh year of this innovative approach to fund­­raising and community partnership. Ticket sales benefit the participating nonprofit of your choice. The PSO donates the orchestra services, and secures corporate sponsors to underwrite out-of-pocket costs associated with guest artist services and concert production.

The turnout was not that great for this year’s event, but it was average. The first floor of Heinz Hall was full, but the balcony area was almost empty.

“It is important to have an event like this to show the culture what we have in Pittsburgh musically,” said Mike Logan of ESPN. “We also have a lot of people connecting with generation gaps. Some people came to this event with their parents. I was just listening to the orchestra and I was getting the vibe and the feel for the music. I can close my eyes and really get into the music. If you think about music realistically, it’s good to get that understanding where it originated from. Even with the orchestra behind Gloria Gaynor, the true essence still shines through. I just wanted to come out and be able to show some support because she is a legend,”

“This is a great event for the community and it helps out the nonprofit organizations in the Pittsburgh region,” said John Bettis of Urban Lending Solutions. “ I’m originally from Detroit and we don’t have something like this to help out the non-profit organizations in our city. The participation is low, but this is a great product and event. If this was a Jay-Z concert, the place would be packed. Our organization bought 10 tickets to show support and to give those people some culture and experience that they may otherwise not have. I am the senior vice president of communications at Urban Lending Solutions (formerly Urban Settlement Services). We are number 32 on the Black Enterprises list of company in the United States.”

This year’s Community Partners Program was hosted by honorary chair Lynn C. Swann.

“I think it’s a great program that the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has every year. It’s a great opportunity to help nonprofit organizations,” Swann said. “Everyone in the show was great. This is the second year that I was the honorary chair and I was grateful to be a part of it,” said Swann.

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