Desert Symphony stars Neil Sedaka, honors Harold Matzner 

Desert Symphony stars Neil Sedaka, honors Harold Matzner 

The highly-acclaimed Desert Symphony celebrated its sold-out 27th Anniversary Gala Concert in grand style at The McCallum Theatre.  It was co-chaired by Sylvia & Ron Gregoire and  Edeltraud & Patrick McCarthy.  Radio talk show host Dan McGrath (known as “the Voice of the Symphony”) emceed.

Neil Sedaka, singer, songwriter, pianist, and author, was the featured guest performer, accompanied by The Desert Symphony ensemble orchestral under the direction ofGary Berkson.

Guests clapped and sang along with familiar Sedaka hits ranging from pop to classical,  and also cheered one fan who yelled out, “you’ve still got it Neil!”

“For us, as musicians, it was a thrill to share the stage with this music icon,” said Desert Symphony co-founder, Marilyn Benachowski, “and he loves to play with us because of his classical roots.”

President of The Desert Symphony Nancy Tapick said“We were so proud to present our prestigious Amadeus Award to Honoree Harold Matzner. He is so deserving and fits so well with previous honorees such as Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Del Sharbutt, Jack Jones, John Tesh, Ted Giatas and Frankie Randall.”

The Amadeus award recognizes extraordinary philanthropy and dedication to the musical arts and was created to honor the memory of founder Maestro Benachowski’s favorite composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Matzner, in his traditionally short speech said, “The Desert Symphony clearly enriches the lives of all of us who live in the Coachella Valley; Nancy Tapick and Marilyn Benachowski deserve a great deal of credit for bringing great music to our Valley.”

Both private and corporate sponsors enjoyed elegant pre-concert dinners at Wally’s and Cuistot restaurants, among them, Sylvia & Ron Gregoire, Harold Matzner, Edeltraud & Patrick McCarthy of the Patrick M. McCarthy Foundation, Patti & Bill Anton, JoAnn McGrath of the Highland Street Foundation, Mrs. Barbara Arnstein, The Coeta & Donald Barker Foundation, El Paseo Jewelers, Barbara Fremont of the Fremont Foundation, Helene Galen & Jamie Kabler, Jim Houston & Patricia Bosley, Nancy Tapick & Charles Polatsek.

Classically trained at The Julliard School of Music, Sedaka’s 60 year career has ranged from being a teen pop sensation in the 50’s, to accomplished songwriter in the 60’s, a superstar in the 70’s and today he continues to push the writing-and-performing envelope.

“My parents said that when I was an infant, I would not eat unless the radio was playing music,” Sedaka said.  “I never thought of doing anything else, and I still try to raise the bar.”  Sdaka added, “I have enjoyed Palm Springs for many years…. mingling with the people,  the relaxing atmosphere, and the  beautiful, pastel beauty. ”

In addition to the many sponsors, seen in the crowd were Shellie Reade, Donna MacMillan, Bill Nicholson, Raju & Jaishri Mehta, Nancy Harris, Ron & Sylvia Gregoire,  JoAnn Davis, Dorothy Goldstein, Charles Polatsek, Ray & Rhonda Smith, Patricia Andrews, Frank Dimick, Kay Hanson, Michael Davis, Ted Giatas with his sister Deirdre Hiltsley, Teresa Tarleton, Geri & Walter Clark, Sherri Auen & Catherine Reede, Monte Marts, Karen Miles, Manny & Linda Rider, and Susan Meredith.

The Desert Symphony, founded in 1989, is comprised of the best chamber musicians, handpicked from Southern California’s major orchestras. It provides concerts and special events, along with many  FREE youth concerts for local children.

Information: 760-773-5988 or visit For tickets to the Symphony’s Ovation Series III,  call The McCallum Theatre  at 760-340-ARTS or visit