Dallas Symphony Orchestra AT&T Gala Kicks Off The Black Tie Season With Belly Dancers And Joshua Bell

As anyone who just got off a plane at DFW International knows, the North Texas arts community is going through a challenging period. With beautiful facilities and extremely talented artisans, there is still the problem of upkeep. As one very wealthy fella said about buying a eight-figure estate in the early part of the century, “It’s not buying the place. It’s the upkeep that will put you in the poor house.”

Blaine Nelson

Last weekend the grand old arts community, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra AT&T Gala opened the season with the first black-tie fundraiser at the Meyerson. When the event was originally put into place earlier this year, it was a different world on a whole new journey to better days. Bill Lively had assumed the leadership of the DSO; Jaap van Zweden was in the driver’s seat of the well-tuned orchestra; and DSO board members were high-fiving each other. That was January 12. Fast forward to April 29, when Bill Lively resigned due to health reasons. With Lively’s resignation, hopes for hefty assistance in gala underwriting went into cardiac arrest. But gala chairs Barbara and Don Daseke, as well as DSO Board Chairman-elect Blaine Nelson, rallied the troops. The show would go on and it would include stellar violinist Joshua Bell having a grand time with Jaap and the DSO musicians.

Along with the announcement of Bell’s participation was the news that the theme would be Indian/Moroccan/Turkish. Along with a sigh of relief that it wasn’t going to be the same old “Beer Garden a la Mendelssohn” or “Drama  with Verdi,” eyebrows were raised as to how it was going to be executed.

Not to worry. Todd Fiscus was on board to make it happen. Plus to attract the younger crowd, too-adorable-for-music Anna-Sophia van Zweden would chair the post-concert party.

Patti Nelson

A sniggling of what was going to happen took place last Friday at Patti and Blaine Nelson‘s home for gala patrons. Amid whispers of rain, guests arrived smiling in hopes that the summer of 2011 was over. Then there was Joshua Bell, who was quickly scurried into the kitchen by handlers before the patrons could discover the “great one” was there. Between us, Joshua may be past 40, but he looked like a starter for the Highland Park Scotties football team — no tie, open shirt, blazer and a boyish smile. He also had just a glimmer of mischief in his eye as he eyeballed the guests. After a one-two rest, he was escorted like the most precious White House resident through the room. Picture the #1 rushee on campus being surrounded by alums wherever he went. “Go this way,” “Now this way,” “These folks want to be photographed with you,” etc.

AT&T ‘s Holly Reed was with her best friend, mom Katie in from San Antonio.  . .  Another AT&T type, Forrest Miller, admitted that he and wife Cynthia were still adjusting to life in Dallas. Seems after living in San Antonio and, before that, many years in Los Angeles and San Francisco, he said, “We thought we were Republicans in California, but we found out we’re conservative Democrats here in Texas.”

Joshua Bell

After almost everyone had been shot with Joshua, it was time for a “chat with Joshua.” Organizers said that Interim DSO Headman David Hyslop would do the interview if he arrived in time. But his wife Sally‘s plane was late, so it was iffy. But what do you know? He showed up just minutes before the interview commenced. However, it was host Blaine who took up the role of interviewer. Joshua didn’t mind. He and Blaine are simpatico.

Blaine asked if Joshua had brought his legendary Stradivarius red violin that was created in 1713. Joshua admitted, “I didn’t. I hope it’s safe at the Ritz-Carlton. Maybe I should call security.” Joshua went on to tell his history with the musical instrument. Of the 400 Stradivariuses in the world, he got his exactly 10 years ago this month. Fell in love with it, in London. Within 30 seconds of playing it he decided, “This has gotta be my violin. I said, ‘I gotta have this’. I keep falling in love with my violin over and over. … I feel very lucky. I’m one of a few of my generation to be able to afford my instrument; it’s not on loan.”

He went on to discuss a plethora of subjects:

Dallas Symphony Orchestra:  “You have a lot to be proud of here. A great hall, a Dallas Symphony that is very highly regarded around the world … I think it really brings a lot – more than the Cowboys right now.”

Football teams: “They’re (Dallas Cowboys) looking more hopeful than my team, the Indianapolis Colts.”

His performance in a subway: He’s “a little bit tired of” the subway story … Why did they ignore him in the subway? he’s asked. Maybe several reasons, he says: music demands concentration, and the people didn’t have it rushing by. They were “checking their texts” he said … to which Holly of AT&T piped up: “Which is not all bad!” and everybody laughed.

The Meyerson: “The Meyerson is in the top tier of great halls in the world.”

Live vs. electronic performances: “There’s nothing like the live experience, but there’s a place for both (live and recorded). The electronic ‘feeds’ the live (gets people into the halls).”

The future: He said we should be focusing on the kids; he works with Education through Music for underprivileged kids in New York.

Another VIP who was initially on the agenda for an appearance was Anna-Sophia, but at the last minute it was revealed that she probably wouldn’t be there. Seems she was swamped with responsibilities for the DSO Gala and the MTV event the following week.

Belly dancers with Steve and Linda Ivy

Saturday was another situation. Unlike the Nelsons’ stately home in the Park Cities, the first sight greeting guests at the Meyerson were colorful belly dancers accompanied by musicians. The earlier plans to have a baby elephant at the front doors had been stowed.

Anna-Sophia van Zweden

Friday night’s MIA Anna-Sophia in a double sari green gown by Prashe with royal jewelry was on the scene with her buddy Ana Pettus. With luscious lips and a more than generous tan, A-S was the homecoming queen of the night.

Don and Barbara Dasekes

In front of a colorful princely tent just outside the Opus, Barbara and Don Daseke greeted both old pals and strangers as compatriots in their mission to raise funds for the DSO.

Before guests can could make their way to the Dasekes, Jose Reyes was one step after the Meyerson ticket takers greeting guests and telling them, “It’s gonna be all the raj!”

Stacey and John Relton

Looking around the Meyerson lobby, palm trees hovered over the dining rooms and colorful flat, low couches were spotted in the Opus, but there were no snake charmers nor turban-wrapped heads. But that didn’t dissuade some from dressing for the occasion. Barbara Daseke was in a jeweled encrusted deep beige skirt and beige sweater with two regal necklaces on loan from Prashe. . . Stacey Relton was on the same page with the theme in her sari gown, again by Prashe. . . Others like Jan Miller Rich and Carmaleta Whiteley simply took a favorite gown and dressed it up with a marvy necklace and/or Sue Gragg earrings.

On the other hand, others just embraced the tried-and-true-couture-names of Carolina Herrera (Faye Briggs and Linda Ivy), Oscar de la Renta (Myrna Schlegel and Doris Jacobs), David Meister (Kaylyn Montgomery), Alberta Ferretti (Julie Hawes) and Escada (Barbara Durham).

Holly Reed

Holly Reed went straight for killer bright, glorious colors with a jeweled top and kaleidoscope of colors in her flowing skirt. Who was the designer? Holly’s secret. She wasn’t talking, but she was with her “favorite fella,” Brad Beaird.

Jeff Rich

But the ladies weren’t the only ones in talk-about-fashion. Jeff Rich in a silver-ish “tuxedo” with matching narrow tie and Bob Schlegel wearing a little western-style tie exchanged comments about their looks. Jeff: “Just wait, Bob, someday that will come back in style.” Jeff went on to ask what period Bob’s tie was from. Bob: “Bat Masterson. When you come across the border and into Texas, they give you one of these.”

Jona Kerr and Melissa Stewart

Melissa and Paul Stewart weren’t talking about fashion. They were introducing Jona Kerr, the wife of the new DSO concertmaster, Alexander Kerr. Seems that Jona has been staying with the Stewarts and turned out to be the perfect house guest. She’s an excellent cook and has put the Stewarts’ kitchen to good use. . . .

Joe Straus

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus and wife Julie served as honorary chairs and chatted up DSO board chair Ron Gafford.

After a reception that wasn’t weighed down by a silent auction or raffle offerings, the Meyerson chimes called all to dinner. The blended couscous pilaf salad with dried fruits, pine nuts, vine-ripened tomatoes and field greens was a hit across the boards! The Moroccan-spiced lamb chops got mixed reviews depending on your table. While some said it was the best ever served, others were seen trying to discreetly dispose of the lamb’s cellulite.

But that question of taste quickly passed as the gala patrons and the concert attendees merged into the concert hall for the full-blown concert complete with DSO corps, DSO chorus, Joshua Bell and Dallas Morning News critic Scott Cantrell keeping score.

Before the musicians could lift a bow, housekeeping duties were performed. Joe Straus told the audience that, “It’s the first time we’ve been here. . .  the first time to hear the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.”

Blaine reminded the audience that Jaap was beginning his fourth year as conductor and that the DSO would feature some unique programs during the upcoming season, ending with, “We need you to come back after tonight.”

Then the concert was underway. If you want a critique of the program, you need to check Scott’s review. Let’s just say that the partnering  of Jaap with Joshua was like teaming up George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Both were mesmerizing and delivered with sweet sounds and physical grace. Even an elder socialite, who had dozed off earlier in the performance, was as wide awake as  a Jack Russell Terrier when Jaap and Joshua performed Bruch’s violin concerto #1 in G minor.

Unfortunately, even the finest musical moments can suffer from thoughtless audience members. During Wagner’s bridal chorus form Logengrin, a ringtone didn’t just go off, it continued playing in competition with the orchestra and chorus. Instead of silencing the renegade phone, the owner answered the call and then discussed it with his companion in a volume that was a notch or two louder than a whisper. Guess these folks haven’t seen the movie adviso about such cellular interruptions. Sorta ironic that this no-no took place during the “Dallas Symphony Orchestra AT&T Gala.”

Jessica Olsson, Meghan Looney, Ana Pettus and Anna-Sophia van Zweden

While the naughty ringtone didn’t receive an SO, the onstage musicians and singers certainly did. Then the hall was emptied with patrons heading to the after-party hosted by Anna-Sophia with her coterie of gal pals including Jessica Olsson (her boyfriend Dirk was in Germany), Ana Pettus and Meghan Looney.

Martin Dondnoe

Providing the musical backdrop for this part of the evening was DJ Lucy Wrubel. Like Jaap, her physical dexterity was noted as she bounced on a tot trampoline and jammed. . .Veletta Lill was using new-age technology to locate her husband in the crowd. No, she hasn’t had him microchipped. She was texting him. . .  Adding to the international flavor of the night was a band of gents in kilts with a Scottish lilt to their accents.

As the older guests exited for the valet parking, the younger crowd arrived on the scene resulting in an age drop of about 20 years. Some of the vintage patrons sat on the flat couches checking out the younger generation in their party wear. One young miss in an eggplant gown with exposed back, got a second look. Perhaps it was the tattoo along her spine. Another gal walked the marble floor barefooted. Those floors can be tough on stilettos.

Among the spray-tanned, lip-enhanced crowd walked Joshua Bell. Just because he’s a world-famous violinist doesn’t mean he doesn’t like a good party with beautiful young people.


  1. This was such a spectacular evening. The gala, of course, was amazing. But it was the afterparty that took the event to the next level. Joshua Bell danced the night away with the younger set, and then joined us all for the VIP invitation-only “After-Afterparty” at Hotel ZaZa until way past 2am in the morning. I ensured Joshua, “What happens at the afterparty, stays at the afterparty.” To that he said, “Bravo.”

    Regards, Jose Reyes