van zandtSteve Van Zandt, seen here outside the Count Basie Theatre in 2008, is one of the inaugural recipients of the Basie’s Vanguard Awards honoring lifelong devotion to the arts in New Jersey. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

Press release from Count Basie Theatre

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician and actor Steven Van Zandt and his wife Maureen Van Zandt, Monmouth County Freeholder Lillian Burry and Monmouth County Arts Council executive director Mary Eileen Fouratt were named as the recipients of the Count Basie Theatre‘s inaugural Vanguard Awards, honoring lifelong devotion to the arts in New Jersey. The first class of Vanguards will be honored during an event at the Basie on Friday, August 22.

Also that evening, Rockit! at the Basie will present its annual summer concert, A Tribute to Woodstock and The Age of Aquarius. The show will feature curation and input from Mr. Van Zandt himself, and monies raised from the concert will go towards future Rockit! scholarships, the theatre’s bus-in program offering area districts and students a low-cost option to experience the theatre’s cultural programming, and for professional development sessions associated with Mr. Van Zandt’s Rock and Roll: An American Story program.

A social studies curriculum that teaches history within the context of rock and roll music, Rock and Roll: An American Story is an online educational resource presented by Mr. Van Zandt’s Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, offered free of charge to educators and individuals everywhere. Elements of the curriculum will be integrated into the Rockit! performance, while the program as a whole will launch in the Middletown school district this fall. Additional information from the program can be found here.

The Van Zandts’ devotion to the arts is well-known.

Steven Van Zandt is an acclaimed musician, arranger, producer, actor, writer, director, human rights activist, and international radio DJ. He is a founding member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and played Silvio Dante in HBO’s award-winning series, The Sopranos. In 1985, Van Zandt formed Artists United Against Apartheid and wrote “Sun City,” an anthemic rock/hip hop/R&B song protesting the Apartheid system symbolized by the South African resort, Sun City. Over 50 artists including Springsteen, Gil Scott-Heron, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Bono, Keith Richards, Joey Ramone, Run DMC and Miles Davis performed on the track, which spawned a conscious-raising album of the same name. Twice honored by the United Nations for the “Sun City” project and film, and his involvement with “International Peace Day” along with Peter Gabriel, he also established the Solidarity Foundation to promote the sovereignty of indigenous peoples, and to foster economic development in harmony with the earth.

In 1999, Van Zandt created Renegade Nation to oversee his content creation, production, management and distribution. In 2001, he launched “Little Steven’s Underground Garage”, his internationally syndicated radio show, and also created Sirius-XM Satellite Radio’s first two channels of original content, The Underground Garage (Channel 21) and Outlaw Country (Channel 60), both of which he continues to produce. In 2006, Steven launched his own record label, Wicked Cool Records, to further support new rock and roll. He currently stars in, scores, co-writes, directs, and is an executive producer of Netflix’s award winning first original series, Lilyhammer.

A native of Newark, Maureen Van Zandt she studied art and music at Arts High, and trained and danced with the Garden State Ballet. She appeared in the Broadway musical Hair and continued her dance career with the Met Opera Ballet until sidelined by an injury. She then started her own theater company in New York City, where she acted in and produced numerous Off-Broadway productions, including the critically acclaimed Golden Boy. Maureen joined the cast of The Sopranos in 2000, where she played mob wife Gabriella Dante for six seasons. She is the director/ choreographer of the Garage Girls A Go-Go dance group, and recently served as dance supervisor for the David Chase film, Not Fade Away. Aside from a guest spot in the Netflix series Lillyhammer, her most recent acting appearance was in Ferite A Morte, which was performed at the United Nations on the National Day to End Violence Against Women. Last year, she co-produced The Rascals: Once Upon A Dream on Broadway.  She is currently directing an Off-Broadway play, Wild Children.

Lillian Burry is a longtime public servant to the residents of Monmouth County, elected first as a member of the Matawan Borough Council, then as a Colts Neck Township Committee woman, where she also served as mayor. Her work as a historic preservationist helped revitalize both towns, and since her election to the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders in 2005, she has been the Board’s Director three times and is liaison to the Parks and Library and Public Services divisions. She is also a member of the Monmouth County Planning Board’s Master Plan Arts, Cultural and Historic Resources working group. A longtime proponent of local arts and the Basie, she has been a three-time presenter at the theatre’s annual Basie awards, and in 2014 was honored as the Monmouth County Arts Council’s “2014 Community Champion of the Arts.”

Mary Eileen Fouratt currently serves as Executive Director of the Monmouth County Arts Council, the organization she has worked with for nearly two decades. Her tenure during this time has seen unprecedented growth for the council, including her leadership of the award-winning Monmouth County Arts Plan, “Envision, Imagine, Create.” Under her leadership, the MCAC brings more than 2,500 high-quality, inexpensive or free concerts, films, dance and theater productions, musicals, creative writing programs, art exhibitions, and arts education programs to over 700,000 children and adults throughout the region each year.

Tickets to the Basie’s Vanguard Awards, priced at $20, are on sale now through the Basie’s online box office, by phone at (732)842-9000, or in person during regular box office hours. A limited number of VIP packages, including an intermission reception and meet and greet / photo opportunity with Mr. and Mrs. Van Zandt will also be available.