The 2023 Minty Dinner Gala Honorees
Beginning on December 6, 2022, the following individuals and organizations were announced as the Honorees for our 2023 Minty Awards Dinner Gala. The 2023 Minty Awards Dinner Gala was held on Thursday, March 9 at Nicotra's Ballroom.
We congratulate our 2023 Honorees!
Carl W. Lesch Memorial Award
Community Enrichment Award
The Spirit of St. Genesius Award
Cathryn Basile Traphagen, '00
Distinguished Alumni Award
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About Our Honorees
BRUCE TURNER - 2023 CARL W. LESCH MEMORIAL AWARD FOR EDUCATOR OF THE ARTS
Bruce Turner was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and was first exposed to the arts at a young age, appearing in his high school’s plays and working on the stage crew. He attended Westminster Choir College to study voice. While in college, he spent two summers in Italy appearing in various operas and was given the opportunity to re-stage the opera during his second year. It was during this time that he “really learned stagecraft.”
Beginning in 1974, he worked at a junior high school in Hightstown, New Jersey. For the next ten years, he directed full productions of several musicals including "The Wizard of Oz", "Oklahoma!", "Guys & Dolls", and "Oliver." He also continued to work professionally at the Opera Theatre of Philadelphia.
In November 2002, he arrived at St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School, where he would teach and influence a generation of theatre students. Hired as the school’s choir director, he first assisted the Viking Players on the 2003 production of "Grease." In 2004, he became the school’s musical director and producer, positions he would hold until 2022. In 2006, he directed the first production of "Les Miserables" to be performed on Staten Island.
From 2009 through 2022, Bruce directed many memorable musicals including "Kiss Me, Kate"; "Beauty and the Beast"; "The Pajama Game"; and two productions of "Fiddler on the Roof", the latter of which received the St. Genesius Award for Outstanding Musical at the 2019 Minty Awards.
As choir director, he rebuilt the chorus and reintroduced the men’s chorus, making the annual Christmas and Spring Concerts signature events at the school. One of his greatest joys was when the chorus was asked to sing at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the Archdiocese’s senior-class Mass, during which they performed the four-part “Gloria” by Vivaldi. As producer, Bruce also assisted in the school’s fall production of dramatic and comedic plays.
“I’m a teacher; it’s all about the kids,” said Bruce. “It’s about seeing the talent in front of me and encouraging students who never thought they could get on stage to take that chance and get out of their comfort zone.” He credits not only the extraordinary talent of the students at Sea, but also the wonderful support team that he put in place over the last two decades from choreographers (Sal Pavia and Brittany Seggio), to costumers (Connie Reale and Jaime Amoroso), to all the parent volunteers, and to the two people, in particular, he could not have done any of this without (Melissa Sekzer and Christine Rossiello).
“For Mr. Turner, it was always truly about the students,” said Minty Organization Executive Director and Viking Player alum Michael Pinto. “He always had more faith in us than we did in ourselves, and he gave us every opportunity and tool necessary to get on that stage and shine.”
"Mr. Turner was always so wonderful with all of his students," said Jaime Amoroso. "He truly knew and cared about what was going on in their lives and gave each of them the support they needed. He always made every single person on the stage feel special no matter the role."
GLENN KAISER - 2023 SPIRIT OF ST. GENESIUS AWARD
Glenn Kaiser has dedicated his life to God, family, and music education.
He was raised on Staten Island and attended St. Joseph Hill Academy from K-8th. While there, he was an altar server, played the guitar in the four-piece school “band”, filled the soda machine before school, and clapped out the erasers afterwards. Every summer from age 7-15 was spent playing Little League Baseball.
He attended Msgr. Farrell H.S., joined the Glee Club under the direction of Carl Lesch, and accompanied the Glee Club and the school musical through senior year.
In 1976 Glenn graduated with a BA in piano with honors from SUNY College at Cortland, and in 1978, a BFA in piano performance with honors from SUNY Buffalo. College summers were spent at various equity and non-equity Summer Stock companies. The next two years were spent in Germany; the first with a musical touring company and the second at the opera house in Hof.
Upon returning to Staten Island he met his future wife, the late Cheryl Gucwa. Besides being a star student, she was an AEA member, a wonderful singer, a speech-pathologist, and spent most of her adult life working with special-needs children. Her compassion and enthusiasm was an inspiration to everyone with whom she came in contact. Once you met her, you never forgot her.
By 1982, Glenn decided that Church music was his calling. He started free-lancing at numerous churches and finally landed at Cheryl’s parish of St. Patrick’s. They were married in 1984 and have two children: Maximilian and Grace Mary. In 1986 Glenn became the Director of Music for the church and school, and during the next 40 years, Cheryl and Glenn trained and encouraged hundreds of choir members, young and old, and provided them with an outlet for their talents. At St. Patrick’s, participation in a choir is practically a rite-of-passage. It’s not unusual to see three generations of choristers participating at Sunday Mass. Out of the 12 cantors who lead the singing each week, 10 are graduates of the Youth Choir program. In addition to the parish choirs, he has served as music director for 30 full-length musicals at St. Patrick’s school.
He taught music at Moore Catholic H.S from 1985- 1989, accompanied the Christmas show and Spring musical at St. John’s Villa H.S for 15 years, and was the pianist at his alma mater, St. Joseph Hill Academy, for at least 16 years. More recently, he served as the accompanist for the Wagner College music department from 2009 – 2017.
“Glenn is the most talented, reliable and witty pianist you will ever meet,” stated Donna D’Ermilio, 2015 CWL Honoree and former director of the Hill Drama Club. “Glenn is a thoroughly professional musician, but above all, a remarkable person and lifelong friend.”
“Glenn’s contributions range from his warm smile to his facial expressions while reacting to the kids on stage, to the twinkle in his eyes, and of course his musical professionalism,” recalled former Hill and Villa choreographer Loretta O’Hara (2015 CWL Honoree). “All the students loved when he was at rehearsal.”
Glenn continues to maintain an active music schedule on Staten Island. His belief in early music training is well known to all his students.
“I teach music not so you can relax or have fun; but so you will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, more good… in short, more life! Of what value will it be to make a prosperous living unless you know how to live?”
CATHRYN BASILE TRAPHAGEN, ‘00 - 2023 DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI AWARD
Cathryn, a St. Joseph Hill Academy “Lifer” credits the many teachers and mentors who encouraged and guided her as she discovered her passion for musical theater. Cathryn performed in a number of shows while at Hill, including State Fair (Margy); Cinderella (Stepsister Portia). She enjoyed performed with the Monsignor Farrell Players, appearing in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Philia), Grease (Rizzo). Cathryn also appeared in a number of Community Theater organizations on Staten Island including RTC Kids and Talisman Players. Cathryn is a graduate of the prestigious University of Michigan with a BFA in Musical Theatre.
Cathryn has performed on Broadway in Les Miserables (u/s Eponine), The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (u/s Rona and Marcy), and the original cast of The Little Mermaid (Arista) and national tours including The 25th Anniversary production of Les Miserables (u/s Cossette), and Mamma Mia (u/s Sophie) as well as several regional theatre productions throughout the country. She has also been seen on Law and Order: SVU and her voice can be found on Disney’s The Little Mermaid Broadway soundtrack. Cathryn has been a guest artist for several Arts Educational programs throughout the NYC and New Jersey area. Cathryn also owns her own voice studio.
As a voice teacher, Cathryn specializes in technical application and physiology of the voice. She is currently a candidate for a Master’s Degree in Speech and Language Pathology at Montclair State University. She wishes to blend her love of singing with the technical aspects of voice production.
“Katy is a gifted multi-talented performer,” said Donna D’Ermilio, 2015 CWL Honoree and former director of the Hill Drama Club. “She did many memorable performances at Hill and was a great role model for her peers: optimistic, enthusiastic and always professional. It did not surprise me to see her star rise so quickly and successfully!”
DENNIS MCKEON - 2023 COMMUNITY ENRICHMENT AWARD
Dennis McKeon, a former Program Manager at ATT, has been involved in the Staten Island community for over 30 years. A father of three sons, he has been the Executive Director of Where to Turn since 2001.
Created to assist the families impacted by 9/11, Where to Turn has grown to assist any victim of tragedy while creating community programs for students and seniors. Snow Shoveling for Seniors, Free Prom Dress Distribution, a Senior Citizen Prom, Holiday Toy Store are just a few of the programs. Dennis also produces the Beatles Blast each year. In addition, he also runs the Where to Turn Clean Team sponsored by Councilmen Joe Borelli and David Carr and averages over 400 cleanups a year.
Having no talent (his own words), he was drawn into theater by driving his son James to rehearsals at Monsignor Farrell. Over the years he has been involved with the Minty Awards, as well as In the Wings and is also a founding member of Ghostlight Productions. In 2020, he opened up a Prop Shop that offers free props and wardrobe to any school or community theater group putting on productions. The Shop currently has over 3,500 props and 1,500 pieces of wardrobe and has been involved with over 150 productions.
"There is rarely an occasion where Dennis is not promoting a theatre event in the community," said Minty Organization Executive Director, Michael Pinto. "He was always an ardent supporter of the arts, but through the Prop Shop, he has became an invaluable resource to our schools."
"There isn’t a play or musical presented on Staten Island that doesn’t have props, furniture or costumes courtesy of free rental from Dennis McKeon and the Where To Turn Organization," said 2020 Community Enrichment Honoree Charlie Siedenburg. "From the Annual Christmas Toy Drive, to Halloween Costumes to Free Prom Dresses the doors to Where To Turn are always open and have enriched lives of Islanders. Dennis would be the first person to say 'Why am I being awarded?' He loves his community and strives to make the Island a better place."