Jazz Singer Donna Byrne Kicks off 23rd Year of Orchard Cove Scholarship Fund

Residents and friends donated more than $50,000 each year for the last three years to the scholarship fund that supports the educational aspiration of Orchard Cove employees.

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CANTON, Mass – Acclaimed jazz singer Donna Byrne gave a concert April 6 for residents of Orchard Cove in Canton, an award-winning community offering senior living options that span the full continuum of care and is part of Hebrew SeniorLife, New England’s largest nonprofit provider of senior health care and living communities. The live concert performance featured Tim Smith-Ray on piano and Les Harris, Jr. on drums, and was presented by the Orchard Cove Scholarship Fund as a thank you to the generosity of residents. 

An acclaimed singer and recording artist, Byrne sang from the Great American Songbook to the Beatles. She has performed with renowned artists including Tony Bennett, the Artie Shaw Orchestra, Herb Pomeroy, and others, and has played legendary venues from Los Angeles to New York to Boston, her hometown, and London, including the Blue Note, Tavern on the Green, Regattabar, the Rainbow Room, and Royal Albert Hall. 

Pianist Tim Ray played for many years with Lyle Lovett, and performed with Aretha Franklin and Bonnie Raitt at Carnegie Hall, the White House, the Kennedy Center, and other venues. He has appeared on The Tonight Show, Late Night with David Letterman, and The Conan O’Brien Show, as well. Berklee-trained Les Harris, Jr., is a former teen drum prodigy, who sat in with jazz greats Tommy Gallant, Herb Pomeroy, and Phil Wilson by the time he was 14. He has also toured with the Artie Shaw Orchestra, saxophonist Scott Hamilton, and vocalist Cheryl Bentyne.

“The jazz concert was really wonderful,” said resident Nancy Connery, a retired director of Admissions and Financial Services at MGH, “The auditorium was set up as a nightclub, with clusters of small tables, and it was just a really happy night. People loved the performance and enjoyed themselves. It was a great way to thank the residents who have generously supported the Orchard Cove Scholarship Program.” 

For the past three years, residents and friends have contributed more than $50,000 each year that is used to provide educational scholarships for Orchard Cove employees. The program was established more than a decade ago by residents as a way to support employees’ educational goals. The significant scholarships – which supported 20 employees in 2021 – are in addition to other incentives and supports from Hebrew SeniorLife for employees who enroll in academic programs. Last year’s students majored in nursing, psychology, engineering, information technology and other programs at colleges including Dartmouth University, Vanderbilt University, UMASS Amherst, Simmons University, Suffolk University, Massasoit Community College, and others. In over 22 years, the committee has supported more than 100 employees pursue their educations goals.

“For many of these staff members, the scholarships make the difference in being able to afford higher education. We so look forward to seeing how these employees make their mark at Orchard Cove and beyond,” said Orchard Cove Executive Director Aline Russotto.

The volunteers who manage the Orchard Cove Scholarship Program were concerned that it would be difficult to continue to raise money during the pandemic, when they could not hold big events. But, according to Connery, “we tried different ways to raise money, and found that residents continued to want to support the scholarship fund as a way to show their appreciation for the employees who help them every day.”

Miles for Scholars
On April 18, to celebrate the Boston Marathon, the scholarship fund will kick off a new initiative, “Miles for Scholars.” "Residents will track various activities to reach 26.2 miles of the marathon but they can complete that any way they want, by walking around the campus, on a treadmill or while swimming or any other activity," Connery said. A large map of Boston will be used to track residents’ progress towards the goal of completing their marathon, with donations for every milestone.

As another way to connect residents with employees, staff will also get a chance to track their mileage, too, though they will participate for free. However, employees participating in the “Miles for Scholars” marathon can apply their activity to a wellness program that Hebrew SeniorLife offers employees.  

About Hebrew SeniorLife
Hebrew SeniorLife is a national senior services leader uniquely dedicated to rethinking, researching, and redefining the possibilities of aging. Hebrew SeniorLife cares for more than 3,000 seniors a day across six campuses throughout Greater Boston. Our locations include: Hebrew Rehabilitation Center-Boston and Hebrew Rehabilitation Center-NewBridge in Dedham; NewBridge on the Charles, Dedham; Orchard Cove, Canton; Simon C. Fireman Community, Randolph; Center Communities of Brookline, Brookline; and Jack Satter House, Revere. Founded in 1903, Hebrew SeniorLife also conducts influential research into aging at the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research and trains more than 1,000 geriatric care providers each year. For more information about Hebrew SeniorLife, visit https://www.hebrewseniorlife.org or follow us on our blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.