Gov. Dannel P. Malloy not only wished the 14 members of the Real Ambassadors jazz choir well on their trip to the London Olympics, he put a personal check for $50 in the contribution basket at a performance Monday at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts.
"On behalf of the state of Connecticut, you honor us with your success," Malloy told the students, who hail from towns around the state, including Canton, Farmington, Southington, Berlin, Hartford, East Hartford, Rockville and Simsbury. The Real Ambassadors, which is made up of high school students who attend the arts academy, was the only non-professional group invited to perform at the Olympics.
After being introduced as someone "without an artistic bone in his body," Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he had actually been a choir member who, at one point, sang in a group accompanying famed opera singer Marian Anderson.
He had these words of advice for choir members, who found out in May that they would be singing in the Olympic Village during the 2012 Games: "Have a great trip, be careful, listen to the adults that are with you, and get the job done."
Catherine Brubeck, daughter of jazz legend Dave Brubeck, also attended the performance and reminded the students that their group was named after a musical written by Brubeck and based on his own experiences touring on behalf of the State Department during the Cold War.
"Dianne [Mower, the group's director] rightly named this choir the Real Ambassadors," Brubeck said. "Here they are again, going to represent America ... and what is best about our culture."
The Capital Region Education Council fronted the $70,000 needed for the trip, but the jazz choir has been working since May to pay off the loan, along with practicing for several hours a day and giving concerts to raise money.
The group leaves July 27 and during its week in London will perform two 40-minute shows in Olympic Village and at least one theater concert.
Choir members include vocalists Hannah Benson of Canton; Chrystal Clements, Davia Davis, Luz Holmes, Gordon Jones and Malcolm Mitchell, all of Hartford; Jesse Crofton and Domenic Pellegrini, both of Southington; Jack Ploszaj of West Simsbury; Samantha Gilbert of Granby; and Ashley Lewis of Rockville.
The instrumentalists are Andre Bernier of Farmington, Nicholas Charlton of Southington and Justin Dubree of Berlin.
The public will have several more opportunities to hear and help support the group over the next few days, including these fundraising and performance dates:
- July 17 — Antonio’s, 1185 Hopmeadow St., Simsbury, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., with the choir arriving at approximately 6 p.m.
- July 18 —Ben and Jerry’s, 110 Albany Turnpike, Canton 5 to 8 p.m.
- July 21 — Simsbury Stop and Shop — 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Donations can also be sent to the CREC Foundation, 111 Charter Oak Ave., Hartford, CT 06106, or made online on the CREC website.