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‘Love Wins’ at WCSU benefit concert for saxophonist’s daughter lost at Sandy Hook

Western Connecticut State University brings back the Love Wins jazz benefit concert in memory of Sandy Hook victim Ana Grace Márquez – Greene. The concert is organized by her father, Dr. Jimmy Greene, and the proceeds benefit a scholarship in her name.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
Western Connecticut State University brings back the Love Wins jazz benefit concert in memory of Sandy Hook victim Ana Grace Márquez–Greene. The concert is organized by her father, Dr. Jimmy Greene, and the proceeds benefit a scholarship in her name.

Several hundred concertgoers gathered inside Western Connecticut State University’s (WCSU) Veronica Hagman Concert Hall in Danbury on Saturday evening.

They were there for “Love Wins,” an annual benefit concert for the Ana Grace Márquez-Greene Endowed Music Scholarship. It’s awarded to selected incoming music students at WCSU in the name of the daughter of Dr. Jimmy Greene, a two-time Grammy nominated saxophonist who teaches at the school. Ana was killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

“We thought, as a family, it would be wonderful to honor our girl by supporting the things that she loved: people, music, and doing it here at [WCSU], where I had just started teaching,” Greene said.

Saturday’s concert was the first since a pandemic-imposed hiatus.

Jamie Begian, associate chair of the WCSU music department, introduced Greene, with whom he co-leads the school’s jazz studies program.

“This night is about the Greene family, and how they have turned, really, something that was, you know, not good into something that’s great,” Begian said. “They’re such a strong group of people. It’s really a blessing and a pleasure to know them.”

Drummer, Otis Brown III
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
Drummer, Otis Brown III

Guest performers included pianist Orrin Evans, who flew in Saturday afternoon from a gig in Detroit, and drummer Otis Brown III, who drove up to Danbury from his home in North Plainfield, New Jersey, to play this benefit with his longtime close friend.

“Anything I can do to support, it doesn’t even take a phone call or a text,” Brown said. “They’re dear friends of ours, of mine and my family, and in any way I can support, I’m there.”

“Whenever he calls, everybody shows up, they change flights to try and make it here,” said Brown, who has been involved with the family’s various memorial projects for Ana since 2012. “I’m glad that it’s always full. I hope that it’ll always be full and it’ll go for years and years to come.”

Nelba Márquez-Greene asks her husbands students in attendance to stand, thanking them for being a part of their lives.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
Nelba Márquez-Greene asks her husbands students in attendance to stand, thanking them for being a part of their lives.

Nelba Márquez-Greene, Greene’s wife, said the group of musicians gathered for the show were among the friends who have helped her family hold onto their faith since the loss of their daughter.

“That hope and that faith don’t happen on their own. It requires people showing up to hold your hand every day,” Márquez-Greene said. “I’m emotional because the people on this stage have been with us since the beginning. They were with us before we had children, before we were married, and they were some of the first to offer help and hope and support.”

Greene said Sunday he had not yet calculated how much money the concert brought in for the scholarship fund, but WCSU said 254 tickets had been sold at $35 each, which would total just shy of $9,000.

Vocalist Claudia Acuña holds out her hand while singing Abbey Lincoln’s “The World Is Falling Down.”
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
Vocalist Claudia Acuña holds out her hand while singing Abbey Lincoln’s “The World Is Falling Down.”

Vocalist Claudia Acuña helped close out the set with a rendition of Abbey Lincoln’s “The World Is Falling Down.”

“The world is falling down, hold my hand,” Acuña sang as Greene played his tenor sax. “We’ll follow the sun and live for the day / And look for a place where the children play / The world is falling down, hold my hand.”

Chris Polansky joined Connecticut Public in March 2023 as a general assignment and breaking news reporter based in Hartford. Previously, he’s worked at Utah Public Radio in Logan, Utah, as a general assignment reporter; Lehigh Valley Public Media in Bethlehem, Pa., as an anchor and producer for All Things Considered; and at Public Radio Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., where he both reported and hosted Morning Edition.

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