BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts (WIPA) will honor alumna and Broadway performer Ruby Rakos at its 2016 Gala Benefit on Saturday, March 5 at the New Jersey Youth Symphony located at 570 Central Avenue in New Providence. Rakos will perform during the gala’s concert. To learn more about Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts programs or to purchase tickets to the 2016 Gala, visit www.WhartonArts.org.

Hailing from Long Hill, Ruby Rakos, 19, recently starred as Judy Garland in Chasing Rainbows: the Road to Oz, a new musical about Garland’s early years at MGM before appearing in The Wizard of Oz and her subsequent rise to stardom. The Broadway-bound musical had its world premiere at the Flat Rock Playhouse in North Carolina.

Rakos, a graduate of the Professional Performing Arts School in NYC, studied voice with former WIPA Director of Musical Theatre Arts Michelle Oram and appeared from age 12 to 15 as pie-eating ballet girl Tracey Atkinson in Billy Elliot on Broadway.

Sign Up for E-News

“A performing arts education creates a wonderful environment to grow up in,” says Rakos on the benefits of a performing arts education. “Theater people are some of the kindest, most supportive people I know, and I can't think of a better group to surround yourself with when you are coming into your own as an artist and as a person.”

She left these words of wisdom to younger students on the pursuit of singing, acting and dancing, “Do it for you. Don't do it because your parents or your friends want you to. Do it because you love it and you can't imagine doing anything else.”

The 2016 Gala will also honor WIPA alumna Alyssa Mannarino and feature musical contributions by the students and faculty of the Performing Arts School, New Jersey Youth Symphony, and Paterson Music Project.

The Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts’ mission is to provide the highest quality performing arts education to a wide range of students in a supportive and inclusive environment, where striving for personal excellence inspires and connects those we teach to the communities we serve.

Wharton is New Jersey’s largest independent non-profit community performing arts center serving over 1,400 students through a range of classes and ensembles including the 14 ensembles of the New Jersey Youth Symphony which serve 500 students in grades 3 - 12. Beginning with Early Childhood music classes for infants and toddlers, WIPA offers private lessons, group classes and ensembles for all ages and all abilities. We believe in the positive and unifying influence of music and the performing arts and believe that arts education should be accessible to all people regardless of their ability to pay. We teach all instruments and voice and have a robust musical theatre program.

The Paterson Music Project is Wharton’s El Sistema-inspired program held at the Community Charter School of Paterson and Paterson Public School 1/26. Students receive 6 hours of intensive music instruction each week with the goal of creating social change through the ambitious pursuit of musical excellence.

Wharton institute for the Performing Arts is located in Berkeley Heights, New Providence and Paterson, NJ and reaches students from 13 counties. All of WIPA’s extraordinary faculty members and conductors hold degrees in their teaching specialty and have been vetted and trained to enable our students to achieve their personal best.