Inside Josh Groban’s Find Your Light Fundraiser

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Wé McDonald performs
Wé McDonald performs

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

It was a good idea for Josh Groban to move his annual gala from the East Coast to the West Coast. At Saturday night’s exciting event, Groban raised over $1 million—$1,011,763.23 to be exact. Held at the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, the dinner and concert performance was a benefit for Groban’s foundation, Find Your Light, an organization that helps support arts education programs in schools.

Curtis Priem, Josh Groban and Veronica Priem
Curtis Priem, Josh Groban and Cindi Priem

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Groban hosted his first gala for Find Your Light in 2016 in New York City. Last year he also hosted the event in New York, but Bay Area-based philanthropists Cindi and Curtis Priem convinced him to throw this spring’s benefit in California. Priem and Cindi were married at the Ritz, so it was special to underwrite the gala where they celebrated their nuptials.

Oaktown Jazz Workshop
Oaktown Jazz Workshop

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Despite the incredibly chilly weather, the evening began with a cocktail reception outside. Guests huddled under heaters while sipping cocktails and nibbling on hearty passed appetizers that included mini beef Wellingtons and pots of creamy macaroni and cheese. Young jazz musicians, from the Oaktown Jazz Workshop, one of the nonprofits that Find Your Light supports, performed a lively set. Halleck Vineyard poured tastes of its 2015 Pinot Noir, a wine that Groban made in partnership with the vineyard in honor of his foundation. It was being sold by the case to collectors.

The pretty tablescape
The pretty tablescape

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

At 7:30 p.m. the 400 guests moved inside to a beautifully set ballroom with glittering candlelight and stunning floral arrangements. The sit-down dinner was a four-course meal featuring Maine lobster tails, burrata cheese with a tomato medley, and a choice of Alaskan halibut with heirloom bean ragout or roasted beef tenderloin. For dessert, there was a decadent chocolate cake with orange gelato or a snickers dome with caramelized peanuts and salted caramel ice cream. The food was delicious!

Jason Mraz with the Young Musicians Choral Orchestra
Jason Mraz with the Young Musicians Choral Orchestra

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

The evening’s program featured musical performances, a short presentation of awards, and a live auction. Another group supported by Find Your Light, Berkeley’s Young Musicians Choral Orchestra, sang a spectacular mashup of songs from Les Miserables. During his set, singer-songwriter Jason Mraz had the group join him onstage for an emotional performance of his hit song I Won’t Give Up. Groban played piano and sang a couple of Broadway tunes, including a ballad from Sweeney Todd and a moving rendition of You, Raise Me Up. The highlight of the evening came early on when The Voice star, Wé McDonald sang This Is Me, the Oscar-nominated song from The Greatest Showman. Her voice was phenomenal.

The live auction
The live auction

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

The live auction consisted of seven lots of varying experiences such a private tasting at Skywalker Vineyards, a walk-on role in the next Disney live-action film, and an adventurous tour through Alaska’s Yukon Wildlife Preserve. The highest bid was $50K for a big Broadway package with tickets for Dear Evan Hansen, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 and 2, and Hamilton. Gabriel Priem made the winning bid. Notables at the gala included actress Alfre Woodard, who was honored, and local luminaries Maryam Muduroglu, Jane Mudge, Victor and Farah Makras, and Greg Malin.

John Goldman and Marcia Goldman
John Goldman and Marcia Goldman

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Allison Speer and friend
Allison Speer and Terry Soriano-Zucker

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Jason Mraz
Jason Mraz

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Maryam Muduroglu and friends
Maryam Muduroglu, Cathy Anderson, and Sandy Schmaier

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Josh Groban
Josh Groban

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Wé McDonald
Wé McDonald

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Josh Groban
Josh Groban

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Michael Fabiano, Jane Mudge, and Bryan McCalister
Michael Fabiano, Jane Mudge, and Bryan McCalister

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Josh Groban and Alfre Woodard
Josh Groban and Alfre Woodard

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Kendall Wilkinson and Greg Malin
Kendall Wilkinson and Greg Malin

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Farah and Victor Makras
Farah and Victor Makras

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Alfre Woodard
Alfre Woodard

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

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