Gary Blackman Receives Life Achievement Award

Gary Blackman receives “The Education Foundation of Paramus Life Achievement Award” from Frederick Rohdieck, President of the Paramus Chamber of Commerce.

October 23, 2018

PARAMUS, NJ – ArtsPower’s Founding Co-Director Gary Blackman was honored as a Life Achievement Award winner by The Education Foundation of Paramus, New Jersey on Tuesday, October 23, 2018. The Education Foundation, sponsored by the Paramus Regional Chamber of Commerce, is dedicated to encouraging and funding innovative ideas and projects amongst Paramus students and teachers.

Each year, the Foundation awards its Life Achievement Award to two outstanding members of the community, or graduates of the Paramus Public Schools, who have excelled in supporting the education of students in Paramus and beyond.

“I am so honored to receive this award,” Gary stated at the awards dinner held at Macaluso’s in Hawthorne, New Jersey. “What kept me rooted as a student in the Paramus Schools was music. My music teachers were fine musicians in their own rights, some of them well-respected and popular artists of their time. Frank Ryerson, my first trumpet teacher and band director was one such musician. As a top-flight trumpeter, arranger, and composer of the popular 1940’s hit single, ‘Blue Champagne,’ Frank secured his place as one of the finest musicians of the big band era. I respected him deeply for his impressive musicianship.”

Gary, who graduated from Columbia University before receiving his Masters degree in Music Education from Florida State University’s School of Music, started playing the trumpet at Farview School.

“I was a shy kid and was often afraid to express myself in class, Gary said. “Playing the trumpet in school, however, was transformative. It gave me plenty of opportunities to express my musical self in front of large crowds, be it on the auditorium stage or football field.”

Gary also credited his family for his lifelong interest in education and his work at ArtsPower.

“I was fortunate to grow up in a family that valued education and the arts. My parents were huge fans of Broadway musicals. Our stereo cabinet at home was full of cast albums – FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, KISMET, OKLAHOMA, SOUTH PACIFIC, and MAN OF LA MANCHA to name a few. By the time I was 18, I had seen over 40 Broadway musicals.”

Gary talked about his phone meeting last fall with Lisa Vartanian, the Arts Supervisor for the Paramus Public Schools. Lisa wanted to learn more about the history of the music department at Paramus High School.

“Lisa seemed interested to hear my story and invited me to come back to Paramus High for a tour of the music and art facilities. That tour just blew me away!”

“Lisa took me to the cooking lab, the band room, photo and video studios, art studio, dance rehearsal space, piano lab, and the wood and costume shops. This was no ordinary arts department. In fact, this was a full-fledged, state of the art, school of the arts. I was beyond impressed and so incredibly proud to see how the Paramus Schools cherish the arts, providing a diverse education in the arts for its students that is a model for New Jersey.”

Gary credits his experiences in Paramus as the catalyst for co-founding ArtsPower National Touring Theatre. “At East Brook Middle School, my eighth grade teacher Frank Cavallo was a true theatre devotee. His love of the theatre had a real impact on me and my interest in pursuing a career in the performing arts.”