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Stevie Wonder to Put Heart Into S.D. Art

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Stevie Wonder will perform Jan. 26 in San Diego at a black-tie dinner benefit for Young at Art, an arts residency program that sends professional local artists into San Diego city elementary schools.

The legendary soul singer, songwriter and multifaceted instrumentalist will perform in the Grand Ballroom of the Sheraton East Hotel on Harbor Island following the dinner, which starts at 8 p.m.

The coup--Wonder’s last San Diego appearance in June, 1986, was a near sold-out concert at San Diego Sports Arena--came about purely by chance, said C.R. Wormsby, Young

at Art program chairperson.

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“Sometime in 1989, Dale Baker, who is one of the artists-in-residence in the program, had a friend who was a friend of Stevie Wonder,” Wormsby said. “She asked if she could get in to see Stevie, and in meeting with him, she asked him what he could say about the dreams he had had, and how they had come true.”

Wonder answered Baker’s question on a tape, which the artist subsequently presented to some students at Boone Elementary School in Paradise Hills.

“The kids were inspired, and they sent a tape back to Stevie, telling him how much he had inspired them to pursue their dreams, and that their one big dream was to see him in person, in San Diego,” Wormsby said.

“And after hearing the students’ tape, Stevie said, ‘OK, I’ll do that.’ ”

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Confirmation that Wonder would do the benefit was received in November, Wormsby said.

“I thought, ‘great,’ ” Wormsby recalled. “I kind of did a little dance, said ‘Thank you, God,’ and was off and running.”

Wormsby said she lined up HomeFed Bank as a sponsor and made the necessary arrangements.

“I thought it was a perfect thing for (HomeFed) to be involved with,” she said, “because they have a program of their own called ‘What’s Right With Kids.’ ”

The eight students at Boone who sent Wonder the tape will be HomeFed’s guests at the concert.

The Jan. 26 benefit starts at 7 p.m., followed by dinner at 8 p.m. Wonder will perform a 45-minute set after dinner.

Tickets are $100; for $200, a pre-dinner reception with Wonder, hosted by Motown Records, Wonder’s longtime record label, is included. Only 1,400 tickets are available, Wormsby said.

The Young at Art program was started three years ago with a $2.75-million grant from the Maxwell H. Gluck Foundation. It was conceived by philanthropist Muriel Gluck, Maxwell’s widow, just before a 1988 federal report called for stepped-up arts education in the nation’s schools.

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