Matt & Jessica Ludwig are the founders of the Ray of Sunshine Foundation. Their daughter, 18-year-old Jillian Ray Ludwig, was involved in the Asbury Park Music Foundation (APMF) program. To Matt Ludwig, his beloved daughter was a rising star in the Asbury Park music scene. In high school, Jillian started a foundation called “Playing it Forward.” She would play music at local establishments for free, and all of the donations would go back to charities and nonprofits of her choosing to assist those in need within the music community. Matt Ludwig described her work at the Lakehouse Music Academy in Asbury Park. “As both a student and teacher at the Academy, and a member of three bands, she truly appreciated the musicianship of this community.” Jillian played both solo and with her bands in many local spots, including The Stone Pony, Asbury Lanes and Count Basie Theater, along with some gigs in NYC. Money that Jillian earned from her music was invested back into the program.  

Jessica and Matt Ludwig, parents of Jillian Ludwig, address the guests. Credit: Jean Michel

On the evening of November 7, 2023, Jillian was walking on a track on the grounds of Belmont University in Nashville, where she attended as a freshman. She was struck in the head by a stray bullet, and she passed away the following day with her parents by her side.

Following her tragic death, APMF and the Lakehouse Academy chose to honor Jillian’s memory and her outstanding generosity any way they could. They produced a tribute concert at Convention Hall to pay their respects and to keep her legacy alive. The proceeds were donated to her parents and, with the funds raised, they were able to start the Ray of Sunshine program.

Matt Ludwig said, “Our mission is to honor the legacy of Jillian Ray Ludwig by providing scholarships and financial assistance for music students and struggling artists, as well as to protect innocent lives from being taken through preventable violence.” Their first goal is to provide scholarship funds to APMF to assist students attending The Lakehouse Academy. The chance to give back is a dream of their daughter’s that they always wanted to fulfill. 

Jillian Ludwig Credit: The Tennessean

Our mission is to honor the legacy of Jillian Ray Ludwig by providing scholarships and financial assistance for music students and struggling artists, as well as to protect innocent lives from being taken through preventable violence.

Matt Ludwig

On Friday, May 17, 2024, the APMF held its first annual Inaugural Where Music Lives Award Show featuring Low Cut Connie. This took place at the Asbury Park Lanes at 5 pm and tickets were $75 to attend. The purpose of the show was to honor key supporters of the organization that supported the APMF mission, which is to keep Asbury Park’s legacy of music alive and to make a significant and meaningful difference for under-resourced youth in the community. 

Tom Donovan chats with Wolfie Letke, bass guitarist of The Kings and Queens band. Credit: Jean Michel

Many amazing events took place on this night of excellence. To start, The Kings and Queens, a youth band organized by the Foundation, opened with a rock and roll performance. The group consisted of four members: Wolfie Letke (bass guitarist & vocals), Valdano Labord (lead singer and guitarist), Thalia Fernando (Keyboard), and Dylan Nickl, also known as D-Money (drums and vocals). 

Tom Donovan, the Executive Director of APMF, was the host of the event and recognized much talent in the building. He mentioned that this night was also an opportunity to raise money for the foundation. He said, “We need your help to raise money and take care of our very own kids right here in Asbury Park and the community that we love so much.” There were postcards in the building that showed a QR code that gave direct access to the website to donate. He referred to the honorees as leaders and people who also had their backs. He said, “They’ve always invested in Asbury Park, kids, and helped open doors through music – the power through music.”

Jon Leidersdorff, APMF Board Member and Owner of Lakehouse Music Academy & Recording Studios, presented the first award of the evening. Credit: Jean Michel

The first award was presented by Jon Leidersdorff who is the Owner of the Lakehouse Music Academy and Recording Studios. Jeryl and Steve Oristaglio were awarded the first Music Saved My Life Award. They are the owners of the Oristaglio Foundation and have done many things for APMF.

Leidersdorff introduced them as close friends to the organization sharing a 12-year-plus friendship. He said, “Since day one, they’ve been giving 10s of thousands of dollars every year to support our music programming and scholarship to kids, like the ones you’ve seen on the stage tonight,” referring to The Kings and Queens, saying that the Oristaglio’s type of commitment is transformative.

(L-R): Tom Donovan, APMF Executive Director, looks on as Jeryl and Steve Oristaglio receive the first Music Saved My Life Award. Credit: Jean Michel

“I find Rock & Roll exhilarating,” said Steve Oristaglio. He expresses his feelings on what the program has done for kids in the community. He shouted out the The Kings and Queens and said, “They don’t learn music without getting teaching, mentorship, coaching, not just for music but for life skills.” He also shares that this develops their craft, confidence, and companionship to learn how to work with others. He closes with those being the reasons he and his wife are proud to be supporting the Asbury Park Music Foundation. 

I find Rock & Roll exhilarating [shouted out The Kings and Queens]. They don’t learn music without getting teaching, mentorship, coaching, not just for music but for life skills.

Steve Oristaglio

The second Music Saved My Life Award went to the Spring Lake 5. The Spring Lake 5 is a famous race where runners come from all over to participate. The race is worked on all year long and is a nonprofit that has 12,500 runners and gives the proceeds to organizations in the area. 30 million dollars were raised in 20 years and given to charity. They’ve helped organizations like the Mercy Center, the Boys & Girls Clubs, Interfaith Neighbors as well as the Asbury Park Music Foundations. Chip Craig is the middleman between APMF and Spring Lake 5. His goal was for Asbury Park to have an incredible music scene and he did just that by organizing the races. 

(L-R): APMF Executive Director Tom Donovan presents the second Save My Life Award for the Spring Lake 5 Race to Chip Craig, Secretary, Co-Executive Director & Chief Business Officer of Interfaith Neighbors, Inc. Credit: Jean Michel

Thomas J. Gilmour founded APMF. He recognized Dorian Parreott as a true winning legend of Asbury Park. Parreott is a musician and former Music Teacher at Asbury Park High School (APHS) Instrument Repair. He also opened Parreott Music in 1962 and returned to Asbury in 1968. He was the Band Director at APHS, Supervisor of Fine Arts, and home economics and industrial arts. Receiving the first-ever Living Legend Award, he has been a great help to the foundation.  Gilmour referred to Parreott as a force behind the Music Foundation concert band. He’s been with the foundation for over 10 years and is proud of the work they produce. He said, “It’s a great, great, great honor to see them continue on and go into music education, hopefully in a short period of time.” Parreott shared that he wants to see the music talent in the Asbury Park community grow, leaving a $100 donation in the bin.

(L-R): APMF Executive Director, Tom Donovan, looks on as Board Member, Dorian Parreott, receives his award. Credit: Jean Michel

The last award given away for the night went to Senator Vin Gopal. Gopal is the 11th district Majority Conference Leader and received the Uniting Community Award. He’s known for advocating for the APMF along with nonprofits. APMF was included in the state of New Jersey’s budget last year for the first time because of Senator Gopal.

Senator Vin Gopal addresses guests after receiving the Uniting Community Award. Credit: Jean Michel

A lot is going on in the world right now, but music is something that always unites people. Music brings love, stability, and decency to their families and friends.

Senator Vin Gopal, 11th District Majority Conference Leader

Something that Senator Gopal shared with the audience is that a lot is going on in the world right now, but music is something that always unites people. He said, “Music brings love, stability, and decency to their families and friends.” He closed by thanking the nonprofit for all that they do and all the support that goes into it. 

Low Cut Connie fires things up with vocals and guitar riffs that excite the crowd and rock the stage. Credit: Jean Michel
Low Cut Connie’s frontman, pianist, and songwriter Adam Weiner lights up the crowd. Credit: Jean Michel
Low Cut Connie singer/guitarist accompanies Weiner and rocks the stage Credit: Jean Michel
Low Cut Connie performs at the Asbury Park Music Foundation’s Where Music Lives Awards Credit: Jean Michel

The show closed with a mind-blowing performance by Low Cut Connie. The band is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and performs rock and roll. While currently being on tour they stopped by Asbury Lanes to support the charity event and shut the night down. Their music had this amazing ability to get people out of their seats and dance. The band left it all out on the floor. 

Tom Gilmour, Founder, Asbury Park Music Foundation. Credit: Tom Gilmour, Facebook

Overall, the charity event shared many heart-touching moments and recognized some very important people who have taken part in helping the organization grow. When it comes to the Lakehouse Music Academy and the Asbury Park Music Foundation, they are very grateful for all the support they receive. With this being their first annual award show, it seems like they have much more coming in the future.

Dae’Sani Clarke is a 19-year-old Asbury Park resident and a rising Junior studying Journalism at Monmouth University. She has been writing for the Outlook Newspaper for the past three years. Recently, she became President of Monmouth University’s Chapter of the The National Council of Black Women. The main thing Dae’Sani enjoys about reporting is getting to know people and their stories.She believes reporters have the ability to lift voices and offer a platform for people to be heard.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *