Phil Ramone has been gone ten years, which is a shock to his friends and family. But he lives on with the Phil Ramone’s Orchestra for Children, a project he started in 2011.
Phil, who died in 2013 at age 79, already left an enormous legacy. Besides being of the great guys of the record biz, look at his stats: he won an impressive 14 Grammy Awards from 32 career nominations. He was the producer of three albums that won Album Of The Year: Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years (1975), Billy Joel’s 52nd Street (1978) and Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company (2004). Phil also won for Record Of The Year for Joel’s “Just The Way You Are” in 1978 and earned Producer Of The Year (Non-Classical) honors in 1980. He received a Recording Academy Trustees Award in 2001.
OK? His list of credits with superstars just goes on and on. I was lucky to be present when he recorded Aretha Franklin for Tony Bennett’s second Duets album.
On Sunday, a group of Phil’s friends gathered at the Norwalk, Connecticut waterside home of Allison Stockel (former longtime head of the famed Ridgefield, Connecticut Playhouse), who hosted some of the latest kids being trained in the orchestra. Ken Burton is running the group with help from Phil’s brother-in-law, Doug Ichiuji, and Gigi Kulick, who helped organize the afternoon get together.
We got to hear a couple of young people — a 10 year old boy and a 12 year old girl — play respectively the guitar and violin. They were just great.
We got to hear a couple of young people — a 10 year old boy and a 12 year old girl — play respectively the guitar and violin. (The young man pictured played a professional acoustic version of Metallica’s “Enter the Sandman.”) They were just great. The kids range in age from 2nd grade to 12th in high school. A lot of them come from a Harlem school that has helped saved the kids’ lives. We heard from one parent who sent her 10 year old son, who’s on the spectrum, (NOT the boy pictured above) into music lessons. He’s completely taken to the program.
Among the pals who turned up were record producer Rob Fraboni, former Columbia Records A&R guru Dick Wingate (he signed Elvis Costello), plus Kulick who was Phil’s assistant years ago. Also, Jill Brooke of flowerpowerdaily,com and her husband, Gary Goldstein, chairman and CEO of Whitney Partners, were on hand.
Burton is a charismatic leader for the Orchestra, and he spoke eloquently about the last decade of giving kids culture and opportunities. One graduate, an 18 year old young lady now in college, spoke tearfully about how much the orchestra meant to her.
Two more gatherings like this one will be held soon. One in New York, the other in Southampton. Burton and Ichiugi are hoping Phil’s artists will get involved now that they’ve achieved 501c3 status. That would include not Billy Joel and Paul Simon, but Rod Stewart, Julian Lennon, Kenny Loggins, Melissa Errico, Art Garfunkel, Rufus Wainwright, and so on.
You can check out the orchestra on the website. And by all means, donate, donate, donate. There is no better cause, and it’s great way to show our appreciation to Phil Ramone for all the music he gave us.
photos courtesy of Don Kaplan