Andy Anselmo’s musical life has taken him from his Buffalo roots to stages, recording studios and performance halls everywhere from New York to London, working with some of the brightest stars in show business along the way. On Thursday, the legendary “Teacher to the Stars” and officials from Canterbury Woods had plenty to sing about.
Surrounded by friends, colleagues and fellow Canterbury Woods residents, Anselmo and Canterbury Woods officials unveiled plans for the Andy Anselmo Performing Arts Center, a new community theater to be built on Canterbury Woods’ Williamsville campus. To help move the project forward, Anselmo has pledged a gift of $500,000 toward the estimated $3.5 million project cost. Canterbury Woods will conduct a capital campaign to help raise additional funds.
“Music has been more than my life’s work, it has been my life’s passion since I was a little boy,” said Anselmo, who has lived at Canterbury Woods since 2006. “I want the joy and satisfaction that music has brought me to live on and flourish for the people of Western New York. Canterbury Woods is a great place to make that happen.”
According to Rob Wallace, Canterbury Woods President & CEO, the project will benefit the community-at-large, as well as resident at Canterbury Woods. It also marks the first time in Canterbury Woods’ 18-year history that a resident has led such a major initiative.
“Andy Anselmo is living proof that dreams come true,” he said. “We are incredibly grateful to Andy for his generosity and for his commitment to Western New York and to Canterbury Woods.”
Designed by Architectural Resources of Buffalo, the theater will seat approximately 250 people. Officials envision the theater as a venue to attract productions the surrounding community will enjoy and attend, as well as productions for and by Canterbury Woods residents.
“This project was really borne of Andy’s passion for enhancing the arts in Western New York,” Wallace said. “At the same time, we have the opportunity strengthen the important bridge between the surrounding community and Canterbury Woods, and continue to elevate the overall experience of our residents.”
The Andy Anselmo Performing Arts Center will also celebrate the storied career Anselmo has enjoyed since he began studying voice at Buffalo’s Community Music School at age 16. After attending Canisius College, he studied at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he was taught the bel canto technique by the legendary William L. Whitney. Anselmo went on the establish the Singer’s Forum in New York City, where his students have included Tony Bennett, Liza Minnelli, Mandy Patinkin, Regis Philbin, Mary Tyler Moore, and Brooke Shields, among many other luminaries. Many of his personal mementos will be on display in the theater.
Anselmo hopes that the theater project at Canterbury Woods is more than just a legacy project. He also sees it as an opportunity to inspire current and future generations of Canterbury Woods residents to embrace the creative arts and the freedom retirement offers to explore new interests.
“I’ve been blessed to live my dream of a life filled with music and the arts,” said Anselmo, who continues to teach at age 93. “If this project can inspire just one person to tap into their own creativity and artistic aspirations, I’ll be thrilled.”
To illustrate his point, Anselmo recounted for the assembled crowd his experience working with actress Geraldine Fitzgerald, who was 55 when she first met Anselmo.
“She was an incredible actress, but she thought she was too old to start singing,” he recalled. “I told her ‘I’ve loved you since I was 14. I can make you sing.’ She said ‘Let’s start tomorrow.’ She went on to become an inspiration many actors and actresses. She showed that getting older doesn’t mean it’s over. It doesn’t have to be.”
In a moment that captured the joy of today’s announcement, Anselmo capped off the event by singing “This Is My Lucky Day” for the assembled crowd. The song, its message, and the messenger were all pitch perfect.
Residents at Canterbury Woods enjoy compassionate care and invigorating lifestyle, including gourmet dining, recreation and educational activities and a variety of social, cultural and entertainment events.
Opened in 1999, Canterbury Woods provides life care to seniors age 62 and older with assured access to assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitative services. The unique retirement lifestyle at Canterbury Woods gives residents the opportunity to age in place in an environment of their choosing. Seniors select a residence for their current lifestyle, and gain the ability to change their level of care – at no additional cost – should the need arise. It is one of less than 15 such communities in New York State.
In addition to its 62-acre Williamsville campus, with its mix of patio homes, independent living apartments, assisted living apartment and the Oxford Village skilled nursing unit, Canterbury Woods is preparing to open the Canterbury Woods Gates Circle project on the site of the former Millard Fillmore hospital in the city of Buffalo in the coming weeks. The $41 million project features 53 independent living apartments, as well as an assisted living component, and is prominently featured on Gates Circle facing Chapin Parkway. Apartments range from 800 to 2,000 square feet.