Basie Center announces this year’s Pat DiNizio Musical Performance Scholarship recipients


Pat DiNizio (Photo by Mary Frank)
Pat DiNizio (Photo by Mary Frank)

(RED BANK – DEC 12) On the fifth anniversary of the passing of The Smithereens vocalist Pat DiNizio, the Count Basie Center for the Arts today announced two new students set to receive performance scholarships established in the New Jersey singer’s memory.

Madison Torres, 16, of Farmingdale and Emerson Granata, 12, 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.

Granata is currently enrolled in musical theatre ensemble classes at the Academy, while Torres will enroll in her first classes this winter.

“My favorite theater classes are the student productions at Basie Center Academy,” said Granata, who performed in junior productions of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Xanadu). I have learned so much about stage direction and how to put on a show from my coaches, (Academy teaching artists and program managers) Jessica (O’Brien) and Anthony (Greco)”

“Music is everything to me,” Torres said. “My ultimate goal is to attend a university that offers a music industry degree so I can build a lifelong career in a business I’ve wanted to be a part of since I was 5. This scholarship will enable me to further my knowledge and abilities vocally and I allow me to grow as a performer.”

“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 Emerson Granata and Madison Torres and wish all those who aspire to a creative life our best in all their endeavors.”

“As vocalists who work hard to hone their abilities and use their gifts to not just entertain but also bring confidence to all their endeavors, Madison and Emerson embody the spirit of the Pat DiNizio Musical Performance Scholarship,” said Laura Petillo, Manager, Music Programs at the Count Basie Center Academy. “The Count Basie Center and Basie Center Academy are 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.