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North Pinellas Good For You for July 28

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Sonny LaRosa of Safety Harbor, one of big band music's most indefatigable proponents, was honored recently for his ongoing efforts to introduce new audiences to the genre.

To honor the trumpeter and teacher, Safety Harbor Mayor Joe Ayoub issued a proclamation naming July 15, 2013, as Sonny LaRosa Day in Safety Harbor.

The document read, in part, "Sonny LaRosa has given his heart, soul and time to this music and to hundreds of kids. Now, therefore I, Joe Ayoub, the mayor of the city of Safety Harbor, Florida, do hereby proclaim July 15, 2013, as Sonny LaRosa Day in the city of Safety Harbor, Florida."

It also noted the introduction of a new award, the "Sonny," created Nov. 19, 2011, by the Dixieland Jazz Classic Organization, of which LaRosa was the first recipient.

"I have several proclamations but this was the first one from Safety Harbor," said LaRosa, who received the honor at Safety Harbor City Hall with several of his band members in attendance. "I'm proud of it. It made me feel good."

For 35 years, LaRosa has worked with more than 600 children and teens who have been part of America's Youngest Jazz Band, entertaining audiences with a unique and professional sound. Special arrangements for the sax, brass and rhythm sections as well as vocals reminiscent of the big band era are written by LaRosa.

Over the last three decades, America's Youngest Jazz Band has received awards including a gold medal at the International Music Festival in New Orleans. They set precedent as the youngest jazz band ever to be invited to perform at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and earned an accolade from former President Bill Clinton, who referred to the band members as "young ambassadors of goodwill."

Some former members have gone on to pursue careers in the music industry, such as saxophonists Eric Darius and David Stewart, who were both 10 when they joined.

LaRosa is touched by the gratitude of his former students. "I have doctors and dentists, people from all walks of life really, coming up and thanking me for giving them the opportunity of being in the band."

The 87-year-old band leader shows no signs of slowing down. One of his aims is to contact successful alumni to appear as an added attraction at the Suncoast Jazz Classic, an event he and the band have played for 22 years.

He continues to recruit young musicians with a desire to play jazz music to audition for the band and has revised the age range to include ages 7 to 15.

"I have a reputation for never giving up because it's something I love doing," he affirmed, and added, "I'm going to have a great band this year, I know it!"

To hear America's Youngest Jazz Band, visit

• • •

The Homeless Emergency Project in Clearwater, one of the oldest and largest providers of emergency housing and support services in Pinellas County, has received a $2,500 grant from representatives of the TD Charitable Foundation to provide financial support for struggling families in Pinellas County.

TD Bank Market president George Hall, who toured HEP's 8-acre campus following the check presentation, spoke highly of the organization.

"We recognize the impact TD's donations can have, and our goal is to build successful partnerships that benefit our customers and their communities," said Hall. "HEP is the epitome of the type of organization that we want to support — they impact thousands of lives each year, and continue to make strides toward bettering our community."

The TD Charitable Foundation donated $5,000 to HEP in August 2012 to support the same program. A year earlier, the foundation awarded HEP $100,000 for HEP West, a 32-unit apartment complex designed specifically for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and a clubhouse for use by all HEP veterans.

Additionally, a fundraiser hosted by the Pinellas County Young Republicans at the home of Joseph Triolo, along with Nick DiCiglie, owner of Solar Sanitation; Doreen DiPolito, owner of D-Mar Construction, and Michael Guju, chairman of the Pinellas County Republican Party, resulted in a $1,000 donation to HEP that will assist homeless and low-income individuals and families.

"HEP truly appreciates the support of Pinellas County Young Republicans as they assist us in furthering our mission of helping homeless and low-income individuals and families to obtain self-sufficiency and improved quality of life," said Jackie Dryden, HEP's director of marketing.

The funding will be used to support activities within HEP's Family Transition Program, designed to assist families in crisis. By year's end, the program is anticipated to serve a minimum of 50 families.

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North Pinellas Good For You for July 28 07/25/13 [Last modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 1:23pm]
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