Crescendo! —Sinfonia Gulf Coast’s largest annual “fun-raiser”— has become the “must-attend” social event of the season, attracting over 750 patrons.
The festivities included a January kick-off lunch by Chef Jack McGuckin at Bijoux Restaurant + Spirits in Miramar Beach and five intimate, vintner dinners hosted on Friday, Feb. 24 in lovely private homes and venues along the coast. Pairings included Darioush with Chef Dan Vargo of Fine Coastal Cuisine at the home of Amy & Joe Scherzinger; The Lerner Project with Chef Frank Szymanski of Blue Fin at Churchill Oaks Clubhouse; The Vines with Chef Jude Tauzin of Tony Chachere at the Kelly Plantation Owner’s Club; Arietta with Chef Fleetwood Covington at Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood and Perus Wines with Jack McGuckin at Bijoux Restaurant + Spirits.
On Saturday, Feb. 25 Churchill Oaks Club House welcomed invited guests to the Panerai Watch Bar party. Guest sipped “timeless” cocktails by Better Together, nibbled bites by Chef Frank Szymanski and shopped Panerai’s latest time pieces.
Then, on Sunday, Feb. 26, this year’s elegant Ebony & Ivory-themed fête transformed the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa into a sophisticated black and white ball. Bodacious black and whimsical white clad ladies (and gents) flowed in to mix and mingle. But first, they were greeted by the sounds of Sinfonia Youth Orchestra string and horn players remind everyone why they were gathered — to raise funds for Sinfonia Gulf Coast’s music education programs.
Next, a beautiful woman in a shimmering ball gown cascading with chilled sparkling wine flutes — a one-woman party all her own welcomed one and all. But the “champagne dress lady” was just the beginning of what was around the corner… and just like that, the party of the season was underway.
Everywhere you looked were festive balloon filled archways, wondrous floral walls, and chic high contrast décor. The alluring ambiance was made even more fun with luxurious lounging spots, keep sake photo booths, a live portrait session and delicious wine tasting stations.
Sipping colorful cocktails guests enjoyed pay-to-play party games and bid on beautifully displayed silent auction items before enjoying a delicious catered lunch. The strawberry cheesecake was delicious and so was the get your heart pounding performance by the sensational Big Band sensation Sergio Vellatti!
And with the help of fantastic silent and live auction lots, the giving began.
Three bottles of 2019 cult wine Scarecrow Cabernet Sauvignon sold for $3,500 in the Silent Auction, while an unforgettable weekend in Napa Valley at the McClelland House fetched $35,000 in the exciting Live Auction.
With the help of staff and a dedicated team of volunteers, Beth Clavier, director of events and patron services for Sinfonia Gulf Coast, staged the soiree of the season to be sure.
What does it take to pull off the must-do benefit bash of the year? Here are just a few figures to give you an idea.
Crescendo 2023 By the Numbers
4,000 balloons used for decor at the Crescendo Main Event
750+ bottles of donated wine at the vintner dinners and main event
740 bracelets made by Renee Krul at Bijoux de Mer
400 swag bags
350 flowers (including roses, snap dragons and orchids) intertwined with 400 stems tinted silver and black to form a 25-foot floral cascade designed by 1920 & Co
108 silent auction items
100 Box Pull gifts valued at $21,486
15 dedicated volunteers
9 Sinfonia Youth Orchestra students, along with Sinfonia Youth Orchestra Music Director, Margaret Gordon performed during the reception
5 live auction lots, including an in-home concert by Sergio Vellatti
7 “atmospheric” entertainers, dapper emcee hosts, chill “champagne dress ladies,” DJs and live fashion illustrators
1 sensational Big Band featuring Sergio Vellatti!
The Surprising Story Behind California’s Big Band Sensation
By Zandra Wolfgram
Some of us dream of chucking our “day job” and doing what we really want to do — insert requisite dream job here. In 2009, Crescendo! 2023 featured guest artist Sergio Vellatti did just that. Two years later, the civil engineer-turned-performer walked onto a Los Angeles stage with hundreds of faces gazing at him and a full big band behind him. The evening hosted by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation paid tribute to Harrison Ford and other notable attendees. It would be a thrilling moment for any young singer. For Sergio Vellatti’s, it would be his first public performance. He was 27 years old.
“Up until then, I wasn’t even a singer, but I had aspirations,” the now 39-year-old said during a phone interview from his home in Laguna, California.
Growing up in Golden State’s San Gabriel Valley, the voices behind Disney characters captured Vellatti’s young imagination. He was taken with the idea of being a voiceover artist. With tape recorder in-hand, he would “produce” elaborate narrations complete with characters, plot twists and music. He joined the junior high band to play clarinet, later switching to drums in the marching band in high school. Fortuitously, he gravitated toward the sounds of big band, jazz and American popular music.
Yet, the idea of singing still never occurred to him.
“I grew up in the most nonmusical household. We didn't have a record player. The only exposure to music that I had was going to driving to and from the golf course with my stepdad. I would sit in the car and Golden Oldies would play on the radio station,” he tells.
Marvin Gaye, the Supremes and any band with big horns and a rhythm section got this entertainer’s toes tapping.
“That’s what I consider great music,” he says. “Big band transports you to a different time. The lyrics are timeless. They don't they don't write music like that anymore. And it just evokes so many feelings of nostalgia and romance.”
Curious to explore the boundaries of his voice, the unemployed draftsman began to sing. Recording a handful of standards to orchestral tracks, family and friends encouraged Vellatti to post his recordings on YouTube. Soon, his channel had more than half a million views.
Surprisingly, singing came naturally … as did opportunities. Within month of meeting an award-winning record producer while in Los Angeles for a job interview, Vellatti tuned out engineering and turned his full focus to music.
After relocating to Los Angeles in September 2011, he was invited to be an artist in residence with the acclaimed music department at Citrus College, performing with the institution's touring big band. After his heady aforementioned first public performance, Vellatti went on to perform at marquee venues throughout California, Hawaii and Florida.
His “musical” dream was in full swing.
Inspired by musical icons such as Ray Charles, Tony Bennett and Joe Williams, this crooner is focused on building a career as a concert performer and recording artist to fulfill his new-found dream. After nearly a decade on stage, this big-voiced singer has clearly found his “happy place.”
“It’s a playground and I get the front the best seat in the house! I get to listen to the band up close which is my favorite part of performing, and I like wearing a tuxedo!” he confesses with an easy laugh.
As he reflects on his circuitous path to music, Vellatti is heartened his performance will benefit Sinfonia Gulf Coast and its music education community outreach initiatives.
“It is an honor. I love it because, we were all children, and we remember what it was like being creative kids. I'm working to get back to that — being that creative kid and being uninhibited,” he says.
What can Crescendo! audiences expect on Sunday, Feb. 26 from California’s surprising big band singer sensation?
“They can expect satin shoelaces,” Vellatti teases, “and great, timeless music!”
The event extravaganza of the season supports Sinfonia Gulf Coast and its music education community outreach initiatives
1) Cre·scen·do (/krəˈSHenˌdō/) Even the name is full of fun! It’s such an exciting word — it’s a noun, adverb, adjective and verb.
2) We love a themed party! This year’s theme is “Ebony & Ivory Ball.” Whether you want to go black with a touch of cream or white with a hint black — any variation on the elegant theme of Crescendo noir (en blanc) will do.
3) The chic artwork by international fashion illustrator Lindsey Kate tells us Crescendo! 2023 is going to be a bold, hold-on-to-your hats-ladies-and-gents, affair to remember.
4) Sinfonia Gulf Coast is presenting this event … that means … live entertainment! Get ready for LA’s sensational crooner Sergio Vellatti! With his commanding voice and timeless aura, Sergio brings back the class and charm of the Big Band Era delivering well-known standards from the American Songbook with a youthful effortlessness and wit that makes each interpretation authentic and new.
5) The venue. The event will be held at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, so it is sure to be a swank soiree. You had us at “ballroom.”
6) We’re starved! With the excitement of this extravaganza, we’ve already worked up quite an appetite. We love a proper Sunday luncheon served at linen clothed tables set with candles and creative decor. Delish!
7) Party prizes! The raffle, the silent auction of art, wine, jewels, excursions and more, plus the live auction of curated A-list travel getaways, you couldn’t possibly plan yourself. Win-win!
8) Gathering with gal pals and gents. The perfect way to shake off the winter blues and usher in spring with the sizzle of Crescendo!
9) Treble Makers! As a member of the Treble Makers, you ‘re considered a VIP at Crescendo. Your $575 contribution will enable Sinfonia to continue to perform music with 3,500 elementary students throughout Okaloosa and Walton Counties, thanks to Link Up — Sinfonia’s collaborative partnership with Carnegie Hall’s Weill Institute of Music.
10) Local kids! Proceeds from Crescendo benefit Sinfonia and its music education programs, which include musicians/guest artists in schools, free orchestra concerts, bus transportation for students, Sinfonia Youth Orchestra program, Arts in Medicine initiative with Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast and Link Up
International fashion illustrator Lindsey Kate is bringing her classic, elegant creative vibe to Crescendo! 2023!
Raised in rural Illinois, the 32-year-old artist is now based in South Florida, some of her renowned clients include Jimmy Choo, Salvatore Ferragamo, Escada, Ted Baker London, LoveShackFancy, Alice + Olivia, Four Seasons Hotel & Spa, Bloomingdale’s, Dillard’s, Nordstrom, Hugo Boss, Nic + Zoe, Le Chateau, LaCroix, L’Oréal and many others. Her work has been published in a variety of magazines and even on the cover of a book about fashion.
Constantly exploring new techniques and media, this whimsical illustrator tailors the style of every project to fit the unique need of each client. Always aiming to capture the elegance, beauty, and confidence of the human form in her creations, Lindsey Kate finds inspiration within historic illustration, nature and modern art. Part of her success is having a clear understanding of color theory, textiles, construction, fit and concept design, which allows her to effectively illustrate technically accurate designs as well as representative creative fashion figures.
Passionate about bridal illustrations and creative work for publications and advertisements, she loves the range of applications her art has found and enjoys creating projects for personal shoppers, stylists, online retailers, pattern makers, as well as fashion and accessory designers.
We spoke with effervescent Lindsey Kate as the holidays approached to get to know Crescendo! 2023’s guest artist and here are highlights of our conversation.
What sparked your interest in art?
LK: Since I was young, I have always been drawing. I was always drawing dresses. I had that passion and definitely followed it. Throughout high school I took all the advanced art classes I could and went to Columbia College Chicago and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in fashion design and art history.
What specifically about fashion inspired you?
LK: How day to day you can express your personality through fashion by being creative and artistic. It's dramatic and fun and I just love that each designer has their own style and vibe and that everybody can express themselves differently every day through fashion.
What is Lindsey Kate’s fashion style and vibe?
LK: I'm one of those people who it can change but I would say my go to is Unique Classic. I do wear a lot of black that's like my “go to,” but I love styling it with something bold or dramatic — like a really fun, artsy jewelry piece or really awesome shoes or a cool belt, or scarf.
Speaking of black, the theme for Crescendo! 2023 is Ebony & Ivory ball — so chic black and white, which and you helping us bring it to life through your gorgeous illustrations. As a fashion illustrator can you share some tips on how people might think about channeling the theme?
LK: I would say there's so many ways you could go with that. My advice would be to just express yourself and make it unique with texture or embellishments because there's so many options with black that those little details will really make you stand out.
You have brand clients that span the globe. What is your creative process like?
LK: Each client has different needs and different moods that they want portrayed in their work. My first step is just gathering the full directive from that client and asking questions to get a feel for them. From there, I brainstorm my ideas. I might do some research on the subject if it's something I'm not super familiar with it or if I need some inspiration. And then, I always start sketching. Depending on the project, I might submit sketches or go straight into color. And then take it to my computer to do any last-minute touch ups, submit it to the client, and discuss as needed from there. I would say it's similar for each person but because each project is so different, I think the most important part is getting that first initial communication on what they're looking for. The feeling that they want to portray.
Let's talk about your illustrations for Crescendo! 2023. The first in the series is the Kick Off Lunch event.
LK: Yes! That one is champagne bubbles, energy, fun. The vibe is hanging out with your girls chatting, laughing in fun outfits. I just created them as I went. I tried to go for fun, unique styles that women do when they're just being themselves out having a day with the girls.
Next is the Vintner Dinners. That is a challenging gathering event to capture.
LK: Yes, that one was unique, and I loved working with your marketing team and collaborating on how we could portray that. That was fun. There are small things like the movement of her arm or the movement of the sommelier — just those choices to create movement can suggest a mood and feeling in an illustration.
Finally, the Main Event. Please share a bit about The Couple that you illustrated.
LK: We did something new this year by introducing a male in the graphic so that people could feel welcome to come as a couple and men would feel welcome. We definitely wanted the Main Event couple to look like they're having a good time and I tried to communicate that with their outfits. You'll notice like the feather cuff on her sleeve and the feathers along the train. And then I added a little stripe of white on each side to give her form some movement and then also, to nod to the Ebony & Ivory theme. We wanted them to evoke that the event is going to be a little bit more formal, but I also I wanted to their fashion to be kind of neutral, something that different people could identify with that's not necessarily just one style if that makes sense.
You illustrate for a lot of people in different ways. How do you describe your work? Your artistic style?
I would describe it as elegant with a high fashion vibe. My goal in my illustrations is capturing the elegance, beauty, and confidence of the human form. Usually, it's females, but sometimes it's men and women, which is great. I would say I take like elements from historic illustration, because that's where it all came from, but I like to make it a little bit more modern.
What do you to relax in your free time?
LK: I like to paint. That's very like calming to me. I like abstract painting on canvases and things that's fun. I love being in nature. I love being out on the ocean, hiking, exploring that's probably my favorite thing to do and I find a lot of good inspiration. I have a strong passion for saving the planet and saving the oceans and I volunteer with some with organizations for that.
As an artist, why should people support the arts an organizations like Sinfonia Gulf Coast?
LK: I love the quote that's says, ‘Earth without art is just eh.’ To me, art is a part of people's everyday lives and supporting people that go into those fields is super important because it's a passion and it affects everything down to the tiniest things in our daily lives…. I think that you can make really big changes on important things through art and music. You can change the world. I know that sounds like a little bit dramatic, but like those tiny little things can. It's the creativity behind it. And that's how I think we create changes — through creativity.
Come say hello to Lindsey Kate on February 26 at the Crescendo! Main Event. She will be drawing live illustrated portraits on site at the event. Follow her on Instagram @lindseykateillustration and Facebook @lindseykateillustrations.