Kevin Riordan: Musicians will gather in Cherry Hill for charity performance

Al Rinaldi of Jacobs Music in Cherry Hill will host the outdoor event, which will benefit the Children's Regional Hospital at Cooper University Hospital. He says he might tickle the ivories a bit.

"There's a bit of a performer in everybody," says Al Rinaldi, who ought to know.

The Mount Laurel resident, 75, has played and sold pianos for more than a half-century. The venerable Steinway & Sons gave him a lifetime achievement award in August.

And starting Friday, his Jacobs Music store in Cherry Hill will host a three-day, outdoor "perform-athon" featuring 70 professionals, semiprofessionals, and students playing for charity.

Scheduled pianists include doctors, lawyers, an animator who works part-time in a Center City restaurant, a rabbi, and a dentist. Like participants in, say, a charity walkathon or 5K, many of those who are scheduled to play have collected donations or pledges from friends, family, and colleagues.

"We're calling the event '70 on 70' to benefit the Children's Regional Hospital at Cooper," says Rinaldi, owner of the six-store chain.

"We wanted to set up a big tent and celebrate arts and culture," says Mark J. Love, senior vice president of sales and development at Jacobs.

The event also celebrates the opening of the company's new Cherry Hill location in the Barclay section after a move from its longtime home on Haddonfield Road.

The new store also features a replica of a piano, named "Imagine," that was custom-made for John Lennon.

"We want to put out a message that's positive," Love says. "Music [education] should not be considered a frill. Music is a lifelong gift."

It certainly has been that for Katherine Highet, 26, of Voorhees, who has autism and has learned to play the Celtic harp and the piano. She will play three classical pieces during the event.

"Katherine is thrilled to be part of the event," says Danuta Highet, whose daughter has studied music since age 5.

"For our family, it means a lot that Katherine can give back to the community that helped her become who she is today.

"She works hard. Harder than anybody," Danuta adds. "To see her play an instrument, any instrument, is a miracle."

Katherine's teacher is Laura Amoriello, who lives in Washington Crossing.

"I think it's critical for students to have a chance to perform in a friendly atmosphere that's not competitive," says Amoriello, who teaches at Westminster Choir College in Princeton.

"The piano has a history of competition, and virtuoso [performers]. But it's important that it be fun, too. You don't have to be the best pianist in the world to share your talent with others."

Stratford resident Tom Adams, a professional pianist for 40 years, will play Friday before reporting for work at Philadelphia's SugarHouse Casino, where he and his trio accompany singer Eddie Bruce.

At the perform-athon, "I'll play a little bit of my trademark style of jazz and throw in a little Chopin," says Adams, 59.

He has written music for films and television, and toured with Bette Midler and Anita O'Day.

"The piano is one of the most versatile and expressive instruments," he adds. "You can listen to a piano all night long and not get tired of that sound. It really resonates with people."

Rinaldi, who grew up poor in Scranton ("I came from an abandoned background"), says music changed his life. "The way I grew up, there was no meaning to it," he says. "I was a street urchin.

"Because of music, I was able to build a meaningful business, and be respected, and give back," he adds.

That's why he's donating a piano to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Camden as part of the '70 on 70' event, which he views as fun with a larger purpose.

"It's an opportunity for people to play for an audience," he says. "People love the opportunity to get in front of other people."

So much so that Rinaldi, who still occasionally plays in clubs and restaurants, is thinking about sitting down at the keyboard during the perform-athon.

"I may, and I may not," Rinaldi says. "I wouldn't be surprised."


Jacobs Music is at 150 Barclay Shopping Center, Route 70, Cherry Hill, 856-663-8888. Performances are scheduled for noon to 2 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The event is free.

Contact Kevin Riordan at 856-779-3845,, or follow on Twitter @inqkriordan. Read the metro columnists' blog, "Blinq," at