The Greenbrier - America's Resort / White Sulphur Springs, WV
The WVU Cancer Institute is pleased to announce the 2024 Spring Gala featured guest and entertainment lineup:
Aarón Sánchez is an award-winning chef, TV personality, author and philanthropist. He is a judge on FOX’s culinary competition series MasterChef and MasterChef Junior and the host and executive producer of El Toque de Aarón on Discovery Familia and Hogar de HGTV. Aarón is the founder of the Aarón Sánchez Impact Fund, a nonprofit program whose mission is to uplift the lives of Latino youth through food. He is a partner and creative director for Cocina Media, which creates and produces lifestyle content that uplifts Hispanic culture. Aarón grew up in the restaurant business and is passionate about preserving his family’s legacy through food and encouraging diversity in the kitchen.
Aarón has starred in multiple Food Network shows, most notably as a judge on Chopped and Chopped Junior and as the host of Cooking Channel’s Emmy-nominated series Taco Trip. He has also hosted several Spanish-language shows including 3 Minutos con Aarón, MOTOCHEFS and most recently, El Sabor de Aarón on Discovery, where he also served as the executive producer.
A third-generation cookbook author, Aarón has written two cookbooks – La Comida del Barrio and Simple Food, Big Flavor and a memoir, Where I Come From: Life Lessons From A Latino Chef. He also co-hosts a podcast, Cooking in Mexican from A to Z, on Heritage Radio Network with his mom, Zarela Martinez.
Aarón is the chef/partner of restaurants Johnny Sánchez (with locations in New Orleans and Lake Charles), Showbird (New Orleans) and Adobo Cantina (West Virginia University and Tulane University).
Aarón’s passion extends beyond the kitchen. He is a partner in world-renowned tattoo shop and museum, Daredevil Tattoo in New York City. An avid music lover, he enjoys cooking to the sounds of Portugal the Man, Shakey Graves, Café Tacvba, Alabama Shakes, Tank and The Bangas, Amos Lee, Lianne La Havas, and Lenny Kravitz. He has a son, Yuma, and lives in New Orleans, LA.
Brett Yormark, the current commissioner of the Big 12 Conference, brings a wealth of experience and a winning spirit to the gala. Before assuming his role in 2022, he carved a dynamic path through the sports and entertainment industry, holding key positions at powerhouses like NASCAR, Brooklyn Nets, and Roc Nation. Yormark’s success stems from his proven ability to drive growth, forge strategic partnerships, and leverage innovation. He orchestrated the Nets’ move to Brooklyn and the construction of Barclays Center, turning the franchise into a cultural phenomenon. His expertise spans business operations, marketing, sponsorship, and content creation, ensuring he speaks with authority and insights on the ever-evolving landscape of sports and entertainment. Whether discussing industry trends, leadership strategies, or the future of collegiate athletics, Brett Yormark offers a captivating and thought-provoking perspective.
Ari Fleischer is a name synonymous with American politics. Serving as the 23rd White House Press Secretary during President George W. Bush’s first term, Fleischer became a household figure navigating the complexities of communication in a tumultuous era. From the September 11th attacks to the War on Terror, he stood at the podium, delivering the administration’s message with a sharp wit and unwavering loyalty.
But Fleischer’s journey extends far beyond the White House briefing room. A veteran political strategist, he honed his skills on Capitol Hill, working for senators and congressmen, before rising to prominence in presidential campaigns. Today, he remains a sought-after voice, appearing as a media consultant and commentator, offering insightful analysis and engaging in spirited debates.
MAURICIO MARTINEZ is a Mexican Emmy-winning actor and recording artist who was last seen on Broadway as ‘Emilio Estefan’ in the Musical “On Your Feet! The Story Of Emilio & Gloria Estefan.” People en Español calls him “a true bilingual triple threat!” He can currently be seen in NBC Universo’s original TV series “El Vato” on Netflix. Mauricio’s television credits include multiple Telenovela’s in Univision and Telemundo like “Señora Acero” and appearances on CBS performing a tribute to Gloria Estefan at the 40th Annual Kennedy Honors in Washington, DC, as well as in “The Talk” and in “The 2019 Gershwin Prize” on PBS (performing next to artists like Cindy Lauper, Rita Moreno, Andy García and Gloria Estefan). His two Latin Pop albums are available in iTunes worldwide & he is currently working on his third album with Broadway Records. He is a proud cancer survivor.
HILARY MORROW is an NYC based singer, actor and comedian most known for television appearances in Wicked: In Concert and An Evening with Lerner and Loewe on PBS and her work with Second City at the Kennedy Center. She has toured children’s musicals through the state of West Virginia more than 10x and has appeared with The American Pops Orchestra, The West Virginia Symphony, The Ohio Valley Symphony, The National Philharmonic, The Fairfax Symphony and more. She has performed at Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, The Kravis Center, The Arsht Center, Birdland Jazz Club and many more.
RHONDA VINCENT is known as the “Queen of Bluegrass.” With a career spanning several decades, Vincent has become a prominent figure in the bluegrass and country music scenes. Throughout her career, Rhonda Vincent has released numerous albums, earning critical acclaim and multiple awards, including a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album. Her contributions to the genre have solidified her as one of the most respected and influential figures in bluegrass music. Whether performing heartfelt ballads or energetic bluegrass classics, Rhonda Vincent continues to captivate audiences around the world with her timeless talent and dedication to the rich heritage of bluegrass music.
NIC ROULEAU holds the record as the longest-running Elder Price in The Book of Mormon, having performed the role over 2600 times on Broadway, in the West End in London and in Chicago. Other credits include: Cornelius in the First National Tour of Hello, Dolly! starring Betty Buckley and Emmett in the US National Tour of Legally Blonde: The Musical. Television roles include Tyler in the Showtime series Uncoupled starring Neil Patrick Harris, Daddy’s Boy in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix) and the 2012 Tony Awards on CBS. @nicrouleau
Internationally acclaimed tenor JAMES VALENTI has built a global reputation for his elegant musicianship, commanding stage presence, ardent style, and voice of warm Italianate luster. The 6’5”, NYC-based tenor in a graduate of WVU before going on to train at the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and Westminster Choir College in Princeton. He has gone on to perform at the most celebrated theatres, opera houses, and concert halls in the world, including Teatro alla Scala Milan, Metropolitan Opera, Teatro Colón Buenos Aires, Royal Opera House London, Opéra National de Paris Bastille, Sydney Opera House, Münich Bayerische Staatsoper, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, La Monnaie Brussels, Salzburg Festival, in St. Petersburg Russia, Seoul South Korea, Tokyo Japan and at Opernhaus Zürich.
Chances are that you’ve heard the amazing soprano voice of NOVA PAYTON on with the internationally staged musical, 3 Mo’ Divas, on television, or in countless regional theatre productions across the country. Boasting a prolific catalog of artist collaborations, the former American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) student has shared the stage with Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack, Levi Kreis, Bobby McFerrin, John Michael Higgins, Yolanda Adams, Betsy Wolfe, Michael Uris, Anthony Hamilton and Michelle Williams. She has also opened for heavyweights like Ashford and Simpson, Will Downing, Stephanie Mills, Melba Moore, The Chi-Lites and the Dramatics. Nova has performed in over 150 major cities in the US, as well as Canada, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Europe.
The Benny Benack Band prides itself in achieving a level of versatility that defies conventional labels. From Big Band Swing to Dixieland Jazz and from Motown to the hits of today, the Benny Benack Band gives each its own unique contemporary feel.
Benny Benack left his mark on the music world as a performer, bandleader, and teacher. Now his sons, Benny Jr. and Flip, and a new generation in Benny Benack III and Laura Benack, carry on the tradition. In fact, many of the band members grew up together from the time they were kids, and when they get together to jam, the youthful exuberance is infectious. They truly have a great time playing together and take personal pride in seeing to it that their audiences join in the fun.