By Denise Williams
The Florida/Georgia Star
JACKSONVILLE, FL – On Tuesday, March 7, 2017, The Florida Star Newspaper caught up with Ms. Wanda Willis, Director of Major Gifts and Hat Luncheon Committee Co-Chair of the 2017 fundraiser for the Ritz Chamber Players. Ms. Lanette Hart, associate consultant of public relations and marketing for the Chamber Players was also in attendance. The players are celebrating their 16th season which was organized and founded by Terrence Patterson in 2002. He is the executive and artistic director of the players whose vision led him to compile an impressive roster of musicians who have achieved notoriety in their own right. The Chamber Players are committed to expanding music appreciation through offering master classes and reaching out to young aspiring musicians in the Jacksonville, FL area. The Chamber Players perform for the public free of charge throughout the year in order to give music lovers in our city an opportunity to appreciate their talent. In addition, the Chamber Players host many other events throughout the year to cultivate young musicians by offering them an opportunity to sit in while the players rehearse, visit schools, offer funding to minority students, and the Cathedral Arts Project which gives youngsters a taste of what the life of a professional musician looks like just to name a few. This unique all-African-American ensemble, sponsored primarily by private donations and the yearly hat luncheon is the only one of its’ kind in Northeast Florida.
This will be the 3rd year the players host their annual luncheon. Just as last year, the most auspicious event will be held at the historic Epping Forest Yacht & Country Club (formerly known as the Alfred I. DuPont Estate) on Saturday, April 1, 2017, from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm. This historic location built in 1927 was the brainchild of architect Harold Saxelbye. The 58 acre on which the mansion rests is in an area known as Christopher Point. It has a unique Spanish-Mediterranean décor, hosts an impressive riverfront view for an elegant occasion such as the hat luncheon. This is the Ritz Chamber Players’ largest yearly fundraiser and they expect to exceed last year’s attendees as it was a huge success. Last year’s event yielded 350 guests and supporters. Their donations received topped 190,000 dollars and they expect to easily exceed last years’ numbers. The players are excited to announce news anchor for WJXT-TV Channel 4 the local station, Melanie Lawson will be the mistress of ceremony. Ms. Lawson grew up in Longwood, FL is married to fellow journalist Tarik Minor and have two children. In addition, the Chamber Players are also excited to have international soprano Alison Buchanan accompanying them as they perform at this years’ luncheon.
Ms. Wanda Willis is chairing the hat luncheon for the first time but has been a longtime supporter of the Chamber Players. When asked why she is so passionate about the Ritz Chamber Players she replied she believes they are the “Jewel in Jacksonville, bringing culture & classical music by attracting talented artist to African-American communities” on the first coast. Ms. Hart stated her passion for the Ritz Chamber Players is birthed from a desire to preserve the cultural history of African-Americans while establishing a presence in an arena that has traditionally had a limited minority presence. She also reflected on the importance of cultivating a new generation of chamber music lovers.
The founder of the hat luncheon, Terrence Patterson believes the hat luncheon is a fun, whimsical way to connect with the community. Each hat an attendee don represents the diverse beauty that encompasses the residents of the first coast and is also a great ice breaker. This luncheon is representative of the distinctive family oriented community the residents of Jacksonville have cultivated. We are a collection of loving mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives and children who love our city.
This one of a kind celebration of music, award-winning chefs to offer a culinary treat and the company of all who love the artists will collectively make this years’ hat luncheon more memorable than ever. To learn more about Terrence Patterson and the Ritz Chamber Players and ticket information, visit their website: http://www.ritzchamberplayers.org.