Friends of The Salvation Army, along with parents and other members of the Harlem community, gathered recently for a special night of music, benefiting a special, and much beloved, program — The Salvation Army Phil Ramone Orchestra for Children.

The benefit concert was held at The Salvation Army’s Harlem Temple Corps Community Center and featured performances by the youngsters and a group of enthusiastic guest performers, highlighted by the multi-talented Maurice Hines, star of the acclaimed musical, Tappin’ Thru Life.

The Orchestra — which provides kids throughout Harlem with the chance to learn and perform multiple genres of music — was created as the result of a partnership between The Salvation Army and Grammy Award-winning producer Phil Ramone in 2011. More than 150 youngsters have since participated in the program, which, in addition to teaching music, helps youngsters build self-esteem, discipline and leadership skills.


The concert was a first step in the Orchestra’s efforts to generate new sources of funding, a critical undertaking as it looks toward the future.

“I am so grateful to be able to be part of this project tonight,” said Orchestra Director Envoy Kenneth Burton to the audience. “It’s not only about teaching these kids how to play music but how to live life. Even if these youngsters don’t go and become musicians when they’re 20 or 25 years old, they still have had this foundation. And that is something that they will never forget for the rest of their lives.”

The first part of the concert focused on the Children’s Orchestra, which performed music ranging from pop, to gospel, to classical. Orchestra members also served as unofficial MCs , while giving the audience a little insight into what the program has meant to them.

“I think this Orchestra brought me and my friends together,” said fifth-grader and guitar player Zaire Green. “It made me love music even more.”

Another fifth-grader, Serenity Bentley, exclaimed, “I play the piano in the Orchestra. We’re so excited tonight and we hope you are too!”


Following close behind the Children’s Orchestra to the stage were musicians billed simply as “Friends of The Phil Ramone Orchestra for Children,” and which included The Tappin’ Thru Life Trio, performing renditions of Quincy Jones’s “Killer Joe” and Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are,” from Joel’s album, The Stranger, one of several mega-hit records produced by the legendary Phil Ramone.

“The common thread between all these musicians on stage, and the family, this [Children’s] Orchestra, and The Salvation Army was Phil Ramone’s vision,” said guest musician Tony Perruso, a member of the concert planning committee. “I thank you all so much for coming here, for being part of this, and we want to keep this going!”

“If there was one word I would characterize Uncle Phil as, it would be ‘humble,’” said niece Stacy Pillersdorf, also a member of the concert planning committee, who, along with Phil’s widow Karen and son BJ (via recorded video), represented the Ramone family at the concert. “It was his love, passion and generosity that drove him to reach out to the community to create an opportunity for children to learn to grow through music, no matter who you are or where you came from. And it’s because of The Salvation Army and my uncle Phil that we have this amazing program that you’ve witnessed tonight.”

Also sharing brief remarks were Julio and Deserie Rivera, parents of flute player and fifth-grader Ariah Rivera.

“[My daughter] has been with the Orchestra for about four years now,” said Deserie. “She is a very shy girl and now she has the confidence to perform in front of a lot of people.”


Featured guest performer Maurice Hines served as the program’s grand finale, delighting the audience with his singing and banter, as well as a tap-dancing segment that drew thunderous applause. Maurice shared his memories of growing up in Harlem and going to the Apollo Theater “to see the wonderful artists we grew up on.”

“I’m so honored to be here, to be a part of this evening!” he said.

Denise Richardson, Director of Communications for The Salvation Army Greater New York Division, offered thanks to everyone involved and appealed to the audience to keep supporting the Children’s Orchestra in order to ensure that Phil Ramone’s dream of changing young lives through music survives and thrives. She then led the audience in a spirited sing-along of the “Theme from New York, New York” — a fitting ending to a perfect night.

The concert raised over $4,000. The Orchestra hopes to raise $1 million to create an endowment that will sustain the program well into the future.


Are you interested in helping provide a youngster with the life-changing gift of music?
Visit or call (212) 337-7339 (Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.) to support

The Salvation Army Phil Ramone Orchestra for Children.

Or, if you prefer, mail your donation to:

The Salvation Army
Greater New York Division
120 West 14th Street
New York, NY 10011-7393

(make checks payable to The Salvation Army Phil Ramone Orchestra)

You donation today changes a youngster’s life tomorrow.

Thank you and God bless you!