Friends and Neighbors

Gables church honors longtime head of early-childhood center

For nearly 40 decades, Barbara Watson has lovingly served the children as director of the Early Childhood Center at Coral Gables Congregational Church. Now, she said, it is time to hang up her director’s hat and move on. At 11 a.m. on June 2, the Rev. Dr. Laurinda Hafner, the church’s senior minister, has planned a special celebratory service for Watson. She will be honored for her many years of "outstanding and dedicated leadership", said Kelly Altosino-Sastre, a member of the church, at 3010 Desoto Blvd.

"The celebration is called Barbara Watson Day, and Mayor Jim Cason will be there to present Watson with a city of Coral Gables proclamation," Altosino-Sastre said.

"Barbara has been a fixture in the community for many years, and her commitment to the education, growth, and care for our children is legendary," Hafner said. "She leaves a legacy of an outstanding, much respected, and valued preschool."

Watson said, "Directing the preschool ... and to see the preschool grow from a loving nursery school to a school to one which affirms children as an important and significant profession, has been for me, an overall satisfying 30-plus-year journey. I am proud that we have built a warm and welcoming program of early childhood education, which is financially viable, based on professional standards, and is recognized and respected in the community."

Before moving to Miami in 1969 with her husband David (now deceased), Watson was a teacher in Maryland. In 1974, after the birth of their two daughters, Watson took a part time teaching position at the center, working with 2- through 5-year-olds. In 1984, She was named interim director and subsequently became the director. In 1993, the preschool became a nationally accredited preschool of excellence through the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs.

Janet Hiles, a longtime staffer and the incoming preschool director said, "We believe that Barbara’s guiding principle... of always putting the needs of the child first, will resonate with our school forever."

Watson is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the Southern Florida Association of the Education for Young Children and a member of the Southern Early Childhood Association .

All past and present students and their families, and staff are encouraged to attend the service. A reception will be held immediately following the service.

‘Voice and Piano Recital’

It’s that time of the year when you can hear great music and, perhaps, be a witness to some young performers, who one day could very well become some of the world’s greatest performers in the classical music arena.

I speak of the annual Voice and Piano Recital, presented by Performer’s Music Institute, to be at 7 p.m., June 1 at Miami Shores Community Church, 9823 NE Fourth Ave.

Hosted by Oscar Diaz Jr., artistic director of the institute, the program will include students and young artists in a program to include vocal selections from opera, musical theatre, art songs and popular music.

Performers are: Eliezer Matos, baritone; Jose Vazquez, 18, bass-baritone; Katarina Bakas, lyric mezzo-soprano; Lisa Gansar Pitman, mezzo-soprano; Josephine Robinson, 12, pianist; Melissa Ruiz, light-lyric soprano; Jouvanca Jean-Baptiste, lyric-spinto soprano; Rosie Herrera, lyric-coloratura soprano, and William Cadena, lyric baritone. Gregory Szeto and Jared Perounce will accompany the singers.

Jean-Baptiste recently was chosen to participate in the young artist program with the Florida Grand Opera’s 2013-2014 season. She will also perform in the title role in "Tosca" for three performances with FGO next season. It is a role she has already performed with Opera San Jose in California.

This is an event worth attending, not only for the musical benefits, but also to support the young and upcoming artists in our community. It’s free and open to the public. If you need more information, call Diaz at 305-757-7725.

Whole Foods program aids Orchestra Miami

From now through July 7, Whole Foods Market at 6701 Red Road in Coral Gables will have a "Donate Your Dime" program to benefit Orchestra Miami. The program works like this: Customers at the store will receive 10 cents back on their bill, with every reusable bag they bring from home. the customer can choose to either keep the dime per bag, or donate it to the local charity or organization of that quarter. This quarter, Orchestra Miami will receive the donations.

Orchestra Miami was founded in 2006 by Artistic Director Elaine Rinaldi and has established itself as an important part of Miami’s vibrant cultural community. Since its beginning, the orchestra has presented some of the finest in classical symphonic, Latin jazz and opera, with some of the most important and recognized names in the music world. Orchestra Miami is also committed to the community and education, as reflected in its series of free family concerts, presented around the county in various venues, the annual "Cultural Passport" performances for Miami Dade County Public Schools and its annual series of free outdoor concerts. The orchestra’s excellence has been recognized by visiting artists Andrea Bocelli, Idina Menzel, Raul Esparza, and Juan Diego Florez.

The proceeds from the "Donate Your Dime" program will go to help sustain and support Orchestra Miami’s education efforts and many free programs. For more information and if you want to make an extra donation, go to:

One-woman show

Christina Alexander will present the one-woman show, Hate! An American Love Story, at 7 p.m. June 8 at Arts at St. Johns, 4760 Pine Tree Dr. in Miami Beach.

Alexander’s work will delve into stories of love in America and the country's struggle to understand that different doesn’t mean wrong. She will play eight characters, who will deliver 16 monologues that offer varied perspectives of who and what defines love in America.

General admission is $20; $15 for seniors; $10 for students with I.D. and free to members of the military and their families.

Holocaust is subject of stage production

Holocaust: A Living Journey-book will be presented at Gablestage at 7:30 p.m. on June 3 at 1200 Anastasia Ave. in Coral Gables.

Presented by What If Works Inc., the production made its successful debut in 2012 at the Arsht Center’s community-wide "Holocaust & the Light" project. The recent project is directed by Phillip M. Church, artistic director of WIW and associate professor of theater at Florida International University. The production includes nine actors who will perform a mosaic of self-scripted monologues drawn from historical and personal accounts of the Holocaust.

The monologues will be woven between five choruses of wartime poet Nelly Sachs, and will shed light on the life of Gustav Schroeder, captain of the ill-fated SS St. Louis, Anne Frank recording eye-witness accounts from the hidden recess of an Amsterdam apartment, Antoni Dobrowolski, Polish school teacher and the oldest living survivor from the camps at Auschwitz and Sir Nicholas Winton, known to many as the "British Schindler" because he systematically saved over 2,700 Jewish children.

The production will include archival film clips, survivor testimonials, song and compositions attributed to Holocaust composers, and will feature, Caitlyn Lincoln, Rafael Martinez, Amanda Ortega, Yarelis Chavez, Patrick Rodriguez, Gabriel Bonilla, Juanita Castro, and Erik Rodriguez. Music will be performed by Amernet String Quartet: Jason Calloway, Cellist; Carla Cao, clarinetist, and Anton Church, multi-media content. Vicky Collado is the assistant director.

The production will tour England in July and will be joined there by co-director John Barlow. Prior to going to England, the production will also be at the Millais Theatre at Solent Southampton University. Tickets are $15 each and may be purchased by calling the box office at 305-445-1119. Proceeds will benefit the US-UK tour.

Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Friends and Neighbors, c/o Neighbors, 2000 NW 150th Ave., Suite 1105, Pembroke Pines, FL 33028, fax it to 954-538-7018 or email Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.

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