The Crowd: Jazz event raises $130,000 for Ocean Institute

It was Jazz in January but in February. On Saturday evening, the crowd converged on the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, celebrating the good life on the Pacific Rim in an effort to protect and preserve the precious Pacific coastline.

Specifically, the institute finds its focus in education. Annual programs, funded through such events as Jazz in January, enable the institute to reach an estimated 115,000 Orange County students and visitors during the year.

"Our unique immersion style educational experiences shows students how to be research scientists, tall ship sailors, expedition leaders and explorers for a few hours, a few days, and sometimes, for the rest of their lives," said Daniel Stetson, president and chief executive of the Ocean Institute.

Support for the annual jazz event, now in its ninth year, is nothing less than super-passionate. The organizing team, comprised of co-chairs Tim McMahon (expecting a call announcing the arrival of his second grandchild that evening) and Jens Von Gierke, has worked year after year to support the cause and help raise funds for the institute. This year, the two-evening jazz event sold out yet again, raising $130,000 in support of the Ocean Institute's educational programming.

The success was due in very large part to the contribution of talented musician Rick Braun, honorary event chairman and producer, who also has a very personal connection to the cause. Braun has a special-needs daughter who was positively impacted as a direct result of her visits to the institute. Braun now serves on the Ocean Institute's board.

Joining Braun in performances were Euge Groove and Phillippe Saisse. Braun on trumpet, Groove on saxophone and Saisse on keyboards had the crowd in jazz heaven. The trio spun magic two consecutive evenings.

Opening night on Friday had a reception attracting an audience of nearly 300 people, with wine donated by Pear Valley Vineyards and appetizers provided by Il Fornai. Then on Saturday evening, the premiere performance featured a fabulous dinner for 200 patrons prepared, served and donated by a selection of the culinary kings of the coast.

Chefs participating came from the Balboa Bay Club & Resort, the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa, Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa, Montage Laguna Beach and the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel.

With a lineup of such contributors, suffice it to say that the guests were extremely well fed then entertained by extraordinary musical talent.

In the crowd for this special event were Carey and Tracy Albert, Lewis and Ann Bruggeman, Rick and Bonnie Choate, John and Sally Coombe, Mark and Cathy Downing, Mike and Andrea Feurstein, and Jim and Linda Pierog. Also supporting the Ocean Institute were Blake, Ryan and Lauren Polisky, David and Debra Weinberg, John and Michelle Williams and William and Timaree Zauner.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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