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Upstate Foundation to hold virtual, free-to-the-public gala with COVID benefit concert

By Eric Reinhardt (


SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Upstate Foundation says its 31st annual gala will be a sponsor-supported, free-to-the-public, streamed benefit concert set for Friday evening at 7 p.m.

It’s called the “Upstate Strong” COVID relief benefit concert and will feature Grammy award-winner Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers. Hornsby is also known for his work in the 1980s with Bruce Hornsby and the Range, including the 1986 hit song, “The Way It Is.”

The event will honor Upstate Medical University’s front-line workers, health-care providers and researchers, and members of the Central New York community who supported Upstate University Hospital during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Upstate Foundation will host a free online benefit concert for its annual gala on Friday night beginning at 7 p.m. The concert will feature a performance by Grammy award-winner Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers. In the photo, Hornsby is seated second from left. (Photo credit: Jeff Fasano; provided by Upstate Medical University)

The concert will be available to the public on this website link.

Proceeds will benefit a newly established COVID-19 fund which seeks to help pay for  “unmet needs resulting from the pandemic.”

“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures,” Eileen Pezzi, Upstate vice president for development, said. “When it became clear that the coronavirus pandemic precluded hosting our usual gala, which is a formal affair attended by hundreds, we responded with this exciting virtual event that honors those who have persevered in the face of this virus even as it helps fund real-time needs that are still arising from the crisis. It’s a powerful, fitting and unifying message.”

Pezzi emphasized that the streamed event is a “thank you” to the region for its generosity during the pandemic.

Donation to the Upstate Foundation totaled more than $500,000 since the onset of the crisis to address such issues as employee and student financial assistance, and virtual visits for patients at Upstate University Hospital.

In addition, the hospital received an outpouring of in-kind and material contributions.

“That support continues in the run-up to the Upstate Strong benefit concert. With presenting sponsor Nascentia Health and concert sponsor Sutton Real Estate Company leading the way, we’re truly humbled, especially by the backing of the hospital departments, which suffered such financial hardships during the pandemic,” Pezzi said.

To learn more about the “Upstate Strong” COVID relief benefit concert, visit where a list of current sponsors and remaining sponsorship opportunities may be found.   

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