The Mental Health Association of Westchester (MHA), The Lagond Music School, and Music & Miles: Changing Minds were thrilled to join forces on Saturday, March 10th for a one-night-only multi-arts evening of performances that gave mental health, resilience and strength the center stage.
Held at the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center, Living Proof featured an impressive roster of musicians, performers and artists who bravely shared their personal and inspiring stories, creating hope and meaning for others who are experiencing mental health issues. Proceeds from this special evening of expressive arts were donated to the Miles Applebaum Music Scholarship Fund at The Lagond Music School and MHA. Established to honor and remember Miles Applebaum, a former Lagond student and an immensely talented young man who died by suicide at the age of 21 in 2014, the Scholarship Fund was created to carry on Miles’ dream of providing aspiring musicians with the opportunity to study music at Lagond Music School, a nonprofit musical haven for students of all ages.
The evening kicked off with welcome remarks from emcees and popular radio personalities Bruce Figler and Chris Rodriguez (also known as “Coach”) of 107.1 The Peak, an official media partner of the event. Shari and Ed Applebaum, parents of Miles Applebaum and the driving forces behind Living Proof, spoke about transforming their own personal tragedy of losing their son to suicide into something that has a greater purpose in the community.
Performers included renowned jazz saxophonist Bruce Williams, who spoke poignantly about his father’s suicide; Bianca Muñiz, a powerful vocalist and musician who was Miles’ close friend and who has used music to help her through two battles with cancer; and John Gillispie, the 2016 Scholarship winner who also lost his father to suicide. Other performers included Serena Jade, Obscure Fire, Elizabeth Erin Kemler, Brianna Mae Clement, Sam Hurwitz, Rebecca Haviland, and artist Anabelle Hiller.
“The essence of the evening was resilience,” said Shari Applebaum, who joined MHA as a Suicide Bereavement Specialist last fall. “Each and every performer and artist touched a chord with someone in the audience who has experienced having or knowing someone with mental health challenges or a physical illness.”
Proceeds from the event also supported MHA, a non-profit that provides behavioral health services, community education and advocacy work. “We believe strongly in the power of sharing our voices and stories and were thrilled to see mental health take center stage at Living Proof,” said MHA CEO Charlotte Östman, LCSW-R. “The personal stories that the performers so bravely shared were an inspiration to all of us in the audience and an unforgettable reminder of how we must listen to and learn from others’ stories.”
Two local high school students were awarded generous scholarships to Lagond as a result of the outpouring of support for the event. “Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a third generation musician, it runs through my blood and has energized me to dedicate my life to creating and adding to what I can to the art form,” said 16-year-old Liam Kharem of Tarrytown, a drummer who was named the Grand Prize Winner. The runner-up, 17-year-old Audrey Pretnar of Mohegan Lake, is a vocalist and guitar player. Both winners wish to pursue music in college, and their scholarship will provide a rich curriculum and access to resources only found at Lagond.
"Music, dance and fine art filled the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center on Saturday night,” said Rosanne Lana, Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Lagond Music School. “People left our event with a better understanding of how mental health issues can affect individuals, family, friends and a community, and we exposed how the arts are a powerful tool toward resiliency.”
Audience members were delighted by the variety of talent during the evening and, more importantly, inspired by the stories that were courageously shared on stage. Event attendees walked away with a powerful reminder of how speaking up and adding one’s own voice to the conversation can help normalize the dialogue surrounding mental health.