Ashford & Simpson & Warwick?

The mighty Ashford & Simpson together with Her Majesty, Dionne Warwick, shared the same stage for a grand finale that shook the entire building, as everyone in the house sang along with the dynamic threesome to “What The World Needs Now Is Love.�

Photo Credit: Francis Pelzman Liscio

The Harlem School of the Arts (HSA) honored musical director, arranger and HSA alum, Ray Chew at their annual Art is Life gala, at the Supper Club, located at 240 West 47th Street in Manhattan.  Chew, has worked with many legendary artists including Ashford & Simpson, Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Donny Hathaway and Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, The 4 Tops, Elvis Costello, Roberta Flack, Sting, James Taylor, and Jennifer Holiday, Alicia Keys and Brian McKnight, Missy Elliot, Faith Evans and more. “We are thrilled to honor Ray Chew whose accomplishments call attention to the quality of arts education he received at The Harlem School of the Arts. Ray represents thousands of dance, music, theatre and visual arts students who learned their art forms and self discipline at HSA and who have been encouraged to continue their education and pursue careers in the arts and many other professions,” stated Harlem School of the Arts President/CEO Kakuna Kerina.

Musical icons, Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson and jazz and R&B queen, Dionne Warwick entertained the more than 300 elite at the black tie affair.
Powerful and effervescent as ever, the dashing duo, Ashford & Simpson, engaged the adoring crowd with their perpetual lyrics and upbeat grooves that have influenced entire generations.  “It’s been just a thrill to watch Ray grow; and we consider him part of our family – not just our musical family, but our family.  This is a family affair,� stated Simpson as Ashford followed suit, dedicating their mega hit, “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing� to Chew.

Her Majesty, Dionne was absolutely radiant as she captivated the audience with her sultry tones and sensual rhythms, reaffirming her reign as Queen of the smooth upper echelon of R&B & jazz.

The Chew Band, was absolutely stellar and kept it live and magnificent, throughout the evening, proving how true musicianship can really bring magic and vitality to the hearts and souls of everyone.

Ashford & Simpson together with Her Majesty, Dionne shared the same stage for a grand finale that shook the entire building, as everyone in the house sang along with the dynamic threesome to “What The World Needs Now Is Love.� 

Recapitulating their hard work, and proving that all of the support is absolutely worthwhile, The Harlem School of the Arts Ensemble, conducted by Ray Chew gave a marvelous performance of Anticellini Interlude.

Verizon, a long-time supporter of HSA, was also honored at the event for their contributions to The Harlem School of the Arts since 1998. Recently, Verizon’s support has been targeted to upgrading and improving the computer graphics technology used by students in the Visual Arts program. Monica Azare, Senior Vice President of State Public Policy & External Affairs NY/CT at Verizon said, “The Harlem School of the Arts has been a mainstay in the Harlem community for over 40 years providing children with exposure to and instruction in the arts. Verizon proudly supports HSA, recognizes the importance of our corporate support to this community organization, and is honored by this recognition.”

MC Harry Smith was an absolute crowd pleaser as he created the atmosphere of a huge and happy family reunion, making it quite a memorable evening.  Smith conducted a live auction that raised $25,000 in less than 10 minutes for the School.

Ray Chew, Musical Director of Showtime at the Apollo for 12 years, began his musical education at age 5 at Juilliard and continued from ages 7 to 10 at The Harlem School of the Arts. By the age of 11 he was a student teacher at the Third Street Music Academy. He also studied at the Mannes School of Music, the High School of Music and Art and the Manhattan School of Music. Chew is renowned for arranging, performing and recording with legendary artists including Quincy Jones, Diana Ross, Roberta Flack and Chaka Khan and earning twenty-two gold and platinum record awards. Reflecting the sentiments of many musicians and performers, Nick Ashford said, “Val and I are performing as a tribute to Ray because we love him and are very proud of him.” 

Producers and songwriters Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson brought their ubiquitous flavor to R&B in the 1960s — first with Ray Charles, “Let’s Go Get Stoned” and later moved over to Motown.  Valerie Simpson is the composer and Nick Ashford is the lyricist. They duo met in 1964 and scored their first hit song in 1966 with Ray Charles’ recording of their composition,  “Let’s Go Get Stoned.”  They later moved from Scepter Records  to Motown, where they wrote hits for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell ,”Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” and “You’re All I Need to Get By”and Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand” for Diana Ross.

The first success in their own performing career came in 1977 with the gold-selling album, “Send It,â€? which contained the Top Ten R&B hit “Don’t Cost You Nothing.â€?   A second gold album, “Is It Still Good to Ya,â€? contained the number two R&B hit “It Seems to Hang On” in 1978.  Their third straight gold album, Stay Free contained “Found a Cure,” which was another R&B smash hit that also made the Top 40 on the pop chart. 

*Dionne Warwick has, over an illustrious four-decade career, established herself as an international musical legend. Her reputation as a hit maker has been firmly etched into public consciousness, thanks to nearly sixty charted hits since “Don’t Make Me Over” began its climb up the charts in December 1962. As a performer, she has charmed and entertained audiences on every continent, amassing a worldwide audience. There are a few important “firsts” that make Dionne Warwick a true pioneer.

Dionne Warwick received her first Grammy Award in 1968 (for the classic “Do You Know The Way to San Jose?”), and in so doing became the first African-American solo female artist of her generation to win the prestigious award for Best Contemporary Female Vocal Performance. This award has only been awarded to one other female African-American legend, Ella Fitzgerald.

Dionne Warwick’s performance at the Olympia Theater in Paris, during a 1963 concert starring the legendary Marlene Dietrich, rocketed her to international stardom. As she was establishing herself as a major force in American contemporary music, she steadily gained in popularity among European audiences. Hits like “Anyone Who Had A Heart” and “Walk On By” brought successively larger visibility and success around the world. In 1968 she became the first African-American female performer to appear before the Queen of England at a Royal Command Performance. Since then, Dionne has performed before numerous kings, queens, presidents, and heads of state.

Her recordings of songs like “A House Is Not A home,” “Alfie,” “(Theme From) The Valley Of The Dolls,” and “The April Fools” made Dionne Warwick a pioneer as one of the first female artists to popularize classic movie themes. In 1968 Dionne made her own film debut in the movie “Slaves”. This marked the first time, since Lena Horne, that a contemporary African-American female recording artist achieved such a goal.

The Harlem School of the Arts (HSA) is a leading multi-disciplinary nonprofit organization offering instruction in dance, music, theatre and visual arts serving over 3,000 students annually. HSA’s mission is to promote and provide arts education to enrich the lives of children in the Harlem and Upper Manhattan community. The Harlem School of the Arts is supported by the New York State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts and by funds from the National Endowment of the Arts; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, The New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, The Carnegie Corporation, The After School Corporation, and other corporate and foundation partners.

For more on Harlem School of the Arts, logon to

*Details on Ms Warwick, excerpted from Dionne Warwick’s official website at

Brenda Jeanne Wyche, Advocate for Solutions and Results is Managing Editor for The Black Star News and Harlem Business News and CEO of Winning Strategies & Associates.  If you have a solution, contact [email protected] .  Maybe we’ll talk.

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