Gambling On Talent: North Valley Symphony Orchestra hosts Casino Musicale

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

North Valley Symphony Orchestra will celebrate its past, present and future with Casino Musicale Gala, this year’s major fundraiser.

The Saturday, February 25, benefit at the DoubleTree by Hilton Phoenix North will feature a welcome drink, silent auction, dinner, live music performances and casino-style gaming for $100.

“Each year, our major fundraising gala gets more spectacular,” says Kevin Kozacek, North Valley Symphony Orchestra’s founding music director.

“We’ve had themed galas for quite a few years, including a circus-themed one and a black-and-white ball another year. We had a Roaring ’20s one, which was really a lot of fun.”

Those who wish to donate instead of dinner can spend $35 for a ticket to join later in the evening for gaming and the silent auction.

“They can come for dinner and all of the events or shorten the evening and come for the gaming starting at 7 p.m.,” Kozacek says. “The DJ will spin the later portion of the evening. The string quartet will perform during dinner, providing wonderful background music and great music for dancing.”

Attendees can try their luck at the roulette, blackjack and craps tables, then exchange their winnings (no cash value) for a chance to win raffle prizes. Tickets, as well as individual and corporate sponsorships, are available at

Hailing from Colorado, Kozacek was a music teacher until he “felt a calling” to join the Air Force, for which he flew F-16s, having trained at then-Williams Air Force Base in Mesa. He was stationed in England, Thailand and Luke Air Force Base.

“We settled in Arizona in 1986,” he says. “I went to Thailand for a year, but my family stayed here. I retired from Luke and joined Southwest Airlines.”

When he left the military, he became a Southwest Airlines pilot for 24 years. However, music stuck with him.

“I always kept music very high on my list of things to do,” he says. “It was at least a hobby, if not a part-time job. I’ve been a choir director on numerous bases around the world. We put together ensembles and musicals for youth groups at church. I kept music very dear to my heart.”

In 2012, Kozacek founded NVSO, a local symphony dedicated to sharing its love for classical music with the community by keeping tickets affordable at $5.

Additionally, the symphony invests in the next generation of musicians by providing elementary through high school youth with three levels of youth ensembles in which they can learn and grow.

“We started with around 40 musicians and immediately started a youth orchestra to attach to us because we discovered that students really need an opportunity to play strings somewhere,” he says.

“Many schools have a string program, but it’s introductory strings. Those who really want to excel wanted to find another location. We started a youth orchestra and, in 11 years, we’ve grown to three youth ensembles — beginning, intermediate and advanced ensembles. We’ve seen great growth on that.”

Now the adult orchestra boasts 76 “amazing musicians,” he says. “They’re all community members from police and first responders to doctors and financial consultants. We have quite a few retired individuals, teachers, ex-teachers, a real smattering of community musicians who just love to share their talents as musicians.”

North Valley Symphony Orchestra’s next concert is “Across the Universe,” Saturday, March 11, at North Canyon High School auditorium.

“It’s just a fabulous concert,” he says.

It features music inspired by space, including movements from Holst’s “The Planets” and film suites from “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.” In Eric Whitacre’s “Deep Field,” there is an audience participation component. Audience members should download the Deep Field app from the App Store or Google Play on their cellphone before the concert. Kozacek will cue the audience when it is time to hit play on the app during the performance.

“At one point in the piece, I turn around and I queue the audience to start their apps,” he says.

“We get this sound of space coming from all of the phones or devices as we finish the rest of the piece. It’s just a really amazing piece that he’s put together.”

The fundraiser allows for concerts like this. Kozacek attributes their success to his “wonderful gala team.”

“They put together a truly enjoyable evening,” he says. “Not only do they have the ability to have a wonderful meal and all the gaming, but we’ll have a silent auction going on where people can bid on wonderful baskets and gift cards and certificates from around the Valley.

“They do a wonderful job of putting together an event to enjoy themselves and support the symphony in so many different ways.”

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