I made a great discovery Friday night while attending the official unveiling of the new Krasnoff Theatre at the spectacular Tilles Center on the campus of LIU Long Island.
To help usher in a new era with the Krasnoff Theatre as a space that was fully renovated and gutted from floor to ceiling, LIU brought in the remarkably talented musician and entertain extraordinaire, Jon Batiste. Since I don’t stay up late on weeknights, I wasn’t familiar with his talents, as seen nightly on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
Batiste is a masterful musician with degrees from Julliard and he made the theater’s newly minted Steinway piano keys come alive. He also lit up the audience as I’ve never seen before, literally jumping into the crowd and getting us all singing in a three-part harmony. He truly blew me away with his talents.
He plays the melodica, a handheld, harmonica-like keyboard that makes a remarkable sound. It’s about 18 inches long, and has a slot for one hand to hold it and the other to hit the keys and make its sweet sound while blowing air into it.
Batiste grew up steeped in the New Orleans jazz world into a family of musicians. At the age of 8, he was already playing drums and other percussion instruments with his family band. By 11, he turned to the piano and perfected his talents. As a young man, he composed for choir jazz combos.
His talents as a musician, bandleader and TV personality are enormous. He took our audience by storm singing the songs of jazz greats like Louis Armstrong. Batiste sat with audience members while singing with them. What a night it was!
It was great to see LIU President Kim Cline joyously greeting the VIP guests including the charismatic Congressman Tom Suozzi, the Krasnoff family and the indomitable Roger Tilles, whose family name has adorned the important cultural institution for decades.
Roger is embroiled in the education world through his endless work on the Board of Regents as well as his involvement in significant interfaith, Jewish and arts groups. It was good to see him again. He has much to be proud of in his involvement with Long Island University.
The beautiful Krasnoff Theatre has been reborn as a great cultural institution, and it will enhance all of our lives for many years to come.