Jon Ernesto was honored with the 2014 Pagoda Award for Community Leadership and Commitment Monday night, for his dedication to the Berks County community and the arts in the county.
The ceremony, which took place at Building 24 Live in Wyomissing, began with a jazz performance to honor Ernesto’s involvement with a variety of arts organizations, including The Reading Pops, Reading Musical Foundation, The Berks Jazz Fest, and it’s “Get JazzED” educational program.
Lee Olson, Vice President of Programs in the Berks Arts Council, was Master of Ceremonies for the evening and said in his opening remarks that Ernesto “epitomizes the very purpose of this award”.
The accolades for Ernesto continued with Karen Haver, Executive Director of the Berks Arts Council who said, “This award shows how much he [Ernesto] believed in the arts and the vitality they hold to this community,” said Haver.
One of Ernesto’s longest-lasting involvement has been with the Berks Jazz Fest.
He has been involved with the festival since it began nearly 25 years ago and has been its general manager since 1995.
Under his leadership the festival has grown from a small 3-day festival to an internationally renowned 10-day festival that it became on its tenth year.
During Monday night's event, $28,000 was raised towards the 2015 Berks Jazz Fest, during which the festival will be celebrating its 25th anniversary..
Ernesto said the Pagoda Award is “very special” to him, but wanted to share it with everyone who has been involved with him over his years of service to the arts in Berks County.
He mentioned and thanked his family, The Berks Arts Council, The Reading Eagle Company, and community and business leaders, but he placed emphasis on the volunteers.
“They are the heart and soul of this, and without them there is no festival,” said Ernesto.
To honor the commitment of volunteers, this year’s presentation of the Pagoda award included the inaugural John Ernesto Volunteer Recognition award.
The award was given to two recipients, Mark Burford and Pauline Heckman, representing volunteers who work in both the front of the house and the production aspect.
The John Ernesto Volunteer Recognition award will be given out annually, and will be presented to two volunteers each year.
“Berks Jazz Fest has put Greater Reading on the map for very positive things… John Ernesto has left a permanent mark on Berks County with his unwavering support for the arts,” said Senator Judy Schwank in her closing remarks.
After the ceremony, a special concert was presented by Rick Braun, Gerald Veasley, Check Loeb and Brian Bromberg to celebrate the work Ernesto and all those involved have done over the years.