The HSA All-Stars and the Maynor Singers opened the Masquerade Ball with a powerful rendition of Bill Withers', "Lovely Day." (270035)
Credit: Contributed

The Harlem School of the Arts Masquerade Ball and after-party was held Monday, Oct. 22, at The Plaza Hotel in New York City, hosted by Fox 5’s very own, Lori Stokes, who shared the podium with her 9-year-old co-host Jayden Hairston, one of HSA’s outstanding student ambassadors.

The gala, which has become the organization’s main fundraising event, went over the million- dollar mark for the second straight year in a row. These funds have a direct impact on the level and quality of programs the organization can develop and offer. Additionally, the money raised on this night will ensure that students who need financial support to continue their training can count on it.

Throughout the night, guests were treated to spectacular performances by some of the school’s most impressively talented and gifted young music, voice and dance students. The evening opened with the HSA All-Stars and the Maynor Singers, taking on the Bill Withers classic, “Lovely Day,” under the direction of Yolanda Wyns, HSA’s music director. HSA’s dance ensemble, under the direction of dance director Aubrey Lynch, took the stage with two original dance pieces, choreographed by Leyland Simmons, a teacher at the school, titled “In Search of our Mother’s Gardens” and “Four Women.”

As in previous years, this night honored and celebrated individuals who represent excellence in the arts and education communities. Actor Liev Schreiber, who recently paid a visit to the school and was thoroughly impressed with what he saw, was this year’s recipient of the Visionary Artist Award. Even though he had recently undergone back surgery, the star of the hit Showtime series, “Ray Donovan,” showed up to accept his award in person. In his speech, he talked about growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and about his mother, a taxi driver who had to apply for food stamps on occasion but who “understood implicitly that the arts belong to everyone … and that no child should be deprived of their power simply because they were born into the wrong economic conditions.” Exactly the reason Dorothy Maynor, internationally acclaimed concert soprano, founded HSA at a time when the community was in desperate need of such a place.

The Visionary Lineage Award was given posthumously to the late fashion icon Amsale Aberra, who died in April 2018, and to her daughter, singer/songwriter Rachel Brown. Aberra’s husband, Neil Brown, accepted the award on her behalf and was visibly moved by the honor, by his daughter’s tribute to her mother and by the evening and all it represented.

Outstanding young actor Caleb McLaughlin, an alumnus of the HSA and one of the breakout stars of the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” was unfortunately not able to attend because of a conflict with the shooting schedule for Season 3 of the series. But in a video message, he thanked his teachers, who played such a key role in helping him achieve the success he currently enjoys, and he made clear the importance of keeping HSA thriving. This message carried throughout the night.

Two exceptional educators, former model Rashid Silvera, a Harvard graduate with a master’s degree in education, who taught social studies at Scarsdale High School until his retirement in 2017, and Tsyala Khudad-Zade, known to her students as Miss Delilah, an immigrant from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, who has been teaching piano at the school for almost 40 years, were both recipients of the Distinguished Teacher Award.

This year’s live auction did not disappoint and was once again a highlight of the evening. Among the items featured were lunch with Caleb McLaughlin, a hot item for the younger set; a visit with Liev Schreiber on the set of “Ray Donovan,” Season 7; and a vacation at renowned author Ian Fleming’s former island retreat, Golden Eye.

The festivities spilled over to the after-party, held in The Plaza’s Terrace Room, with guests donning colorful masks and reveling to the monster mix and spin skills of DJ D-Nice until the witching hour.

The Harlem School of the Arts at The Herb Alpert Center stands uniquely apart as the sole provider of arts education in four disciplines: music, dance, theater and art and design, all within our award-winning 37,000 square foot facility. The school’s reputation for artistic rigor and excellence attracts students of diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds from all five New York City boroughs, as well as Westchester County and the tristate area, which includes Connecticut and New Jersey. HSA’s alumni and faculty are counted as being some of the most talented leaders in the arts.

For more than 50 years, HSA has enriched the lives of tens of thousands of young people aged 2 to 18, through world-class training in the arts. HSA offers its students the freedom to find and develop the artist and citizen within themselves, in an environment that teaches discipline, stimulates creativity, builds self-confidence and adds a dimension of beauty to their lives, empowering them to become the creative thinkers and innovative leaders of tomorrow.

To learn more about the Harlem School of the Arts, please visit