The Smithereens, Count Basie Center announce ’22 Pat DiNizio Music Performance Scholarship recipients

Pat DiNizio


(RED BANK – JAN 18) The Count Basie Center for the Arts and New Jersey Hall Of Fame rockers The Smithereens today announced the recipients of this year’s Pat DiNizio Musical Performance Scholarships.

Taylor Bruno, 16, of Oceanport and Olivia Conti, 15, of Morganville, were selected from dozens of applicants for this year’s awards. Each will receive $500 towards programs offered by the Count Basie Center’s Academy of the Arts.

Conti, an actress and vocalist, participates in the Basie Academy’s musical theatre classes and student productions, while Bruno studies classical guitar the Basie Center’s Monmouth Conservatory of Music under instructor Patrick Appello.

“I am so honored to receive the Pat DiNizio Musical Performance Scholarship and am thrilled that the selection committee appreciated my enthusiasm and passion,” said Bruno. “Playing the guitar is one of the most important things to me in my life, and I am truly grateful to be recognized in this way.”

Conti added, “I am so honored to be a recipient of the Pat DiNizio scholarship. Musical theater has always been my passion and this scholarship will help me to continue to develop my skills at the Count Basie Performing Arts Center. Thank you for helping to make my dreams a reality.”

“It means so much to The Smithereens that the Pat DiNizio Musical Performance Scholarship at the Count Basie Center for the Arts helps encourage young musicians to reach the next level of creativity and achievement,” said Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken. “Sometimes it takes just a nudge to keep a budding artist interested and engaged enough to keep moving forward and not give up their dream. The scholarship offers so much more. We wish all of the students and the recipients the best of luck and we look forward to hearing their performances.”

“Although I was impressed by the quality of all of the candidates,” Smithereens guitarist Jim Babjak noted, “Olivia Conte and Taylor Bruno stood out by not only their talent but their passion for music. We congratulate them and all of the students in the program.”

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.