Philanthropist Sebastian Paul Musco joined an acclaimed list of recipients, including seven U.S. Presidents and luminaries such as Elie Wiesel, Bob Hope, Rosa Parks, General Martin Dempsey and Edward James Olmos, in being awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
Since 1986, the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) has presented Ellis Island Medals of Honor every year to 100 natural-born and naturalized citizens who share with those less fortunate than themselves and maintain traditions of their ethnic heritage while upholding the ideals and spirit of America. The NECO ceremony is held each May at Ellis Island, but in this instance, the induction took place in Orange County with a dinner and ceremony at the Westin South Coast Plaza, marking the sixth time the medal has been awarded outside of Ellis Island.
The dinner program, emceed by 2014 Medalist Gaddi Vasquez, opened with a Marine Corps Color Guard, tenor Orson Van Gay singing the National Anthem, an invocation by Abbott Eugene Hayes of St. Michael’s Abbey, and the Pledge of Allegiance, led by former U.S. Treasurer and 2016 Medalist Rosario Marin. Vasquez recognized other Orange County recipients, such as the late Henry Segerstrom and Herb Nootbaar, Jim Doti, George Argyros, Fariborz Maseeh and Hazem Chehabi.
Ellis Island Medalist and NECO Advisory Board member Jo Ellen Chatham delivered a beautiful tribute in honor of Musco after which NECO Chairman Nasser Kazeminy conferred the medal. Touched by the honor, Musco thanked, in particular, his wife Marybelle for her steadfast support.
Composer Peter Boyle spoke about his inspiration for “Ellis Island: The Dream of America,” which was performed by the Pacific Symphony following the ceremony at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Pacific Symphony Music Director Carl St. Clair and President John Forsyte presented Musco with a large framed replica of the 1913 Ellis Island manifest showing his parents’ entry to America.
The dinner concluded with the Southern California Children’s Chorus singing “America the Beautiful” and Van Gay leading everyone in singing “God Bless America.” Charlie Zhang, 2014 Medalist and major contributor to the symphony’s Ellis Island Concert Series, offered a toast to the United States of America.
The well-received and particularly impassioned work performed at Segerstrom Concert Hall was a multimedia experience, combining music with visual images and live, onstage actors telling the stories of actual immigrants who passed through Ellis Island. The actors included Michael Nouri, Barry Bostwick, Camryn Manheim, Samantha Sloyan, Lesley Fera, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe and Kira Sternbach. The performance was filmed by PBS for broadcast on its “Great Performances” series, marking the first-ever national broadcast from the concert hall.