I’m still on a high from Chris Botti’s performance on March 15 with the Baton Rouge Symphony. It was truly a magical night in the Raising Cane's River Center.

I was a little skeptical of the Irene W. & C.B. Pennington Great Performers in Concert taking place in the cavernous arena (the theater is undergoing renovations), but Botti and his talented band, with the symphony backing them, made it seem intimate — especially when Botti walked into the audience and was joined by talented songstress Sy Smith.


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Paula Pennington de la Bretonne, honorary chairwoman of the series, was left speechless when Botti, who was making his third appearance with BRSO, dedicated "Hallelujah" to her.

The tears came when Botti and company played the achingly beautiful “Emmanuel,” featuring violinist Ania Filochowska. Opera tenor Rafael Moras gave a goosebump-inducing rendition of “Nessun Dorma.” Some concertgoers, including Paula and Leonard Augustus, were even coaxed onto the dance floor. For major jazz fans, there was Miles Davis’ “Blue & Green.”

The talent Botti has assembled for his latest tour is absolutely fabulous. Aside from Smith and Moras, the group included Brazilian guitarist Leonardo Amuedo, saxophone player Andy Snitzer, pianist Eldar Djangirov, drummer Lee Pearson and bassist Reggie Hamilton. At a post-concert Champagne reception, hosted by Hancock Whitney Bank, sponsors got to meet Botti and his band — a perfect way to end the night!

The evening began with a VIP black-tie gala at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum. One of the centerpieces was a towering cake that sported photos of Botti throughout the years.

Spotted in the crowd were Debbie and John L. Daniel, Charlene and Stan Montelaro, Ann and Duz Hamilton, Gracie Rigell, Donna Boé, Dovie Brady, George Bayhi, Liz Hampton, Nick Abraham, Michael McHugh, Ronnell Johnson, Kathy and Ed Baker, Patricia Calfrey, Laurie and Mark Aronson, Shannon and Alvin Kimble and Jolie LeBlanc, daughter Victoria and soon-to-be daughter-in-law Madison O’Neal.

Senior Soirée

On March 16, the River Road Chapter of National Charity League, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, honored 15 Baton Rouge area high school seniors for their community volunteer work at its annual Senior Soirée at the Crowne Plaza.

These young women have served more than 1,500 hours at various local charitable organizations in the past six years. Along with their service to area charities and nonprofits, each young woman fulfilled the requirements for participation in cultural activities and leadership development.

Recognized for six years of NCL membership were Julia Laurel Henderson, daughter of Laurie and Troy Henderson III; Jane Shelby Porter, daughter of Leslie and Lance Porter; Anna Claire Pousson, daughter of Christine and Martin Pousson; Marien Carter Richardson, daughter of Maggie and John Richardson; Lauren Michel Saunders, daughter of Karen and Henri Saunders; Katharine Jane Trussell, daughter of Anita and Scott Trussell; Maya Lillian Verma, daughter of Lisa and Mukul Verma; and Rachel Grace Wehbe, the daughter of Donna and Albert Wehbe.

The other honorees included Anna Grace Borné, daughter of Janine and Manville Borné; Olivia Claire Broussard, daughter of Leah and Paul Broussard Jr.; Ellen Audrey Fargason, daughter of Donna and David Fargason; Jacqueline Diana LeGrange, daughter of Stephanie and Eric LeGrange; Bailey Renée Poirrier, daughter of Maria and Brett Poirrier; Brenda Antoinette Reed, daughter of Kim and Henry Reed; and Hallie Baker Sternberg, daughter of Katie and Erich Sternberg.

Established in 1947, National Charity League has more than 250 chapters in 27 states with some 70,000 members nationwide. Its mission is to foster mother-daughter relationships in a philanthropic organization committed to community service, leadership development and cultural experiences.

Sips & Suds

March 14 was one busy day with three events on the calendar, the biggest being the McMains Children’s Developmental Center’s sixth annual Sips & Suds event, which was held at Live Oak Arabians. This event seems to court the rain, but, fortunately, it came and went quickly. The large covered venue helped, too.

Former LSU Tiger kicker Jack Gonsoulin and his band, The Rouxsters, had the several hundred guests tapping their toes as they sampled the tasty spread from local restaurants Drusilla Seafood, Creole Cabana, Walk-On’s, Capital City Grill, Kalurah Street Grill, Flambée, Stoubes, Mike Gonzales Jambalaya, Tallulah, Tony’s Seafood, Cupcake Allie and Les Amis Bake Shoppe.

As we shopped the silent auction, we sipped libations from Mockler Beverage Co., Tin Roof, Drake’s and Baton Rouge Coca-Cola.

John Spain was joined by Jack’s dad, Cajun humorist Ken Gonsoulin, for the live auction. Among the most popular items up for bid was a private dinner and bourbon pairing with Mansurs chef Chris Motto, who recently made it to the finals on “Hell’s Kitchen.” It started off as an evening for four people, but Motto quickly upped the ante by making it dinner for eight. Then, as the competition between two determined bidders amped up, Motto agreed to two dinners for eight — earning a quick $6,000 for the center.

I loved getting to catch up with buddies Erica Mercer, Layne McDaniel, Kim and Mark Morgan, Manuel Martinez, Staci Duhé and daughter Sydney, Sharon and Claude Pennington, Stephanie Anderson and Chip Songy, Sharon Furrate Bailey and Executive Director Anne Hindrichs.

‘Louisiana, You Inspire Me’

That’s the name of the current exhibit of works by Associated Women in the Arts. Members hosted an opening reception March 14 at the Old State Capitol, where the exhibit hangs until the end of the month. It was great to finally meet Nanci Charpentier, we’ve been emailing each other years. I also enjoyed getting to visit with Bettsie Miller, Carole Sexton and Danni Shobe.

In addition to Charpentier and Shobe, featured artists include Elaine Atkinson, Patti Bailey, Monica Bashira, Marge Campane, Terri Dakmak, Marylyn Daniel, Virginia Donner, Arlene Earhart, Betty Efferson, Sarah Fergus, Louise Hansen, Donna Kilborne, Tracey Martinez, Dana Mosby, Andrea Phillips, Nanci Jo Poirrier, Nancy Smitherman, Cindy Stewart, Kathy Miller Stone, Nancy Stutes, Susan Thibodeaux, Pat Wattam, Laure Williamson and Claire Wilson.

Spotlight on La.

The Hilton Capitol Center was the spot on March 14 where the Louisiana Economic Development hosted what might best be described as a pep rally for the business community.

The second annual “Spotlight Louisiana” recognized the impact LED’s Growth Network has had in the state.

Specifically, 10 companies from throughout the state were tapped for the inaugural class of Louisiana Growth Leaders. They were announced by Committee of 100 for Economic Development CEO Michael Olivier, who stood in for Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Recognized were Kyle McDonald, of Ruston, Argent Financial Group; Barbara Lamont, of Lafayette, Calls Plus; Thomas Brown, of Harvey, E-Claim.com, Ian Tucker, of New Orleans, ILSI Engineering; Robert Wise, of Baton Rouge, ITinspired; Susan Cox, of Lafayette, LogoJET; Tom Martin, of Baton Rouge, Pod Pack International; Tance Hughes, of Vidalia, Southern Designs; Ben Johnson, of Lafayette, Techneaux Technology Services; and Chris Meaux, of Lake Charles, Waitr.


Follow Pam Bordelon on Twitter, @pamspartyline.