Two musicians and the founder of an after-school program for children in Kansas City’s urban core have been honored with Notre Dame Alumni Association awards. The awards were presented at the winter meeting of the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors.
The 2016 Rev. Anthony J. Lauck, C.S.C., Award, which recognizes alumni who have made achievements in fine arts and visual arts, is being presented to Chuck Perrin, class of 1969, for his success and dedication to bringing music to his community.
The 2016 Rev. Arthur S. Harvey, C.S.C., Award, which is given to alumni with outstanding achievement in performing arts, is being presented to jazz musician Gene Bertoncini, class of ’59.
And the William D. Reynolds Award, which recognizes exceptional work with youth, is being presented to Bradley Grabs, class of ’92, for his dedication to serving children in need.
As a student, Perrin was an active member of the campus creative scene. In addition to performing and acting, he operated a performance space that became an off-campus arts hub for interaction between teachers and students.
“Notre Dame taught me the value of being a part of a strong arts community and ignited in me a passion to keep the creative arts a vital part of my life,” Perrin said.
He has accomplished this by establishing Dizzy’s, an all-ages performance collective, much like the one he conceived at Notre Dame, in his hometown of San Diego.
“I made a place where artists can truly connect with audiences — where the music comes first,” he said. “Even better, my involvement keeps me inspired to continue to create my own music.”
His tireless efforts have garnered him the appreciation of countless musicians and performers, not to mention music-loving audiences of all ages. Dizzy’s has become an acclaimed San Diego institution with a reputation known to jazz fans around the world.
“I am truly honored to receive the 2016 Rev. Anthony J. Lauck award and pay tribute to a man I personally knew and respected not only as an artist of high stature, but also as a caring human being,” Perrin said.
A native New Yorker, Bertoncini graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in architecture and went on to become one of the world’s preeminent jazz guitarists. His technique and lyricism won him international accolades and the nickname “the Segovia of jazz.”
An eloquent and versatile performer, Bertoncini has been heard with an extraordinary range of jazz greats, including performances and recordings with musicians including Benny Goodman, Buddy Rich, Wayne Shorter, Hubert Laws and Paul Desmond, as well as such distinguished singers as Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, Nancy Wilson, Vic Damone and Eydie Gorme.
A prolific and popular studio musician, Bertoncini honed his professional chops as a member of the “Tonight Show” band during Johnny Carson’s tenure. He has worked with composers and arrangers such as Lalo Schifrin and Michel Legrand and has performed with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. In addition to an active performing and recording schedule, Bertoncini teaches at the Eastman School of Music and William Paterson University.
“The privilege of studying architecture at Notre Dame opened the door to the understanding of many ways of life,” Bertoncini said. “Using my God-given gift of music to enhance the lives of people has been my calling and joy.”
After graduating from Notre Dame with a degree in accounting, Grabs served for a year in the Vincentian Service Corps, where he discovered a passion for working with children on the margins of society. He then began teaching at Rockhurst Jesuit High School in Kansas City and chose to live in an impoverished area of the urban core.
One Sunday afternoon, when walking in a park near his home, Grabs was approached by two teenagers who beat him and mugged him. It took several months before his fear and anger began to subside, but prayer and reflection left Grabs convinced that he needed to do something to help children in his community who were in need of direction and hope.
In 2002, he left his job at Rockhurst and started the Learning Club of KCK, an after-school and summer program for children in the urban core. With the help of many people, including classmates from Notre Dame, Grabs expanded the Learning Club to serve more than 120 children each week. Over 100 volunteer tutors serve at five sites, four of which are located in public housing projects in which the average household income is less than $10,000 per year.
Grabs and his wife, Dawn, live with their three children in the urban core, across the street from one of the Learning Club sites.
“It is with much gratitude that I receive the William D. Reynolds award from Notre Dame, which gave me such a strong foundation,” Grabs said. “I’m always eager to tell about the lives of Learning Club students and their families, who are largely invisible to most of society. Many of them are an inspiration to me. I’m also grateful for the many volunteers, donors and staff who have helped bring hope and goodness to our students who truly need it. And I’m grateful to everyone, including my parents, wife, friends and co-workers, who encouraged me to follow the voice of the Spirit.”