SARASOTA, FL – On May 12, the Circus Arts Conservatory presented its inaugural WONDERBALL concert fundraiser, featuring world-famous, two-time Grammy Award-nominated EDM DJ and music producer Steve Aoki. Nearly 1,200 attended the event, which raised funds in support of the CAC’s youth education programs.
Spearheading the effort were chair Donna Koffman and the founding committee: Umbreen Khalidi-Majeed, whose company, Umbreen Designs, produced the event; Nathalie Michalowski of nkm design, who designed the event branding and digital outreach efforts; and Melissa Morsli, a branding and messaging expert.
In advance of the main event, sponsors enjoyed cocktails in the ballroom at Michael’s On East with performances by students from the CAC’s Sailor Circus Academy – some of whom are also enrolled in the Booker Middle School and Sarasota High School magnet programs. During the dinner, there was a live auction and paddle raise, emceed by Ray Collins; items up for bids included a special photo opp with Aoki; “WONDERLOVE” – original, custom-commissioned art by local artist Brandon Thrift; and a gourmet, five-course dinner with wine pairings for 10 guests, provided by East West Catering.
The Sailor Circus Arena was decked out with raised sponsor seating areas, decorated with LED illuminated furniture. Dancers on stilts and wearing LED illuminated costumes made their way through the arena and danced along to the musical performances. Local DJs Anthony Campos and August (aka Harrison Koffman) spun from 7-8 p.m. as guests began to arrive and then DJ Peter DiCaro, who flew in from New York City, took the stage. After a “mission moment” featuring CAC student performers, Aoki electrified the audience during a nearly two-hour set of high-energy EDM tunes, accompanied by stunning visuals playing on the DJ booth video screens as well as a captivating light show, smoke machines and confetti cannons.
Prior to Aoki’s performance, students from the Sailor Circus Academy performed aerial acts high above the arena floor.
Major sponsors for the event included Donna and David Koffman, Robert and Diane Bennett, Jaclyn Brunckhorst, Splash Beverage Group, and Umbreen Designs. Proceeds from WONDERBALL will benefit the CAC’s youth education programs, which include the world-renowned Sailor Circus Academy, the oldest youth circus in the U.S.; the magnet programs at Booker Middle School and Sarasota High School; spring break and summer camps; and the Arts Integrated (STEAM) Education Program, an in-school, kinesthetic learning experience that supplements elementary and middle school coursework.
“We were absolutely thrilled with the success of WONDERBALL and are excited to welcome the event back next year,” said CAC executive vice president/COO Jennifer Mitchell. “While we’re accustomed to the arena being filled with excitement and energy, this event provided the opportunity for a new and thrilling use of the venue. We are immensely grateful to our event committee, sponsors, guests and all who contributed to making our inaugural WONDERBALL a success.”
The headliner for WONDERBALL 2024 will be announced later this year. For more about the CAC, visit CircusArts.org.
About Circus Arts Conservatory
The mission of the Circus Arts Conservatory is to engage and educate students using unique and innovative learning programs; to measurably improve the quality of life for individuals in care facilities; and to advance the extraordinary legacy and heritage of the circus. The CAC is home to world-class performances, excellence in training the circus arts, and community-based education and humor therapy outreach programs. Visit CircusArts.org or call (941) 355-9335.