Carmel Monthly-March 2024

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Shares His Journey as Conductor, Violinist, and Educator Maestro Joel Smirnoff COLLECTIVE PUBLISHING PUBLICATION MARCH 2024 MONTHLY


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Maestro Joel Smirnoff Shares

His Journey as Conductor, Violinist and Educator

This month, we are delighted to feature Joel Smirnoff, a distinguished Carmel resident, on our cover. Currently serving as a Principal Guest Conductor with the Carmel Symphony Orchestra, Smirnoff is celebrated as a conductor, violinist and educator. He holds positions at the Manhattan School of Music Precollege Faculty and The Juilliard School.

Cover Story Writer // Janelle Morrison • Photo // Laura Arick

PUBLISHER / Neil Lucas / 317-460-0803

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF / Neil Lucas / 317-460-0803

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DIRECTOR OF SALES / Lena Lucas / 317-501-0418

HEAD WRITER / Janelle Morrison / 317-250-7298

6 Campaign Spotlight: Raju Chinthala for Indiana’s 5th Congressional District 10 Carmel Symphony Orchestra Presents: “DEAR DUKE, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GEORGE” 12 Civic Presents: ANASTASIA 14 The Great American Songbook Foundation Presents: StageStruck 5! 16 Business Spotlight: Airy Time Heating & Cooling: Your Reliable HVAC Service Providers and Air Quality Experts 20 Don’t Miss the Event of the Year: Designing Bright Futures at The Carmel Gala 22 Petos Greek Cuisine: Where Family Tradition Meets a Delectable Dining Experience Business Spotlight is sponsored content. COLLECTIVE PUBLISHING, LLC - PO BOX 6326 - FISHERS, IN 46037 For advertisement sales call Lena Lucas 317-501-0418 or email Stay informed on news and events in Carmel by following us on X and Facebook CarmelMag @CarmelMag CARMELMONTHLYMAGAZINE


Raju Chinthala for Indiana’s 5th Congressional District

Raju Has Experience.

Raju Has Passion. Raju Is Ready to Work for You in Washington, DC.

Raju Chinthala’s mission is clear: to champion the development of Indiana’s 5th District and its hardworking constituents. Raju’s focus is on the next generation, and his vision for this district is one of progress, prosperity and opportunity.


Raju’s journey began in a rural Indian village, shaped by his grandmother’s unwavering belief in education despite her lack of formal schooling. Her determination ensured Raju’s father received an education, laying the groundwork for Raju’s academic pursuits. With family support, Raju obtained dual master’s degrees in speech and hearing, along with business, before embarking on a transformative journey to America, where he forged a distinguished career spanning three decades.

In 1996, Raju launched his career as a speech-language pathologist in Kokomo, Indiana, initiating his profound impact on

the state’s healthcare landscape. Emerging as a healthcare leader, Raju assisted thousands facing speech, language and cognitive challenges, extending his influence beyond healthcare into business and community service and catalyzing positive change across Indiana.

As a staunch advocate for economic growth, Raju championed initiatives leading to significant investments and job creation, fortifying Indiana’s ties with international markets, notably India. His leadership roles in organizations like the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and the Indiana India Business Council underscore his dedication to fostering economic prosperity.

Raju’s commitment to public service prompted his affiliation with the Republican Party in 2003, where he actively contributed to various initiatives, promoting constitutional adherence, fiscal responsibility, and support for veterans and military personnel.

Throughout his illustrious career, Raju has earned numerous accolades, including the prestigious Sagamore of the Wabash award—twice, bestowed by former Governor Mike Pence and Governor Eric J. Holcomb. In 2022, President Joseph R. Biden honored Raju with The Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing his exceptional contributions to society.

Raju resides in Carmel with his wife, Dr. Prasanna Chinthala, a geriatric psychiatrist, and their son, Anoop, who is pursuing a medical degree. Together, they

epitomize a commitment to service, education and community, embodying Raju’s


Raju prioritizes bipartisan cooperation, aiming for collaboration over conflict if elected. His background in healthcare and

light his leadership abilities in represent-

Raju, drawing from his immigrant background, prioritizes bipartisan solutions for the border crisis. He seeks to reform immigration policies, integrating undocumented immigrants while safeguardinggration systems we have in the world. It requires a major reformation, and I am for making it better for every human being. Illegal immigration is not a Democrat or Republican issue—it is an issue for all citizens of the United States. We need to stop illegal immigration because I also believe in recognizing and securing our nation’s borders. The number-one priority for any state, city or elected official should always be public safety and national security.”

Raju continued, “My goal is to help the undocumented immigrants and work to support the 3 million-plus people that are already here; train and educate them and integrate them into our workforce that is suffering shortages in several industries. I came over through the legal immigration process, and I do believe we should stop illegal immigration, but we have to find a solution for those who have come through. The solution requires major reform and bipartisan efforts, bipartisan meetings, and bipartisan bills. I am the only candidate in the 5th District that can effectively have that bipartisan dialogue.”

Raju, a staunch fiscal conservative, prioritizes securing prosperity without burdening future generations with debt. He urges bipartisan fiscal responsibility, emphasizing the need to curb spending, simplify taxes, and foster economic growth. Raju advocates for supporting entrepreneurship and small businesses through deregulation and tax relief.


“Federal spending is another ‘vote banking’ issue,” Raju said. “It requires both Republicans and Democrats coming together because this is not a political agenda … this is an issue that affects our children, our grandchildren and the following generations. Stop stealing from the next generations! We are using their money and leaving the debt for them to pay!”

Raju urges Congress to tackle the healthcare crisis, drawing from his 25-year experience in the field. He advocates for comprehensive healthcare reform to address rising costs and regulatory burdens, proposing solutions like negotiating fair fees, expanding the workforce, and capping insurance premiums for equitable access. Urgent action is needed to alleviate waitlists and prevent Americans from seeking treatment overseas. Raju added, “It requires pragmatic solutions. As a Republican, I believe in fostering the healthcare system and in affordable, accessible and equitable care for all Americans.”

Raju is especially dedicated to supporting veterans’ mental health in the 5th Dis-

trict, aiming to enhance care and expand mental health services. His vision includes strengthening healthcare infrastructure and strategically improving mental health programs and facilities.

“I want to advocate and to be the voice in Congress for our veterans,” Raju expressed. “The issues impacting our veterans are very important and dear to me. Additionally, I want to address the issues of mental health, and not just for the veterans but for every citizen … this is a priority for me.”

Raju understands that mental health issues are impacting our economy, workforce and families, yet stigma persists, hindering access to treatment. Investment in mental health professionals, community mental health care centers, and treatment options is crucial. Raju believes it is time to prioritize mental health in our communities and address its impact on our workforce and economy.

“I am running for Congress given the aspiration, passion and desire to give back to this country that has given me so much in the last 30 years,” he stated. “As a con-

gressman, I’ll represent all constituents, and everything that I will be representing in Washington, DC, will be in the best interest of our local and state governments. We will make the 5th District the model [congressional] district in the country. My mission is simple: represent the 5th district, serve the constituents, safeguard the next generation, and ensure a brighter future for our district and nation. Raju is for YOU!”

For more information, visit Be sure to follow Raju Chinthala on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, X and LinkedIn. Contact Raju Chinthala at Text or call at 317-572-7258


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JOHNNY FOLSOM 4 | Tribute to Johnny Cash

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SWEET CAROLINE | The Life and Music of Neil Diamond Presented By Don Farrell

JAZZ BRUNCH HOSTED BY BLAIR CLARK| Featuring Pavel Polanco-Safadit

DECEPTION: An Evening of Magic and Lies | Magic Show

STORM LARGE | Actor, Singer, Songwriter seen on America’s Got Talent



Visit to purchase tickets.

Carmel Symphony Orchestra Presents:


APRIL 21 @ 3:00 P.M.

Antonia Bennett, a renowned jazz vocalist and daughter of the iconic Tony Bennett, will join the Carmel Symphony Orchestra for a special concert at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 21 at the Palladium. The concert aims to celebrate the 125th birthday of Duke Ellington, a legendary figure in jazz history. Under the baton of Principal Guest Conductor Joel Smirnoff, Bennett will perform alongside the orchestra, presenting two beloved selections from the Great American Songbook: Ellington’s “The River” and Gershwin’s “An American in Paris.” Tickets for this memorable event start at $67 and can be purchased online or at the Center for the Performing Arts box office. For more information and ticket bookings, please visit or contact (317) 843-3800.

Antonia Bennett lives by Duke Ellington’s timeless advice: “Number one, never give up. Number two, remember number one!” With a voice The New York Times compares to “Billie Holliday and Rickie Lee Jones, with a hint of Betty Boop,” Bennett is a jazz vocalist and a gifted interpreter of the Great American Songbook, as well as an accomplished songwriter.

Growing up surrounded by music legends like Rosemary Clooney and Frank Sinatra, Antonia started singing with her father at age four. After attending Berklee College of Music, she began her career in New York City, opening for Tony at prestigious venues worldwide.

Her latest album “Embrace Me” further solidifies her place in the jazz world, earning praise from critics for her captivating performances.

You can catch her live performances and stay updated on her latest projects at Be sure to follow Bennett on Instagram @antoniabennett and on Facebook @itsantoniabennett.

Describing interviewing Tony Bennett as an incredible lifetime event would be an understatement. Having had the opportunity to interview his daughter, Antonia, feels like a fitting bookend to what I

consider the greatest honor of my career. I also enjoyed the privilege of speaking with Principal Guest Conductor Joel Smirnoff about the upcoming concert and working with Ms. Bennett.

Smirnoff shared, “What is cool about this concert is that it will feature a couple of arrangements that were done by a famous arranger for Frank Sinatra and a few other people—Nelson Riddle. I bought two Nelson Riddle arrangements that were done for Ella Fitzgerald and I sent them to Antonia. We are reviving these two wonder arrangements from 1959 that came from this fantastic relationship Fitzgerald had with Riddle. So, there’s stuff going on in this concert that’s pretty unique.”

Janelle Morrison: As an advocate for the preservation/education of the Great American Songbook, I think it’s important that we engage and inspire younger generations so that they not only participate by buying tickets but will become the next stewards of these standards.

Antonia Bennett: The songs are so good and they’re here for everybody! I was lucky to be exposed to the Great American Songbook as I was growing up. I think my generation might have been the last generation before the internet … I got the internet in college. Before [the internet], we had variety shows like “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and whatnot. We would sit and watch these shows with our parents, and on these shows, they would have people like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or my dad [Tony], along with whoever

Joel Smirnoff, Principal Guest Conductor / Antonia Bennett, vocalist / Ellington, The River / Gershwin, An American in Paris / Antonia Bennett, vocal arrangements Writer // Janelle Morrison • Photography //Patrik Andersson, Peter Mellekas and Craig Allyn

the contemporary acts were. They were all mixed in together, and we were really exposed to everything relevant at that time. People today, instead of watching a show together, are taking their devices and watching what they want separately, and it’s a very different thing from the generations that came before and watched things as a family, I think.

JM: Even the way we listen to music is vastly different today. Before the internet, we listened to artists’ entire albums on cassettes or vinyl rather than streaming singles, and I think we got to know the artists/bands in a different, more engaging way.

AB: Absolutely.

JM: As a performer collaborating with symphony orchestras and jazz ensembles, have you observed a resurgence in people’s interest in experiencing orchestral music and jazz genres since the pandemic?

AB: Just two years ago, Samara Joy won [a GRAMMY] for Best New Artist. My dad used to say all the time, “Oh, you’ll see … jazz is coming back.” And I always said, “Well,

it never went out.” But it goes through phases. There are always different fads that are coming in and going out, and nothing can stay up high on its own forever, but there are always going to be people who are interested, and there are always going to be new and younger people that learn about this music and are interested in it.

I think the popularity is coming from what is happening now. We’ve been through such a terrible time and were isolated for so long [during the pandemic]. There is something wholesome about the music, and with all the politics that are going on, and with what is going on in Russia and the Middle East, these are very hard times. People really just want goodness and wholesomeness. They’re craving that more, and these songs really lend themselves to those things.

JM: If we take a step back and look at the original “Roaring 20s,” there are a lot of similarities in what is going on today compared to 100 years ago.

AB: Everything comes back into fashion. I never thought I would see those high-waisted jeans again that just a few

years ago, they were calling “mom jeans.” And now, if you wear skinny jeans, those are the new “mom” jeans. Everything comes back around, but you have to be true to yourself. That’s what I try to do … I try to gravitate towards quality and things that really move me. That’s the core thing for me. It has to feel good to me. I do this not just because it’s my livelihood, but because I love to do it and I want to do something that means something. I hope people like it as much as I do. You can sing a song over and over again and find new meaning in the words and find a different angle because these songs are deep.

JM: Do you have any new and exciting projects that you’re working on and any fun collaborations?

AB: Yeah—I have a record in the can that’s due to be released this year, and I’ll be touring in the States so people will be able to find me in different areas, and that’s exciting. Randy Brecker is playing on one of the tracks, and Dave White is doing background vocals for me on one of the songs on my record as well. We’re currently working on the release dates!




APRIL 26 - MAY 11, 2024




From Tony winners Terrence McNally, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, creators of such Broadway classics as “Ragtime” and “Once on This Island,” this dazzling show transports its audience from the twilight of the Russian Empire to the euphoria of Paris in the 1920s as a brave young woman sets out to discover the mystery of her past. Pursued by a ruthless Soviet officer determined to silence her, Anya enlists the aid of a dashing con man and a lovable ex-aristocrat. Together, they embark on an epic adventure to help her find home, love and family. (Concord Theatricals.)


While the historical reality has debunked the claim of Anastasia’s survival, storytelling, particularly in mediums like musicals, can offer a different lens through which to explore themes of identity, loss and resilience. “Anastasia,” the musical, despite its departure from historical accuracy, can

still provide an engaging and empathetic portrayal of a refugee’s journey and the universal desire to reconnect with one’s past and family. Fictional narratives like this allow audiences to delve into emotional landscapes and empathize with characters navigating complex personal journeys, even if they diverge from historical truth.


This is my second show with Civic, and when I saw that Anne Beck was directing, I knew I had to do this show. I think something about Anya that I hope people will understand is that she was just trying to find out who she was. She wanted to find her family and to know who she was … she didn’t want to be [the ] Princess Anastasia.

I didn’t see the movie “Anastasia,” but what I love about this musical is the music. When I was in high school, I was in show choir and a lot of people would sing songs from the show. I’ve always loved the music from this musical, and that’s one thing that helps me get into character because I’ve always really been into music. I think the music and the lyrics are so beautiful. I really love “In My Dreams” … it is so beautiful. I also really love “In a Crowd of Thousands” that Anya sings with Dmitry.


This is my first civic show. I’ve seen a couple of shows here in previous years, and I loved the camaraderie. I always knew this was a theater that I wanted to get myself into. When I saw “Anastasia” come up, I was excited to audition for it.

I think, historically, “Anastasia” is really interesting. It was an atrocity that happened so long ago. Disney can paint this picture or fairy tale, but at the end of the day, it was a travesty and I think it’s important for audiences to understand that.

I’ve had a really good experience trying to understand what Dmitry’s motives are. At one point, he’s trying to get out of Russia and get all this money and whatnot, and then later on, he has this whole character development where he and Anya start getting really close and it just completely flips. It’s been really fun getting to understand that.

Writer // Janelle Morrison • Photography // Joshua Hasty Photography


I think this is my 13th production with Civic. The experiences are always top-notch. All you have to worry about is bringing the work to the character into the rehearsal room and onto the stage. Everything else gets taken care of.

For me, as a history buff, I happily went back down the rabbit hole to find from the historical perspective what’s happened in the last 20 years, discovering bones and things and finding out that nobody made it out. So, this story is a little more fictional as time has gone along, but that point in that country’s development and learning how things changed and why some of that stuff happened has been interesting, as has figuring out how this character Vlad, who is an amalgam of every sycophant hanging at every table, [is] trying to get a name for himself.


This is my first show with Civic. Some of my friends were in “The Sound of Music” and it was amazing. I can see there’s a really strong family-like feeling amongst the people that have been here.

I’ve never played an antagonist before. I think Gleb is a really great first one to have a go at. I think Gleb is conflicted about what he truly wants and is stuck in this sense of duty and wanting to obey orders. You can say that he also wants love and wants to grow. I think throughout the story, these things really grate on each other a lot: his wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps, to be a good soldier, and do what’s “right” for the country, and yet he’s taken with Anya. As much as Gleb wants to love Anya, to do that would betray his father’s memory, and it would make what he [his father] did wrong.


Anya Bella Agresta

Dmitry Troy Bridges

Vlad Popov Steve Kruze

Gleb Vaganov Nathanael Hein

Countess Lily Malevsky


The Dowager Empress

Maria Fyodorvna


Nina Stilabower

Jill O’Malia

(All ensemble members will play multiple roles.)

Tsar Nicholas II David Brock

Tsarina Alexandra Heather Hansen

Little Anastasia ................................. Louisa Zabel

Young Anastasia Keegan Connor

Olga Romanov ..................................... Emily Lantz

Tatiana Romanov Renée La Schiazza

Maria Romanov

Alicia Barnes

Marfa Kelsey McDaniel


Alexis Koshenina

Dunya/Countess Gregory ................ Braxton Hiser

Count Ipolitov ........................... Matthew Sumpter

Gorlinsky Daniel Wilke

Count Leopold

Tanner Brunson

Count Gregory Josh Vander Missen

Sergei Alex Smith

Alexei Romanov Jackson Duncan

Nolan Daugherty

Chris Ritchie




“StageStruck! 5: Exploring Nostalgia and the Hollywood Musical” is the central theme of an upcoming international academic conference scheduled for May 15-17 in central Indiana. Organized by the Great American Songbook Foundation, based in Carmel, and co-hosted with the University of Sheffield (U.K.), the event will be held at the Center for the Performing Arts. Welcoming scholars and students globally, the conference will feature a hybrid format, allowing for interactive online participation alongside on-site attendance.

see, and that is the work in the archives and music library. I think this conference is a perfect example of the kind of scholarly work that will come from this conference and previous conferences. There are scholarly articles, recording projects, documentaries and books that come from these. Dominic has become a great friend and champion for the foundation who came here [Carmel] as a researcher in 2013, and he’s come back at least every other year since to help us with projects and to research his other projects.”

Broomfield-McHugh spoke about his reasons for selecting Carmel and the Center for the Performing Arts as the conference venue above all other global options.


The City of Carmel and the Center for the Performing Arts are excited to welcome convention attendees back to their renowned performing arts campus. This will be the fifth StageStruck! conference organized by Dominic Broomfield-McHugh, Professor of Musicology at the University of Sheffield. He is the author of recent publications such as “The Oxford Handbook of the

The Music Man to 1491,” both released by Oxford University Press.

Great American Songbook Foundation Executive Director Chris Lewis spoke about the importance of the foundation bringing in academic scholars such as Broomfield-McHugh.

“Dominic is an example of someone that’s been impacted by our mission,” Lewis stated. “That’s a component of our mission that people don’t typically get to

“The facilities are beautiful—the Palladium and the whole center,” Broomfield-McHugh acknowledged. “It is such an attractive place to visit. There is such a strong sense of community in the city. And while the facilities are beautiful, they mean nothing if the people that are inhabiting them aren’t creating an atmosphere and a culture. There is a very strong sense of culture when you encounter people in Carmel. I really enjoy visiting, and it is total self-indulgence, frankly. The most important reason, from my academic point of view, is, clearly, this is the place to go for academic specialism. It is so exciting to bring academics from institutions [throughout the world] into this place where everything is the ‘Songbook,’ and that is very exciting for them.”


Alongside the conference, the Great American Songbook Foundation will present a mini-festival celebrating the Hollywood musical. Open to both conference participants and the public, the festival will feature screenings of timeless films, Q&A sessions with industry experts, and an exclusive concert by the foundation’s founder Michael Feinstein. All festival activities are included with full conference registration and can be added on with single-day passes. Tickets for individual events will be available for purchase to the public later this spring.

Great American Songbook Foundation Director of Programs Renée La Schiazza shared more details about the conference and the public engagement opportunities.

“We’re bringing in over 30 speakers from seven different countries and locations throughout the U.S. for this


conference,” La Schiazza said. “People are traveling across the world to come to Carmel and present on these themes of research that they’ve been exploring for their careers. From the national perspective, we’ll be hosting speakers from 15 states, including experts from Indiana, which I think is important [because] we’re not only getting that global perspective, but we’re also engaging experts that are doing their work right here in Indiana.”

La Schiazza expressed that the foundation is thrilled to bring international experts to Carmel for discussions that often lead to publications and industry projects, making significant contributions to musicology and the film industry. It’s also a special chance for central Indiana community members to enjoy classic film musicals.

That’s why the foundation is hosting a mini film festival of the Hollywood musical on May 14 and 15, featuring multiple screenings open to the public. With MGM’s 100th anniversary upon us, it’s the perfect time for this celebration.

Attendees can experience rare screenings of these classics on the big screen, participate in Q&A sessions with conference experts and industry guests, and gain insights into the filmmaking process. It’s a fantastic opportunity for Carmel and its residents.

“Residents from central Indiana can come here to the Center for the Performing Arts campus and experience these films in both the Palladium and the Tarkington [Theatre], and we’ll have artifacts on display from our collections that cross over into the films,” La Schiazza shared. “People will get a chance to engage with these experts from around the world, and I think it’s going be a really great week!”

StageStruck! 5 is supported in part by the City of Carmel.

Registration for the conference is open until April 15 at StageStruck2024, where you can also find the complete schedule. For any inquiries, feel free to reach out to

StageStruck! 5:

Exploring Nostalgia and the Hollywood Musical

Attendance and pricing options include:

• On-site: Full conference $230, single day $70

• Online: Full conference $90, single day $30

• Student: Full conference on-site $80, single day on-site $20, online only FREE

Reduced lodging rates are available at local hotels.

The scheduled keynote speakers are:

• Maya Cantu, Bennington College –“‘A Bed of Roses, Thorny Side Up’: Countering Nostalgia in Bradford Ropes’s 42nd Street and in the Backstage Novel”

• Desirée Garcia, Dartmouth College –“How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Musical?: Genre, Nostalgia, and Race”

• Julianne Lindberg, University of Nevada, Reno –“A Star is Born (1932-2018): Nostalgia, Hollywood Pastiche, and the Idea of Entertainment”

• Hannah Lewis, University of Texas at Austin –“La La Land’s Nostalgia”

The conference also will include a showcase of the Great American Songbook Foundation’s archival holdings of musical film and theater, including the papers of “The Music Man” creator Meredith Willson, songwriter Gus Kahn, and EGOT-winning performer Liza Minnelli.

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Maestro Joel Smirnoff Shares His Journey as Conductor, Violinist and Educator

This month, we are delighted to feature Joel Smirnoff, a distinguished Carmel resident, on our cover. Currently serving as a Principal Guest Conductor with the Carmel Symphony Orchestra, Smirnoff is celebrated as a conductor, violinist and educator. He holds positions at the Manhattan School of Music Precollege Faculty and The Juilliard School.

Beyond his classical pursuits, Smirnoff’s musical talent extends to jazz, with his improvisational solos featured on the Grammy Award-winning album “Tony Bennett Sings Ellington Hot and Cool.” He has also been honored as a guest soloist with Gunther Schuller and the American Jazz Orchestra, and the Billy Taylor Trio.


A native of New York City, Smirnoff was raised in a family deeply entrenched in music. Both of his parents were accomplished musicians, instilling in him a profound appreciation for the art form and shaping his musical journey from an early age.

“My father was a classically trained solo violinist and concertmaster for ‘The Perry Como Show’ for 12 years,” Smirnoff shared. “It was a very cool thing. I remember watching him on ‘The Perry Como Show,’ and we would all celebrate the fact he had been on TV. He was a wonderful quartet player … I was really bred to be a quartet player, in a sense. My mom was a bit of a showbiz kid and was on ‘Showboat’ on Broadway …

not the original but a revival with Paul Robeson. She became a [professional] singer and was on the road with The Jack Teagarden Band when she was 16. Then she came back to New York and was very successful.”

Influenced by his family and teachers, Smirnoff’s education was deeply rooted in music during his primary and secondary school years. Smirnoff attended the University of Chicago, where he solidified his foundation in performing, initially in string quartets and later in jazz ensembles.

Smirnoff’s illustrious career features a notable stint as President of the Cleveland Institute of Music from 2008 to 2015, where he held the esteemed Mary Elizabeth Callahan President’s Chair. Joining the renowned Juilliard String Quartet in 1986 as second violin, he later became its first violinist in 1997, succeeding Robert Mann. With the quartet, he performed globally, earning Grammy nominations for their exceptional recordings.

Beyond his quartet endeavors, Smirnoff boasts a prolific solo recording portfolio featuring world-premiere renditions of 20th-century compositions by various composers. His exceptional con-

tributions were duly acknowledged with a Lifetime Grammy Award in 2011 and the Alumni Professional Achievement Award from the University of Chicago, his alma mater.

What made Smirnoff’s experience in Chicago unique was his exposure to the acoustic guitar and harmonica-playing blues that originated from the Louisiana area and found its way to Chicago. Icons like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf were revered as heroes not only within their own community but also among the University of Chicago student body.

“We would go to the blues bars, and then eventually playing blues and R&B myself—that is something I would have never anticipated although I knew a lot about jazz,” Smirnoff said. “I had never really experienced what was really an

Writer // Janelle Morrison • Photography // Laura Arick and Courtesy of CSO

extension of urban folk music, and it was something quite unique. It was a special and great time to be in [Chicago] … it was amazing.”


Inspired by Seiji Ozawa in the early ’90s to explore the realm of conducting, Smirnoff ventured into this domain with remarkable success. Making his American conducting debut in 2000 with the San Francisco Symphony, he has since wielded the baton with finesse, leading orchestras worldwide.

In addition to his classical pursuits, Smirnoff is a proficient jazz musician. He often collaborated as a soloist with the late Tony Bennett, with whom he shared a profound familial-like bond.

At 20, Smirnoff first encountered Tony Bennett while playing in the string section for his shows at the Palmer House in downtown Chicago. Smirnoff shared that unlike Frank Sinatra, whom he played behind once, Bennett didn’t exude the aura of showbiz; there was a serious -

ness about his approach, focusing solely on the music. Years later, at 27, Smirnoff had the opportunity to play first violin in a quartet for Bennett’s performances at the Drury Lane Theatre in Chicago. Over two weeks, they meticulously rehearsed, selecting tunes that suited the intimate setting.

Smirnoff shared how he witnessed Bennett’s legendary work ethic and how his soulful voice resonated deeply, bridging cultural divides. Bennett appreciated the musicians who contributed to his success, and Smirnoff expressed that he was honored to collaborate with him, learning and growing alongside a true maestro.

“I don’t think I ever called him ‘Tony,’” Smirnoff reflected. “I always called him ‘maestro’ because I was always so in awe of him. He was very appreciative of musicians, and I became someone he liked to be with on stage. He trusted me, and we’d talk about music. We worked on a CD project together for a while. I felt like all of that was such an honor, and it was thrilling.”


Smirnoff continues to commute to New York to teach and elevate the next generation of classical musicians. Meanwhile, he enjoys his life in Carmel alongside his wife, who is also a musician and instructor. Currently, Smirnoff is contributing his expertise as a Principal Guest Conductor with the Carmel Symphony Orchestra. In particular, Smirnoff is assisting with programming for the regular concert series to better connect CSO’s programming with multicultural audiences while enhancing its jazz chamber music and themed programming.

Smirnoff concluded, “It’s all about community building, and I think what CSO is trying to become right now is very much that. I feel very lucky to be more involved with this orchestra. I think what’s happening here in Carmel with CSO is extremely exciting, and we have the flexibility of programming to serve the community, be extremely meaningful [to] the community, and set a standard in this way.”

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Designing Bright Futures at The Carmel Gala

Join us at The Carmel Gala, where we’ll be “Designing Bright Futures,” on Saturday, April 27, 2024, at Ritz Charles.

Since its inception, the Carmel Youth Assistance Program (CYAP) has been dedicated to raising funds to support students by providing camps, recreational activities, and essential assistance like food, clothes and shelter to families facing hardship. Through CYAP’s efforts, it has witnessed remarkable transformations in behavior, academics and social skills among the youth it serves.

Your support ensures that CYAP can continue reaching more families and offering vital services. Be sure to get your tickets before they sell out at

Carmel Monthly is honored to be a longtime supporter of CYAP and a sponsor of this event. Join us in making a difference in our community’s future!


Amidst the constant barrage of distressing news stories, it’s natural to wonder about the impact of individual efforts. Yet, as early intervention advocate Maggie Figge from CYAP suggests, the success of initiatives like CYAP can be measured not just in data but in the tangible transformations

with those who have achieved remark able success post-high school, stand as a testament to the program’s effectiveness. However, meeting the needs of this vulnerable population requires ongoing support from donors, mentors and volunteers.

Established in Fall 2015, CYAP endeavors to bolster youth and families through community engagement. Partnering with

the Carmel Clay School District, the City of Carmel, and the Hamilton County Superior Court, CYAP offers professional coordination and referral services to students and families, ensuring their privacy and dignity. Working hand-in-hand with various stakeholders, CYAP facilitates access to a wide array of resources, including mentoring, tutoring, mental health support, and basic necessities like food and clothing.

Your support is vital to sustaining CYAP’s mission and making a tangible difference in the lives of those it serves.

Mayor Sue Finkam reaffirmed the city’s steadfast dedication to CYAP and recognized the increasing demand for support among our community’s at-risk children.

“The city has been a primary sponsor of the organization and of this gala since their inception,” Finkam said. “We’re proud to continue on that tradition, making sure that we’re helping our community’s kids in need. The needs continue to grow, and CYAP continues to provide more services by way of the community’s support. My goal is to continue that support and to increase awareness about it. In 2023, 170 [Carmel] youth were referred to CYAP and 15% of those are homeless or at risk of homelessness. I thought that was a troubling statistic in and of itself. Of those 170 referrals, 17% of the parents don’t speak English, 76% of the youth receive free or reduced meals at school, 62% were referred by the schools, 26% were referred by the prosecutor, 10% were referred by other agencies, and 2% were self-referrals.”

Finkam added, “Despite everything CYAP is doing, we still need to do more to reach these kids who are at risk of failing and falling through the cracks. At the end of the day, this is all about ‘community’ … our Carmel community. We have to show compassion, empathy and open our hearts to these kids whose futures will be negatively impacted if they don’t get help and if we don’t intervene today. I want to make sure that by my involvement as mayor, we reinvigorate investment into this program.” Finkam went on to stress, “I encourage members of our community to join us at this year’s gala. It’s a wonderful opportunity for all of us to come together and engage in something enjoyable with a meaningful purpose.”

Writer // Janelle Morrison • Photography // Courtesy of CYAP

for CYAP.

“One thing we would like [to] focus on with the money raised this year is transportation,” Figge expressed. “In terms of families getting out of their situation, efforts are impeded by a lack of transportation for them to get their kids to an activity, to mental health appointments, summer camps, tutoring sessions—and [the] parents can’t get themselves to work. Additionally, the scale of job opportunities available to them if they don’t have a reliable car is limited.”

Figge added, “It is one of our biggest problems. We would like to drill down and explore how we can put services in place that really empower a family to get to a better place, and transportation is our main focus. We’ve got a lot of ideas but need additional funds to get to a solution and finalized plan.”


“For starters, we’ll have our new mayor

at the gala,” Brewer stated. “Mayor Sue Finkam will be part of the event, and we’ll have Tim Griffin [Carmel Fire Department] and Jeff Worrell [City Councilor] co-hosting again. Tim is looking for crazy suits and shoes … something flashy for the Dessert Dash! You don’t want to miss this because Tim’s going over the top! We’ll have The Bishops perform again and a silent auction, but we’re not doing a raffle this year. We’re doing something different and a little more meaningful.”

Figge added, “We’re doing a ‘Wishing Well’ this year. It’s similar to a ‘Giving Tree,’ if you’ve seen that at other events. It’s another donation opportunity that will hopefully have a little more impact. Attendees can pull a ‘wish’ off of the well for mental health sessions, tutoring sessions, clothing, shoes, summer camp, and things like that and throw it into the well, fulfilling somebody’s wish. That will happen during the after-party.”

Besides individual or “Bring a Friend” ticket opportunities, non-sponsors can also purchase tables of eight. Sponsorship opportunities are still available for those who

would like to get their companies involved.

“You don’t have to be a sponsor to get a table,” Brewer stated. “This is a fun night with a wonderful meal and open bar, live music by The Bishops, and exciting activities like boozy ring toss and a photo booth, where you have a reason to dress up and enjoy a night out with your friends … and it’s for a great cause!”

For more information on the Carmel Youth Assistance Program, visit

Event details:

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Venue: Ritz Charles 12156 N. Meridian Street, Carmel, IN, 46032

5:30 p.m. EDT – VIP Cocktail Hour Begins 6:00 p.m. – General Admission Cocktail Hour Begins

Attire: Black tie optional, but we encourage you to wear bright colors in alignment with our theme, “Designing Bright Futures.” Purchase tickets at:

21 CARMEL MONTHLY MARCH 2024 2460 Glebe Street • Carmel, IN 46032 • (317) 793-3140 • Independent Living • Assisted Living • Memory Care • Skilled Nursing • Rehab
Carmel’s Premier Retirement Community Maggie Figge and Melanie Brewer, event chair and ex-officio CYAP board member, shared that this year’s goal is to raise $100,000

with an exquisite dining adventure. Nestled in the heart of the Carmel community, Petos offers a culinary journey steeped in the rich flavors and heritage of Greece. With each dish crafted with care and authenticity, we invite you to savor the essence of Greek cuisine, perfected over generations. Join us and indulge in an unforgettable dining experience that celebrates both tradition and taste.


Petos Greek Cuisine is built upon a foundation of heritage and tradition. Its founders, Nermine Fanous and Alain Jesus Raphael, along with their daughter Patricia [Raphael], bring their diverse cultural backgrounds and experiences to their restaurant to the Arts & Design District in Carmel, Indiana.

Hailing from the vibrant cities of Cairo, Egypt, and Thessaloniki, Greece, respectively, Nermine, Alain and Patricia blend the rich tapestries of their origins to create a truly inspiring menu and dining experience.

Those who have frequented the Carmel Farmers Market in recent seasons may recognize the family, as they were wellknown vendors offering tantalizing gyros and delectable baklava. Prior to the open-

We have mainly Greek wine, and we also have some French, German and Italian red and white wines. For beer, we have our main two: Fix and Mythos. People love these so much. They’re very refreshing, especially Mythos. We have a couple of Dutch and French beers, and they’re all very good.”

Petos Greek Cuisine offers a robust menu featuring myriad flavors and traditional Greek dishes at exceptional prices.

Among the array of dishes beloved by locals, familiar favorites include domadakia, succulent grape leaves stuffed with a flavorful blend of ground beef and rice, accompanied by refreshing tzatziki sauce. Also on offer are falafel, a crispy and satisfying choice, and spanakopita, a delightful phyllo pastry filled with creamy feta and spinach. For those craving a taste of tradition, the menu boasts classic gyros, available with chicken, lamb or pork. Patri-


cia also revealed that their souvlaki chicken or pork, served on traditional skewers, and youvetsi, featuring tender lamb shank, are among the most sought-after dishes. Another must-try is the pastitsio, a mouthwatering medley of pasta, garlic-infused tomato sauce, and seasoned ground beef, all crowned with rich Béchamel sauce and Mizithra cheese—a signature Petos specialty.

Prepare for a showstopper that’s sure to elicit an enthusiastic “Opa!” from the entire restaurant: Petos’ saganaki. This beloved Greek dish is renowned for its mouthwatering blend of flavors and unforgettable presentation, which involves flamboyant flames dancing around the pan. Petos serves its saganaki with pita bread made from scratch.

Don’t forget to add Petos’ santorini to your dining rotation! This tantalizing dish features Greek spaghetti adorned with succulent shrimp, tender calamari, and plump mussels, all infused with Mediterranean flavors reminiscent of the picturesque island of Santorini.

Make sure to save room for dessert!

Petos’ made-from-scratch assortment of baklava is truly remarkable, showcasing layers of flaky pastry enveloping a luscious filling of nuts and honey. Equally enticing are the loukoumades, delightful Greek donuts fried to golden perfection and drizzled with honey syrup. And don’t miss out on the bougatsa, a heavenly treat featuring delicate phyllo dough filled with creamy custard, dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon, and served piping hot. As you enter Petos, you’ll be greeted by a tempting display of baked goods, tempting diners to indulge in dessert after their meal or to take a delectable treat home for later.

“We have a lot of different baked goods,” Patricia said. “I would say our top two [desserts] that people love so much are

the baklava. We have several flavors: dark chocolate, pistachio and we also have cheesecake baklava. We know a lot of people love cheesecake so it’s a combination of both, and it is just heaven for our customers.”

Patricia highlighted that Petos regularly updates its menu, refreshing it every week to two weeks to reflect the seasonal availability of specific ingredients. This dynamic approach allows their guests to continually explore new dishes and exciting flavor combinations, ensuring a consistently fresh and engaging dining experience.

Petos Greek Cuisine welcomes guests for lunch from Tuesday to Saturday, with service running from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. For dinner, service runs on weekdays from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and on weekends from 4:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Reservations are gladly accepted and can be made by phone or through Petos’ convenient online booking system available on Google or their website at Be sure to follow Petos on Facebook @Petos and on Instagram @chezpetos. Kalí apólausi! Enjoy your meal!

PETOS GREEK CUISINE Family Owned and Operated! 317-809-7966 15 West Main Street, Carmel, IN FORLOOKOUR BAKERY OPENING SOON
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