Two institutions of higher learning, Vanderbilt University and Rhodes College, rounded up their own for send-off gatherings, with many new matriculates. Another event unfolded at the end of an exciting, but suspenseful, week of pianism. Held on the campus of Loyola University, in Roussel Hall, the 2014 New Orleans International Piano Competition & Keyboard Festival/Piano Institute booked both a recital and semifinal rounds under the aegis of the Musical Arts Society of New Orleans. The final round, on a Sunday afternoon, produced Marianna Prjevalskaya as the Gold Medal winner. Post-competition socializing then followed at the home of Julianne Nice and Herb Larson.

Commodores to the Fore

Vanderbilt alums Brandon and Daphne Berger with baby Brooks (sporting a white onesie with “Vanderbilt” sewn on it) greeted guests at their home for the annual Summer Send-Off Party. It was given by the New Orleans Vanderbilt Club and included current students, parents, alumni and “family,’’ and as special guests, new students, the incoming freshmen. Co-hosting the party were Brandon’s parents, Darryl Berger, a longtime member of the Vanderbilt board of trustees, and Louellen. Absent, but co-hosts in name, were Corinne and Darryl Berger, and Ryan Berger, who’ll have a wedding date in the fall. For decades, the Bergers, at various ages and stages, have played host to the eager crowd in three locations: a boathouse, Louellen and Darryl’s St. Charles Avenue home, and now at that of Daphne and Brandon. Graham Stewart, who leads all alumni affairs for the university as associate vice chancellor alumni relations, was hailed as a special guest for the ’14 fun.

Smiling as the incoming freshmen honorees were Margaux Hoefer with parents Lisa and Karl, Michael Brown with parents Jessica and Tim, Kelly Couget with mom Stephanie, and Erin Savoie with parents Rebekah Moreland and Alix Savoie. Additional notables were Alumni Chapter President Dr. Roland Waguespack with Jessica, former chapter prezzes Lee Adler and Michael Shlenker, spouses Sabrina and Andrew Pilant, and Louisiana State Treasurer John Kennedy. As a senior at the university, he answered to student body president.

Spotted, too, was Dr. Eddie Davis with son Bren. Eddie and spouse Cindy, who was in Italy with their daughter, Ellie, a junior-semester-abroad student, are “Double Dore (as in Commodore)” parents, thanks to Bren and Ellie. Also seen was former VU football players Brandon Smith and Jason Burns, who with wife Bridget are new parents of twins. (There was some cute chatter about Brooks Berger and the Burns twins as candidates for the Vanderbilt class on 2036. Another possibility is the little one that partygoers Armand and Christina Peck Samuels are expecting.)

Among the decorations were those at the front entrance displaying the Vanderbilt National Championship Baseball pennant and the glory associated with the recent win as National College Baseball champs.

More pennants were situated around the house, while the colors to note were black and old gold. (Sound familiar?) Pompoms decorated the mantel in the dining room, where folks eyed and ate.

Sushi, sandwiches and dips beckoned, as did the words of host Brandon Berger, who opened the relaxed formalities with “You are now entering the Vanderbilt family.”

Black and Red Ado

In another set of college circles, all roaming led to Rhodes. Rhodes College, which, like Vanderbilt, is situated in Tennessee — Rhodes, Memphis, and Vanderbilt, Nashville — was founded in 1848 and changed its name from Southwestern at Memphis to Rhodes College in 1984. New Orleans claims 61 students, 15 in the incoming class.

Particular thanks tapped Aimee and Michael Bell, the at-home hosts and parents to current student Bristol; Beth Robinson, president of the New Orleans Alumni Chapter; and Mathew Jehl, a 2013 graduate, who greeted everyone as the Rhodes representative.

Among the incoming students and moms and dads were Molly Mulhern and Allison and Patrick, Anya Tipton and mom Julie, Blake Roberts, Magdalena McCormack and Richard and Terri, Emily Adams, Tia Schlesinger and Mark and Myrna, Lauren deBlanc and mom Jennifer. To mention a few.

They, in turn mingled with current collegians Beau Egan, Zac Lange, Katie Casadaban and parents Jim and Mary Kay, Madeline Davis, Nick Beachy, and Meredith Graf with parents Thomas and Michele Guerin. From the ranks of alums came Miles Garriott with Megan, Philip Ruppel, Rachel Robinson, Hillary Connell, and Dane Ciolino and Wendy, former party hosts.

Attendees Leanne and Evan Howell enjoyed the collegiate connections that in absentia daughter Alexandra had made over the years. So did Linda and Peter Tufton, who count five children in the Rhodes flock: four graduates and one currently enrolled.

The food was stationed in several locations of the Metairie home and had happy takers, while decorations supported the black and red school colors. To show her support, hostess Aimee donned a special shirt claiming her role as a Rhodes mom.

Keyboard Connections

As the winners of the Piano Competition were about to be announced in Loyola’s Roussel Hall at 5:50 p.m., the names of Kenny Broberg, Florian Feilmair, Tanya Gabrielian, Esther Seung-Hyun Lee, Siyuan Li, Lo-An Lin, Yuri Noh, Esther Park, the above Marianna, Alberto Carnevale Ricci, Jialiang Wu, and Jackie Jaekyung Yoo were recalled as competitors. The top prizes went to Marianna, Florian, and Kenny, as the respective Gold, Silver and Bronze medalists.

Then it was on to the home of Julianne Nice and Herb Larson for the closing reception and competition deserts. There, guests admired the recently renovated home, whose main floor was designed for entertaining and the receptions that the couple have graciously hosted in support of the charitable causes they support.

Everyone loved the taste treats, including Alaskan smoked salmon, Debbie Nice’s lemon poppy seed cake, and offerings by Elissa Bluth (attending with Ed), Darlene Dickerson, and Evie Merritt.

The reception’s who’s who featured the above three competition winners, MASNO President Emel Mize with husband Ranney, artistic director Dan Weilbaecher, Anne B. Gauthier, Hall Piano Company co-owners Steve and Gina Kinchen, Robert Pope, Arthur and Darlene Dickerson, Keith Lescale, Anne Bradburn, Raymond Gitz, James Farrow, Clay and Noonie LeJeune, Edward D. Levy Jr., Dee Clubb, Bruce and Robin Crutcher, Cara Laine McCool, and Beth Goddard.

Also, Chris, a retired radiologist and an accomplished flutist, and the above Evie Merritt, who are moving back to New Orleans after 15 years in Philadelphia. He’s on the board of Astral Artists, which promotes rising stars in the classical music world. One of them, Alexandre Moutouzkine, won this piano competition several years ago.

Follow this link to the photos.