Serendipity means to find valuable or agreeable things without seeking them - to go some place and have something good or agreeable happen that you may not be expecting.
Joyce Ryan-Orlando, among the committee members who organized the Upper Ohio Valley Opera Guild's "It's A Jazz Thing" held Oct. 5 at the Steubenville Country Club, shared that definition in memory of a woman who originated the idea for the guild's Serendipity Cafe four years ago - the late Nan Watzman.
"That was her thought when she named this night - to visit with one another, laugh, enjoy good music, make new friends and drink in a casual, friendly cafe-like setting," Ryan-Orlando said to the audience of approximately 130 about a woman who lived life with zest and flair and with whom she had shared a 45-year friendship.
Teresa Kropka belts out a song to an appreciative audience.
-- Janice Kiaski
The event was dedicated in memory of Watzman, a founding member of the guild and one who served on its first board of directors.
"I think it works the way she intended it to," Ryan-Orlando said of the woman who "was known to volunteer often, give sage advice often and spoke her mind often, good or bad."
Ryan-Orlando said most people enjoyed being around Watzman "because she was so enthusiastic about almost everything - her family (son Neal was in attendance), her work, her travels, her organizations, her home and her friends. She found serendipity in all of this, and we were fortunate to have her in our lives."
Watzman passed away on July 11.
The guild's casual, carefree evening featured the great sounds of N-Motion Band, "an eclectic mix of some of the best musicians Pittsburgh has to offer," with Steubenville's own Teresa Kropka - what a voice - and Skylor Massie, an added attraction from Pittsburgh. All this was in a setting of an appreciative audience, an array of hors d'oeuvres and desserts and a turnout of familiar faces and newbies.
The planning committee, in addition to Ryan-Orlando, include Joe and Lina Leonard, Mary Jo Rinaldi, Kathy Antinone, Anita Jackson and Kropka.
What opportunity I got to sit a spell included the good fortune to land at a table with Barb Wilinski (how does this woman find all those purple outfits?), Helen Dorsey, Cydnie Howard and Mena and Dom Potts, the latter of whom reminisced that the first time he ever heard of Nan Watzman was when he came to town in the early 1960s and heard the radio program that she and the late Tom Abernethy had.
That constituted my Steubenville history moment for the evening - plus she had a clothing store across from the Grand Theater called the Village Toggery.
I had the pleasure of knowing Nan to be a very gracious and kind woman, always a pleasure to be around. And did she ever dress smart. So stylish.
So it was a great evening out to a guild event that promises a followup.
The guild's annual dinner will be held at St. Florian Hall on Nov. 25, featuring the back-by-popular demand Youngstown Connection, a very talented group of young singers who beautifully mix Broadway, classical favorites and patriotic tunes. I've heard them before, and they are remarkable.
Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. with dinner at 6 p.m. at this event that falls the week of Thanksgiving - proof positive that thanks to the guild and its offerings, area residents have much to be musically grateful for.
If you'd like to become a guild member, contact Lil Ferguson, membership drive chairperson, at (740) 264-2232 or Kathy Antinone, membership chair, at (740) 264-2012.
By the way, the guild has established a $1,000 music scholarship - the 2012 recipient was Christopher T. Gray of Hopedale. It's for a college student engaged in the study of music.
For an application form, contact Josephine Irvine-Groves at (740) 765-4674 or visit the website www.uovog.com. The deadline is Nov. 1.