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Monthly Archives: December 2015

A Time to Take a Stand for Religious Freedom

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The media worldwide recently reported that Muslims in northern Kenya bravely refused to identify the Christians among them so that al-Shabaab terrorists, who were holding them all at gunpoint, could murder these Christians. That this report has received such broad coverage is significant and has particular resonance during this holiday season, as we look back at the past year and toward a new year.

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“With so many humanitarian crises and the horrific violence committed by terrorists in many places throughout the world, 2015 has been a tough year for religious freedom and human rights. We have become so accustomed to stories of death and division that Kenyan Muslims risking their lives for Kenyan non-Muslims offers us great hope during this season,” said Robert P. George, Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

During the past year, violent non-state actors, including al-Shabaab in eastern Africa, ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and Boko Haram in Nigeria and neighboring countries, perpetrated egregious violations of religious freedom and human rights, killing Muslims and non-Muslims alike. These groups also forced millions to flee their homes, threatening the very existence of some religious minority communities. During the past year, religious minority communities and dissenting members of religious majority communities also faced severe persecution from governments in a variety of countries, such as North Korea, Eritrea, and Iran.

“During this holiday season, we should stand with those who are persecuted for their faith, praise those who support and give shelter to the persecuted, and reaffirm our commitment to protecting and promoting this most sacred freedom of religion or belief. These brave Kenyans remind us that individuals make a difference when they take a stand and support the religious freedom of others. Governments need to do the same,” said Chairman George.

Please see the 2015 Annual Report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) which highlights the issues and countries noted in this press release.

Pajama Program Announces Successful Finale To Its One Million Good Nights Campaign

Two years ago, Pajama Program, along with its lead sponsor Carter’s, Inc. and book sponsor Scholastic, announced the launch of its One Million Good Nights campaign – a national initiative with an end goal to collect one million pairs of new pajamas and one million new books to children and teenagers in need by the end of 2015.

It is with great excitement and appreciation that Pajama Program announces they have met and exceeded this goal with thanks to the help and support of the One Million Good Nights sponsors, Carter’s, Inc. and Scholastic, and individuals and communities nationwide.

Currently, Pajama Program is working vigorously to get these pajamas and books out as quickly and efficiently as possible through the holiday season and the New Year.

The One Million Good Nights initiative has raised the bar for Pajama Program. The waiting list of children and teens in need of warm pajamas and books continues to grow. The organization needs all the support and donations they can rally, especially during this time of year. Pajama Program is currently in the middle of what they call “Danger Season” – the time of year from October 1 through March 31 when temperatures outside are cold. Bedtime is the most vulnerable time for these children. So many have never enjoyed the simple comfort of having someone tuck them in with warm, clean pajamas and a bedtime story to ease their fears.

Pajama Program, along with Carter’s and Scholastic, will be releasing an IMPACT report in January 2016 with information on the effect of their work together, in particular, the One Million Good Nights campaign, and the children they are serving.

To support Pajama Program in 2016, please visit www.pajamaprogram.org or call its headquarters at 212-716-9757.

Video: Pajama Program Presentation 2015

About Pajama Program

Pajama Program is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to delivering new, warm pajamas and books to children in need, many of whom are without parents and/or permanent homes. Pajama Program serves children ranging in age from newborn to 18 who live in group homes, shelters and temporary housing. Since 2001, Pajama Program has provided over 4 million new pajamas and books to children through 60 chapters across the United States. Pajama Program has received a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest and most-utilized independent evaluator of charities. Pajama Program meets the Better Business Bureau’s 20 charity standards, the highest ranking for non-profits.

Tampa Company Gives Away $1.5 Million In Stock For Christmas

TAMPA, Fla.SynDaver Labs kicked off the holiday season by giving away $1.5 million dollars of company stock to their employees at their company Christmas party th! is past Friday.

The private stock offering was distributed to all of SynDaver Labs’ employees in non-management positions. The company is in the early stages of planning for an initial public offering and although a date has not yet been set, the IPO is on track to launch in 2018.

The stock giveaway was the latest surprise for employees who also received a company-wide 20 percent salary raise in November. Other employee benefits include comprehensive insurance programs, paid vacation, fitness classes, nutrition counseling and free fresh produce.

Established in 2004 and featured on the ABC television show Shark Tank in the beginning of this year, SynDaver Labs has experienced massive growth in 2015 and looks to continue their success in 2016. In addition to Shark Tank, SynDaver’s products have been featured on Mythbusters, Grey’s Anatomy and the series finale of CSI.

The Tampa-based business is not only sharing its success with each of its current employees but is also focused on creating more jobs in the community.

“The holidays are all about giving back and in addition to our Holiday Toys-for-tots toy drive, we also wanted to show our employees how much we appreciate their hard work,” said Dr. Christopher Sakezles, chief technology officer and founder of SynDaver Labs. “SynDaver has huge plans for the upcoming year, we are hopeful that we can double our employees by the end of 2016.”

About SynDaver Labs

SynDaver Labs manufactures synthetic humans for training in schools, hospitals and military installations. SynDaver has the world’s largest database of live-tissue properties and all SynDaver tissues are made from water, salts, and fibers. The company currently has 10 patents on these materials, processes, and related products. SynDaver Labs is headquartered in Tampa, Florida and employs nearly 100 people. The company also has an advanced research facility located in Phoenix, Arizona and is planning additional facilities in the U.S., China, Europe, and Latin America.

New LGBT Social Platform ‘MOOVZ’ Launches Globally

Partnering with LGBT leaders from around the world MOOVZ app has the momentum to become a global social media leader

Los Angeles, CA, July 30, 2015 – MOOVZ, a global LGBT social platform (the first real social network for the LGBT community) created by Interacting Technology, announced today the official launch of their new global campaign. MOOVZ is a forward-thinking, cool and unique social platform aimed to change the way gay men and women, transgender and questioning persons, communicate and unify. This one-of-a-kind social platform, available for download on Google Play and iTunes, targets the LGBT population and is designed to connect communities worldwide.

This new and innovative global platform has been described as Facebook, Instagram and Tinder combined into one application for the benefit of the LGBT community. The MOOVZ app contains unique platform capabilities for its LGBT users and has provided groundbreaking results in a very short period of time. For example, MOOVZ members can create customized profiles for location based social discovery, add members as friends, exchange messages, post status updates, photos and videos. Users may join common interest user groups and an array of discussions called #MOMENTS, where subscribers can connect and stay connected with other users that share the same commonalities.

The MOOVZ app co-founder and CEO, Liav Eliash says, “Our goal is to connect the entire worldwide LGBT community and change the way LGBT individuals meet and interact.” Eliash continues, “The MOOVZ app will allow members to share their memories, make new friends, discover interesting stories and keep up with their community anytime, anywhere.”

Proving its substantial impact in the digital space, MOOVZ has acquired more than 1 million users within only a few months of launching. They have also seen over 200 million interactions between their users, garnered 5 million posts and comments from their subscribers, and simultaneously created a global community all within the beginning stages of their beta testing. Thousands of gay, lesbian, transgender and questioning persons are undoubtedly connecting with MOOVZ every day, making it today’s premiere LGBT social platform. In fact, the social platform has officially launched a new viral ad campaign that targets key markets throughout the United States, highlighting dozens different LGBT icons from all over the world. After having much success in Latina America and Asia, the new campaign follows the new app version just launched by MOOVZ and features a new user interface, relevant content worlds, an improved relevance engine, among many other additional features.

The MOOVZ social platform was ultimately created with a vision to provide the global LGBT community a common space to feel free to speak, free to share and free to be. Now welcoming the American LGBT community and supporting it with unique content areas and collaborations with top-tier community influencers, they have effectively built a one-of-a-kind social platform that will change the way individuals communicate and unify. MOOVZ’ innovative, visually creative platform was designed to satisfy their users needs and demands, and allows people from all over the world to unite based on shared interests, common beliefs and like-minds, all on one platform.

Download the MOOVZ app here: https://moovz.com/r/2015

Watch MOOVZ campaign videos:

You’re Gay, Now What? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDPIvYc2Ht0

You’re Lesbian, Now What? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HB_WEWbZNo4

50 Nonprofit Organizations Eligible for MoonShare Grants

Sugarlands Distilling Company announces 2nd annual Year of Giving finalists

Gatlinburg, Tenn.Sugarlands Distilling Company, distillers of craft spirits in East Tennessee, has announced 50 nonprofit organizations to move into the next round of the MoonShare Year of Giving campaign for a chance to win a $5,000 MoonShare Grant.

All 50 finalists will have a chance to campaign for support on social media where the voting will be held. The top 12 organizations receiving the most support will be declared winners of a $5,000 MoonShare Grant to be used to further the mission of their organization.

From December 31, 2015 to January 31, 2016 the general public will vote on Facebook for their favorite 12 nonprofits to receive the MoonShare prize. Winners will be announced February 2, 2016.

“We had over 300 deserving organizations apply for the program this year, and it was not easy narrowing the field to just 50,” said Courtney DeLaura, national director of the MoonShare program. “It is, however, refreshing to know there are so many people out there working hard every day to improve their communities.”

MoonShare is a nationwide giveback component of Sugarlands Distilling Co. that helps nonprofit organizations positively influence their communities through MoonShare grants, fundraisers, and donations.

In 2015, Sugarlands Distilling Co. donated $60,000 to nonprofit organizations across the country. Each month one organization was selected by the public to receive a $5,000 MoonShare Grant to put toward a charitable cause.

To view a full list of the Top 50 MooShare Finalists, please visit moonshare.org

Sugarlands Distilling Company is a producer of craft quality moonshine and whiskey and is also a popular attraction in downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Inside the distillery, guests can taste free samples of authentic Sugarlands Shine, take a behind-the-scenes tour of the production, and purchase a variety of moonshine flavors, mountain merchandise, and apparel. To enhance their experience, guests can enjoy live music, Appalachian storytelling, and book outdoor adventure tours in the Sugarlands, an area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park historically referred to as “moonshiners’ paradise.” The company is East Tennessee-owned, with a focus on bettering the local community through a variety of events and charitable giving. Sugarlands Shine is currently available for purchase in FL, AL, MS, SC, NC, TN, KY, IN, IL, WV, MD, NY, CT, MI, VA and MN.

Sugarlands Distilling Company is a producer of craft quality moonshine and whiskey and is also a popular attraction in downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Inside the distillery, guests can taste free samples of authentic Sugarlands Shine, take a behind-the-scenes tour of the production, and purchase a variety of moonshine flavors, mountain merchandise, and apparel. To enhance their experience, guests can enjoy live music, Appalachian storytelling, and book outdoor adventure tours in the Sugarlands, an area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park historically referred to as “moonshiners’ paradise.” The company is East Tennessee-owned, with a focus on bettering the local community through a variety of events and charitable giving. Sugarlands Distilling Company’s phased strategic distribution strategy will be supported through a partnership with TAG USA, one of the most respected beverage marketing/sales organizations in the country.

Charities Tap A New Holiday Giving Revenue Source Via Corporate HR—Estimated At $65 Billion

HR West® – “HR in the Most Innovative Place on Earth” and We2o have partnered up to help enable employees to donate unused vacation hours to charity. This new corporate giving revenue source, aligned with corporate HR departments, grew last year to $65 billion of untapped charitable giving revenue.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA (PRWEB) DECEMBER 17, 2015HR West, an innovative and collaborative human resources industry event—that serves a community of over 20,000 human resources professionals, was looking to solve the problem of how to creatively fundraise for the American Heart Association—through its community members distributed across multiple companies and counties.

When HR West sought out a new and innovative way to help increase funding for the conference charity, they found We2o, a philanthropy platform that epitomizes the fresh approach they were looking for to align with its “HR in the Most Innovative Place on Earth” maxim in 2016. Michael Vo, an early Tesla employee and former engineering executive, leads the team of passionate software engineers who have developed We2o. Now, the world class We2o philanthropy platform will provide HR West attendees and volunteers, and its conference production team with the opportunity to donate their unused vacation hours to the American Heart Association or a charity of their choice.

HR West and We2o recognized the opportunity for a 3-way-win between the American Heart Association, employees, and employers. First of all, the charity can access a new source of funding. Secondly, dedicated employees will no longer have to watch unused vacation days go to waste. Finally, employers can reduce vacation time liability on corporate balance sheets, which in turn, saves on accounting overhead and allows for more accurate financial forecasting, as well as a great way to generate positive PR for giving back. “HR West plays a role in spotlighting innovation in HR and we think this idea is big. During the month of December our employees are donating to their favorite charities via We2o. From there we’ll utilize the We2o platform in our outreach to our community of over 20,000 HR professionals who’ll have the opportunity to donate to our selected conference charity, the American Heart Association,” says Greg Morton, CEO of NCHRA (HR West producer).

On average, $52.4 billion is in limbo each year due to employees not taking their entire vacation accrual. This represents a total $224 billion liability for U.S. businesses. The annual figure grew to $65.6billion last year alone, representing a 42% increase in unused vacation hours. A study done for 114 public companies covering 377,000 employees indicated that on average $1,898 or 5.7 days per employee are unused. In the case of companies with greater than 500employees, an average of $2,609 of vacation hours per employee goes unused. Only 48% of employees take all vacation for use-it-or-lose-it hours.

Americans are working longer and took an average of 16 vacation days in 2013 — down from 20.9 in 2000. To address the problem, some companies today are even enticing employees to expend their vacation days by paying up to 10% over base salary for those hours. According to Michael Vo, “Despite our connected world and advancements and innovations in web technology, online donations remain well below 10% and charitable giving overall is still only 2% of the US GDP for some 40 years now. The We2o platform is designed to help make the philanthropy experience what it deserves to be, fun, engaging, impactful and connected. “I know from experience—working long hours at Tesla—how demoralizing it felt when you put in long hours and then lose your hard earned vacation time. This is a completely new source of funding for charities that’s never been available. A compelling and substantial bucket of new money can be liberated to support charities and help improve our communities.”

Working together with We2o, HR West is looking to leverage innovative technology and progressive thinking to solve a long standing, pervasive problem that has persisted for years.

Health Warrior Honors Champions of the “Good Food Fight” with Charitable Donations and Radical Gifts

Superfood Forward Snack Company Celebrates Exemplary Individuals Making A Positive Difference in Food and Fitness

RICHMOND, Va. (Dec. 22, 2015)Health Warrior, a natural food brand with the top selling superfood snack Chia Bar, announces its 2015 Health Champion Award honorees. Created to publicize and lionize figures making a positive difference in food and fitness, the program expanded this year to include charitable donations that are aligned with the company’s mission to combat the challenges of the modern western diet and lifestyle.

The Health Champions received personalized, unique gifts related to the causes they support along with $1,000 donations to related organizations.

  • Gary Hirshberg, founder of Stonyfield Farms, received a punching bag dressed as the DARK act bill, which would prohibit GMO labeling, and a donation to Just Label It! for his advocacy for GMO labeling of foods
  • Kimbal Musk, CEO of The Kitchen, received a prop tombstone marking the demise of industrial food and a donation to The Kitchen Foundation for his leadership of a food revolution from the ground up
  • Steve Ritz, founder of the Green Bronx Machine, received a Green Bronx Machine Mr. Ritz doll and watering can set and a donation to the organization, for his tireless work in making urban farming a reality in the Bronx
  • Mackie Shilstone, 64-year-old trainer of top pro athletes, received personalized dumbbells and a donation to Project Fit America for the fitness example he sets

Last year’s Health Champions included Marion Nestle, Ph.D., Margo Wootan, D. Sc., and Army veteran Noah Galloway. Professor, author and food advocate Nestle received a soda can punching bag championing a better food future; Wootan got a punching bag dressed as a can of tomato paste for her work defeating regulations to label pizza as a vegetable in school lunches; Galloway was gifted a hammer engraved with his personal motto, “no excuses,” for the example of emotional and physical fitness that he sets.

“It’s inspiring and important to celebrate individuals who have the drive to make the world a better place. This spirit and action is desperately needed in the food industry,” said Shane Emmett, CEO of Health Warrior. “We’re committed to doing everything we can to help move this industry forward.”

Health Warrior makes radically convenient, real food to help people conquer the challenges of everyday life. All of Health Warrior’s delicious products feature superfoods as the first ingredients.

About Health Warrior

Health Warrior is a food and movement brand that grew from two best-selling books, Born to Run and The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The original product to launch nationwide were Chia Bars, a nutrient dense supersnack, and the only to feature Chia Seeds as the #1 ingredient. The brand recently launched a line of superfood 1st Plant Protein Bars. Chia was long worshipped as a source of strength by ancient Aztecs. On a mission to positively influence the diet and exercise habits of western civilization, Health Warrior taps into this ancient wisdom to craft radically convenient, whole foods. Health Warrior products are available nationwide, and at www.healthwarrior.com.

Support Basanti Chaudhary, An Exemplary Solar Entrepreneur

Basanti Chaudhary (34) is a co-CEO of Namuna Sourya Urjah in western Nepal. With her business partner Laxmi Chaudhary she has helped sell more than 500 lights in her community, an incredible accomplishment considering the instability and unrest in her Kailali home. While most people closed up their businesses to avoid the dangerous political riots, Basanti persevered, bringing more solar to her community than ever before.

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Since becoming a solar CEO with Empower Generation, Basanti has undergone what she describes as a transformation. Before joining our network she says she was too shy to even speak to people, much less to sell them anything. Now she has a nickname, “Solar Seller Basanti”, a thriving business, and growing reputation as a talented local business woman.

“I had the problem of communicating with people in authority positions, but now I can visit any area and communicate with anybody like a social leader. I can confidently interact with higher authority people, teachers, and other respected members of our community.”

Local Women Bringing Clean Energy to Nepal from Empower Generation on Vimeo.

Basanti is especially proud of providing lights that students can use to study after the sun goes down. “Some students who never had the chance to study before having a solar light are now able to,” she says. Speaking of studying, Basanti’s newfound self-confidence has inspired her to return to school after 19 years. We are so proud of Basanti’s efforts, bringing clean energy to her community, pursuing further education, and becoming a true role model for the aspiring business women of Nepal.

As we usher in 2016, let’s all do more than just wish for a brighter year. It’s a critical time in Nepal—please help us make a lasting difference. Please donate to Empower Generation this holiday season and give the gift of light, hope, and opportunity.

The Little Orchestra Society Will Host A Winter Benefit Honoring WQXR; Gershwin Favorites to be Performed by the Orchestra and Special Guest Deborah Voigt

Benefit Honoring WQXR General Manager Graham Parker and WQXR; Hosted by WQXR’s Elliott Forrest; Concert and Gala to Support LOS New York’s Innovative Music Education and Community Engagement Programs

Monday, February 1, 2016
Opening Reception 6:30 PM Performance 7:30 PM Reception 8:30 PM
Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street, NYC

(New York, NY December 22, 2015) The Gershwin Winter Gala Celebration, hosted by WQXR radio personality Elliott Forrest, is a celebration of one of New York City’s premier cultural institutions offering classical music programming for all ages, The Little Orchestra Society (LOS New York). Joining the Orchestra and its Music Director James Judd will be renowned Metropolitan Opera soprano Deborah Voigt and acclaimed pianist William Wolfram. Set in the beautiful Florence Gould Hall, the Gala will feature a performance of Gershwin favorites and will support LOS New York’s music education and community engagement programming.

The Gala will recognize WQXR’s longstanding work advancing classical music and its commitment to music education, as well as honor its General Manager Graham Parker for his contributions to the field. Over the past five years, Parker has overseen and implemented an ambitious growth plan that puts WQXR front and center in New York’s thriving classical music scene.

“WQXR and The Little Orchestra Society share so many common interests and goals – building new audiences and enhancing appreciation for classical music, as well as supporting music education programs across New York City. I am honored to be recognized at this exciting event that aims to create new and exciting opportunities for families to experience the performing arts,” said Parker.

The performance with LOS New York will feature Deborah Voigt singing some of her Gershwin favorites and William Wolfram as piano soloist in Rhapsody in Blue and Rialto Rag. The Orchestra will also perform excerpts from Porgy and Bess and An American in Paris, a preview of Gershwin: Got Rhythm? (which premieres the following Saturday, February 6, at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College), as well as some of Gershwin’s other great hits.

“The educational mission of The Little Orchestra Society and creativity of this institution are embodied in all the work that we do. The Gershwin performance brings to life one of New York’s most beloved composers. Hundreds of public school students will have an opportunity to see this performance and learn more about Gershwin in the coming weeks,” said Judd.

“The Gershwin Winter Gala Celebration will help us continue to share classical music in bold, new ways with New York audiences while also supporting our music education and community engagement programs,” said LOS Executive Director Joanne Bernstein-Cohen.

The Little Orchestra Society’s Musical Connections: The School Partnership® students in grades K-4 in New York City public schools how to compose their own music. All students within a grade participate in the program. This work is rooted in the belief that access to classical music should be available to all members of our community. LOS New York also offers after-school music education programming, as well as community engagement events at local libraries and senior centers.

This year’s Gala co-chairs are Sharon and Lawrence D. Hite; Brigid and William S. Ohlemeyer; Carol and Chuck Schaefer; Sharon Volckhausen and Grace Lyu-Volckhausen; and Dr. C. Christine Wheeler.

For tickets and information, call 212.971.9500 or email gala@littleorchestra.org.

Media opportunities to attend the benefit are available. Photographers are invited to the performance at 7:30 PM. The opening reception from 6:30 – 7:30 is the best opportunity to photograph those in attendance.

About The Little Orchestra Society® (LOS New York)

The Little Orchestra Society/Orpheon, Inc., now in its 68th season, performed its inaugural concert at The Town Hall on October 20, 1947, and has since been devoted to performing innovative concerts of classical music for both adults and children. The Orchestra performs dynamic repertoire using multiple art forms with a variety of artists to create meaningful musical experiences for today’s audiences. Last season, more than 32,000 individuals enjoyed the Orchestra’s programming.

The Orchestra’s productions include the new series, LOS KIDS, and have previously included the Lolli-PopsTM series for children ages 3 to 5, the Peabody Award-winning Happy Concerts for Young People for children ages 6 to 12, the adult concert series Vivaldi’s Venice and Sound Discoveries™, as well as Music Under the Big Top in Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center.

The Orchestra has given many important premieres—more than 65 throughout its history—and launched the careers of major musical talents in its concert programming for adult and family audiences. Past guest artists include iconic rock star Patti Smith as the narrator in Tubby The Tuba, Academy-Award nominated actress Sigourney Weaver as the narrator in Music Takes Flight, internationally acclaimed actor James Earl Jones and world renowned violinist Mark O’Connor in Honest Abe: Four Scores and More, violinist Lara St. John and multiple-time Grammy Award-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin in the critically-acclaimed Vivaldi’s Venice series, the popular children’s book author Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) narrating the New York Premiere of The Composer is Dead, and Metropolitan Opera soprano Angela Meade in the exquisite Cathedral Concerts – Great Music Under a Byzantine DomeTM, as well as many more.

The Little Orchestra Society is also committed to music education and public service. Last year alone, its public service programs, Musical Connections: The School Partnership Program®, after-school programs, Live in Concert!, Project 65Plus, and other community engagement activities in libraries, senior centers and other community spaces brought music education and live concert experiences to nearly 11,000 New York City public school children, families and seniors. These participants attended LOS concerts free of charge. As part of Musical Connections, public school children participate in an in-school music composition program that provides music education for the youngest elementary school students. These important music education programs, as well as community engagement opportunities, are at the core of the Orchestra’s mission and vision. For more information, please visit www.littleorchestra.org or call 212- 971-9500.

About James Judd, Music Director

Music Director of The Little Orchestra Society New York, the Israel Symphony Orchestra, and from 2017/18 season the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, British born conductor James Judd is sought after for both his passionate musicianship and his charismatic presence on and off the podium. Known for his extraordinarily communicative style and bold, imaginative programming, repeat engagements in concert halls from Prague to Tokyo, from Istanbul to Adelaide, attest to his rapport with audiences and musicians alike.

During his eight years as Music Director of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Judd brought the ensemble to a new level of visibility and international renown with acclaimed recordings for the Naxos label, tours of Europe and Australia and the orchestra’s first appearance at the BBC Proms. Other music directorships have included Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestre National de Lille in France and a groundbreaking 14 years as Music Director of the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra.

In addition to his international conducting career, James Judd has led the orchestras of the Juilliard School, Curtis Institute of Music, Manhattan School of Music, Guildhall School, Trinity College of London, Aspen Music Festival and the National Youth Orchestras of Australia and New Zealand. Since 2007, he has been Principal Guest Conductor of the Asian Youth Orchestra, an ensemble of the most gifted musicians from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Korea.

An outstanding exponent of the works of Gustav Mahler, Judd’s performances of this monumental composer have been praised the world over. His recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 was awarded the Gold Medal by France’s Diapason as well as the Toblacher Komponierhäuschen for the best Mahler recording of the year. Judd’s many orchestral recordings are also featured on the Decca, EMI and Philips labels.

Recent concert highlights have included performances of Britten’s ‘War Requiem’ in Bucharest and Bernstein’s ‘Mass’ at the Radio France Festival, staged performances of ‘Carmina Burana’ at the spectacular desert ruins of Masada, a concert with the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Palace in Monaco and a tour of Asia celebrating the 25th anniversary of his Asian Youth Orchestra. In addition to his commitments with his own orchestras, the new season features concerts with the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra, the Santa Barbara Symphony, University of Southern Californian Chamber Orchestra in Los Angeles, the Slovenian National Orchestra and the horn quartet of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Noord Nederlands Orchestra and Vadim Repin, and three concerts in Berlin as part of the celebrations in the famous Konzerthaus of Yehudi Menuhin’s centenary.

About Graham Parker

Graham Parker is the General Manager of WQXR, the most listened-to classical station in the country and New York’s only all-classical station, and Vice President of New York Public Radio.

Over the past five years, Parker has overseen and implemented an ambitious growth plan that puts WQXR front and center in New York’s thriving classical music scene. During Parker’s tenure, WQXR has launched a new national series, Carnegie Hall Live; pioneered critically acclaimed festivals including Beethoven Awareness Month, Month of Mozart, and Bachstock; presented a broad range of live events; and implemented the highly successful WQXR Instrument Drive.

Parker has secured WQXR’s role as a leading digital music source with WQXR’s relaunched app, the growth of Q2Music (a channel dedicated to contemporary classical music), and the launch of Operavore, WQXR’s 24/7 opera channel.

Prior to joining WQXR, Parker was the Executive Director of Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. In his eight years with Orpheus, Parker played a critical role in securing the long term future for this world-class orchestra.

About WQXR

WQXR 105.9 FM, which streams live at www.wqxr.org, is New York City’s only all-classical music station, immersing listeners in the city’s rich musical life. WQXR presents new and landmark classical recordings as well as live concerts from Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Opera, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the New York Philharmonic, among other venues. WQXR also broadcasts essential destination programs including the Metropolitan Opera Radio Saturday Matinee Broadcasts, New York Philharmonic This Week, and The McGraw-Hill Financial Young Artists Showcase. For listeners in search of the new, WQXR operates Q2 Music, an online music stream dedicated to contemporary classical composers, cross-genre adventures, and performances from New York City’s edgier venues. Operavore is WQXR’s opera site featuring news, interviews, and commentaries from the world of opera, as well as a 24/7 all-opera stream. WQXR.org provides essential playlist information and online listening, as well as original content, host blogs, NYC cultural news, videos, and a free app allows listeners to take WQXR with them wherever they go.

About Elliott Forrest

Elliott Forrest is a Peabody Award winning broadcaster and producer, heard on New York’s Classical Music Radio Station 105.9FM – WQXR, WQXR.org and on WNYC. He regularly produces large-scale symphonic concerts including several with The Little Orchestra Society, the New York Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, LA Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, among others. Mr. Forrest is the host of the national radio concerts of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. He has hosted more the 60 concerts on stage at Carnegie Hall. Orchestra Narrator: Carnival of the Animals, Soldier’s Tale, Oedipus Rex, Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Noah’s Flood and Peter and the Wolf. Artistic Director of ArtsRock in Rockland County, presenting concerts, conversations and family programming. For 12 years he was on the A&E Television Network as host of Breakfast with the Arts & Biography. He was also featured on the Grammy Award winning comedy album WTWP Classical Talkity-Talk Radio with Peter Schickele.

About Deborah Voigt

Deborah Voigt is one of the world’s most versatile singers and music’s most endearing personalities. Her HarperCollins memoir, Call Me Debbie: True Confessions of a Down-to-Earth Diva, comes out in paperback in January, and 2015-16 also sees her reprise her beloved one-woman show, Voigt Lessons; starring in The Pirates of Penzance in New York City; and host events and judging competitions throughout the season.

Having made her name as a leading dramatic soprano, Voigt has given definitive performances of iconic German operatic roles from Salome to Isolde. Also a devotee of Broadway and American song, she has sung with Rufus Wainwright at London’s BBC Proms, Kristin Chenoweth at Carnegie Hall, and Barbara Cook and Dianne Reeves at the Hollywood Bowl. Her extensive discography includes two EMI solo albums – All My Heart, named one of the “Best of the Year” by Opera News, and the Billboard bestseller Obsession – and Deutsche Grammophon’s Grammy Award-winning Blu-ray set featuring her Brünnhilde in Robert Lepage’s visionary Metropolitan Opera “Ring” cycle. She appears regularly as both performer and host in the Met’s “Live in HD” series.

Voigt’s numerous honors include first prizes in Moscow’s International Tchaikovsky Competition and Philadelphia’s Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition. A Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, she was Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year 2003, won a 2007 Opera News Award for distinguished achievement, and has received Honorary Doctorates from Smith College and the University of South Carolina. She was named one of the Los Angeles Times’s 25 cultural tweeters to follow.

About William Wolfram

American pianist William Wolfram was a silver medalist at both the William Kapell and the Naumburg International Piano Competitions and a bronze medalist at the prestigious Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow.

Wolfram has appeared with many of the greatest orchestras of the world and has developed a special reputation as the rare concerto soloist who is also equally versatile and adept as a recitalist, accompanist and chamber musician. In all of these genres, he is highly sought after for his special focus on the music of Franz Liszt and Beethoven and is a special champion for the music of modernist 20th century American composers.

His concerto debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony under the baton of Leonard Slatkin was the first in a long succession of appearances and career relationships with numerous American conductors and orchestras. He has also appeared with the San Francisco, Saint Louis, Indianapolis, Seattle and New Jersey symphonies, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra (Washington D.C.), the Baltimore Symphony, the Colorado Symphony, the Rochester Philharmonic, the Nashville Symphony, the Oregon Symphony, the Utah Symphony, the San Diego Symphony, the Edmonton Symphony, the Columbus Symphony, the Florida Orchestra, and the Grand Teton and San Luis Obispo Mozart festival orchestras, among many others. He enjoys regular and ongoing close associations with the Dallas Symphony, the Milwaukee Symphony, the Phoenix Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra as well as the musicians of the New York Philharmonic for chamber concerts in the United States.

Abroad, Wolfram has appeared with the BBC Symphony Orchestra of London, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the RTE Symphony Orchestra of Ireland (Dublin), the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Bergen Philharmonic (Norway), the Beethovenhalle Orchestra Bonn, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and many others.

An enthusiastic supporter of new music, he has collaborated with and performed music by composers such as Aaron Jay Kernis, Kenneth Frazelle, Marc Andre Dalbavie, Kenji Bunch, and Paul Chihara. His world premiere performance of the Chihara re-orchestration of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with the Milwaukee Symphony under the baton of Andreas Delfs, was met with great critical attention and acclaim.

Researchers Link Mutations To Butterfly-Shaped Pigment Dystrophy, An Inherited Macular Disease

Bar Harbor, Maine – A butterfly-shaped pigment accumulation in the macula of the eye, which can lead to severe vision loss in some patients, is due to mutations in the alpha-catenin 1 gene (CTNNA1), an international research consortium including a team from The Jackson Laboratory reports in Nature Genetics.

The findings suggest a role for CTNNA1 in macular degenerative diseases.

CTNNA1 encodes the protein CTNNA1, an alpha-catenin, which is part of the cellular machinery that glues cells to one another. Among CTNNA1’s roles is building and maintaining the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). This pigmented cell layer is critical for nourishing retinal visual cells and is sandwiched firmly between the neurosensory retina and the choroid, a capillary-rich tissue at the back of the eye.

The research team led by Anneke I. den Hollander, Ph.D., a professor at Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, identified CTNNA1 mutations in three families in which the butterfly-shaped pigment dystrophy of the eye is common. While relatively benign, this condition in some cases leads to severely impaired vision.

Independently, Professor Patsy Nishina’s laboratory at The Jackson Laboratory discovered a mouse strain with an analogous mutation in the same gene as identified by den Hollander’s team. Their collaboration revealed that the mouse model exhibits the same symptoms as the human patients, including pigmentary abnormalities, focal thickening, elevated lesions, and decreased light-activated responses in the RPE.

The researchers theorize that, although CTNNA1 is expressed in both the retina and the RPE, the disease is caused by defects in the RPE. CTNNA1 is a central component of intercellular adherens junctions, which are critical for maintaining RPE integrity.

The finding that the CTNNA1 mutations are a cause of butterfly-shaped pigment dystrophy supports the hypothesis that defects in the cadherin-based intercellular adhesion system may contribute to macular degenerative diseases.

Nishina comments, “This research nicely demonstrates the ‘virtuous loop’ between findings in patient data and how a good mouse model equivalent can provide detailed insight into the mechanisms of a disease.”

Other Jackson Laboratory researchers collaborating in the research were Mark P. Krebs, Wanda Hicks, Lanying Shi, Lucy Rowe, Gayle B. Collin and Jeremy R. Charette.

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution and National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center. It employs 1,700 staff, and its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health.

Saksens et al: Mutations in CTNNA1 cause butterfly-shaped pigment dystrophy and perturbed retinal pigment epithelium integrity. Nature Genetics, Dec. 21, 2015, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ng.3474

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