Many things have been said about William Scheide and we’ll add just one more- the man sure knows how to throw a birthday party.
Scheide, a longtime music lover, philanthropist and humanitarian, has celebrated his last six birthdays by throwing a giant party for the Princeton community, all to benefit local organizations.
This year the sold out “Forever Young” concert to celebrate Scheide's 99th birthday at Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium raised tens of thousands of dollars for Community Park Pool, a place where people have flocked for decades each summer.
Friday evening’s featured classic works by Bax, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Britten, and others, most performed by the English Chamber Orchestra and led by conductor Mark Laycock.
Also sharing the stage were violin soloist Stephanie Gonley, Tony award nominee and narrator Malcolm Gets, and local pianist Andrew Sun, who performed Variations on Happy Birthday.
Many of the pieces performed this year were recent acquisitions for the Scheide Library, including a rare first edition of the complete Opus 8, which contains all performance parts to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.
The English Chamber Orchestra and Gets performed Benjamin Britten’s ‘The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.’ Although the Scheides submitted the winning bid for the music at recent Sotheby’s auction, they lost it after the piece was declared a British ‘national treasure’ and the Scheides' offer was matched by a British donor (rumored to be a member of the Royal family), Judy Scheide said.
Ben Stentz, executive director of the Princeton Recreation Department, remembers feeling a little daunted when he found out this year’s concert would benefit the pool.
“We didn’t know if we had enough clout to fill up Richardson Auditorium,” Stentz said. We said ‘we’ll roll up our sleeves and do our best. To see so many supporters and so many sponsors, it just blew me away.”
The Scheides, whose past concerts have benefitted Isles, Inc., Centurion Ministries, The Arts Council of Princeton, Princeton Healthcare System Foundation and the Princeton Public Library, donated $300,000 to the Princeton Recreation Department in the fall and the department set out to produce the concert. That initial donation goes to put on the concert, Stentz said, but the recreation department keeps the proceeds of general admission ticket sales, premium seating, sponsorships and program advertising.
“What I know for sure is that the five previous benefactors earned between $45,000-$95,000 in profit," Stentz said. “We’ll be towards the higher range of that for sure. I’m just not confident enough right now to say what that number will be.”
The money will go to the Princeton Parks and Recreation Fund, which has a goal of raising $1 million towards reimbursing Princeton officials for the cost of the pool $7 million pool renovation last year, and to help keep pool fees low. Without the final total from the Scheide concert, the fund has already raised more than $500,000 towards that goal, fund chairman Peter O’Neill said.
Following Friday’s concert, Stentz is still in awe of the Scheides' generosity.
“(The Scheides) could hire that orchestra to come do a private show for them,” he said. “It’s pretty mind numbing when you think about how much money they’ve pumped back into the community.”