|Steve, Dakota and Becky|
"Dakota Betts, a 13 year old (who just turned 14) from Glenview, IL has been captivated by the piano ever since learning the distinctive staccato rhythm of "Mexican Jumping Beans" at age 5. She is a student of Dr. Akiko Konishi and has won top prizes in several competitions and festivals. In 2013, Dakota won second place in the Robert Savler Music Competition sponsored by the Chicago Music Teacher's Association, and in 2014 she was a prize winner again in a higher division, winning third place. In addition, Dakota was the youngest prize winner of the 2014 Triton College Concerto Competition. She also competes on her school's Science Olympiad team and earned the privilege to represent her district at the Illinois state competition in 2015. When she is not playing the piano or in the science lab, Dakota can be found on the tennis court, soccer field, or writing poetry that reflects her free spirit and vivid imagination."
|Becky, Dakota (14), Nathaniel (12) and Steve after the performance|
Now to the competition. American Protégé Piano and Strings Competitions are open to independent solo musicians of all ages, nationalities and countries. Participants submit their performance on video. The first round of the audition process includes screening of the submissions by the American Protégé Organizational Committee. Then a panel of judges consisting of high-profile musicians and teachers review the finalists and make the final decisions.
Needless to say, when the process is completed the judges have selected young people who have considerable talent.
Now the venue. "The Winner's Recital" took place on Saturday afternoon at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. The three hour-long program of classical music included the performances of 34 young people ages 8 to 16. They were absolutely amazing.
|Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall|
And now to Dakota's performance. She played a segment from Gershwin's Prelude No. 1.
And finally we come to "Dakota's Carnegie Debut Dinner," which was held at Ai Fiori, an Italian restaurant at the Langham Place Hotel on 5th Avenue. Dinner was spectacular but this was no surprise given the restaurant's credentials as described below.
|Dakota on the staircase to the restaurant|
Ai Fiori received three stars from The New York Times as well as Michelin Star recognition the past several years. The restaurant was also included in Esquire Magazine’s 2011 List of Best New Restaurants in America. Additionally, New York Post critic Steve Cuozzo labeled the signature dish Astice the “greatest dish in the world.” Ai Fiori also ranks among Zagat’s Best Italian in NYC, and the Forbes Travel Guide awarded it four stars.What a party. It started at 5:30 PM and lasted until after ten. In attendance were family and friends from all over the US and the UK.
|Becky, Paula, Martha (Dakota's grandmother) and Gail|
|Diana and Gail (Becky's sister)|
|Dakota's grandfather John Betts with his friend Doreen|
|Dakota with her cousin, Audrey|
Diana and I arrived on Thursday evening after a problem free flight from Tampa and promptly adjourned to the Bianca Restaurant at the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel for Thanksgiving Dinner. This was followed by a walk north on 5th Avenue, where we looked at Christmas decorations and back south through Times Square.
|Saks Fifth Avenue constantly changing lighted facade accompanied by Nutcracker Suite music|
|One World Trade Center in the background|
|911 Memorial Pool|
|Nathan Lane and John Slattery|
|Les, Nathaniel and Diana discussing Minecraft at Breakfast at the Tick Tock Restaurant|
|Betts family as we arrive at Pennsylvania Station for the train ride to Newark Airport|
A spectacular weekend in the Big Apple with spectacular people.
Written by Les.