Basie Center announces recipients of this year’s Pat DiNizio Music Performance Scholarships


Pat DiNizio(RED BANK – JANUARY 19) The Count Basie Center for the Arts has announced three new students set to receive performance scholarships established in memory of Pat DiNizio, late singer and co-founder of New Jersey Hall of Fame band The Smithereens.

Marel Hidalgo of Neptune, Middletown’s Abigail Kristler and Nicole DiBlasi of Holmdel were selected from dozens of applicants for this year’s Pat DiNizio Musical Performance Scholarships. Each will receive $500 towards programs offered by the Count Basie Center Academy.

“Every year, The Smithereens are heartened to hear the latest submissions for the Pat DiNizio Musical Performance Scholarship,” said Dennis Diken, founding member and drummer for The Smithereens. “The abundance of young talent in The Garden State is overwhelming! While it’s an unenviable task to choose a recipient, we congratulate Marel, Abigail and Nicole, and wish all those who aspire to a creative life our best in all their endeavors.”

“I’m very honored to receive this scholarship, and I’d like to thank Mr. Babjak and Mr. Diken from The Smithereens, and everyone else involved,” said Neptune’s Hidalgo, who will continue his instruction in guitar. “The Basie Center has helped me to broaden my musical growth and I hope that with this scholarship I will be able to continue this journey.”

“Music and the arts have always been the greatest light in my life and receiving a scholarship on behalf of something I am so passionate about means the world to me,” said DiBlasi, a vocalist who has studied musical theatre at the Basie Center Academy. “With the help of the amazing programs here at the Basie Center, I am looking forward to growing as a performer and musician and making memories to last a lifetime.”

“I’m incredibly honored to receive the Pat DiNizio scholarship,” said Kristler, who has been taking classical guitar lessons at the Basie Center’s Monmouth Conservatory of Music. “I look forward to using this scholarship to continue my guitar lessons, and since I am also considering going to music school, this scholarship will help me create more opportunities for myself in the future.”

“As musicians who work hard to hone their abilities and use their gifts to not just entertain but also bring confidence to all their endeavors, these three students embody the spirit of the Pat DiNizio Musical Performance Scholarship,” said Laura Petillo, Manager, Music Programs at the Count Basie Center Academy. “We’re honored to offer the annual DiNizio scholarships, which honor both the spirit of making music and the memory of one of New Jersey’s great performing artists.”

At the time of his passing, DiNizio and The Smithereens had just announced plans for a Basie Center performance. The concert instead became a tribute to DiNizio, featuring Smithereens bandmates Babjak, Diken and Mike Mesaros, fronted by an array of vocalists including Marshall Crenshaw, Ted Leo, Gin Blossoms lead singer Robin Wilson, Scandal’s Patty Smyth, Freedy Johnston, Richard Barone, Severo Jornacion and others. The evening ended with an all-star performance of The Smithereens’ classic “A Girl Like You,” led by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt.

A portion of sales from that concert and money raised worldwide during a live webcast of the show helped create the scholarship fund.