Get To Know Us!

Get To Know

Get to know us…

In 2014, The Jay & Linda Grunin Foundation announced a $5.75 million donation to Ocean County College to establish The Jay & Linda Grunin Center for the Arts on the College’s Main Campus in Toms River.

So who are Jay and Linda Grunin, and why did they want to start an arts center here?

Jay and Linda met and fell in love as two promising law students at NYU in the sixties. They established a thriving law practice right here in Toms River, NJ, and decades later chose to pursue one of their lifelong passions: philanthropy. Thus their foundation was born.

The Jay & Linda Grunin Foundation is a family-run philanthropic fund with three distinct areas of focus: healthcare, education, and the arts. As long time residents of the Jersey Shore, Jay and Linda knew it was the natural destination for their philanthropic endeavors. Their desire is to make Toms River “the regional template for quality of life and strong economic health.” To that end, the main campus at Ocean County College was considered the perfect location for the arts center, due to its centrality and significance within the Ocean County community.

A Cultural Hub is Born

The center is built on the belief that a thriving arts culture is vital for community involvement and economic opportunity. It includes a 464 seat theatre, as well as an additional 90 seat black-box theatre, and is home to a variety of inspiring and entertaining performances and lectures season after season. In 2017 it was announced that a 53,000 square foot performing arts high school would be built adjacent to the theatre on the Ocean County College campus administered by the Ocean County Vocational Technical School system. The performing arts high school is expected to open in 2019 and is poised to become one of the best performing arts academies in the country, where students can earn associates degrees alongside their diplomas.

There are so many ways that we at the Grunin Center work to keep the arts alive and thriving at the Jersey Shore. Here are just a few of the highlights of our 2017-2018 season:

  • The world renowned Vienna Boys Choir
  • An Evening with Todd Frazier, Major League Baseball player and hometown hero
  • Chrissy Metz, Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated star of critically acclaimed This Is Us
  • Two-time Grammy winner Rickie Lee Jones

We are also pleased to provide quality programming through our “Schools ‘n Stage” initiative, geared specifically toward providing educational and engaging experiences for local students, and we are proud supporters and hosts to both the Ocean County and New Jersey Teen Arts Festivals. At The Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, we are committed to nurturing a love of arts and entertainment not only in our own generation but in those to come.

We hope you feel as though you can get to know “us,” and in future posts will be sharing even more about our staff, outreach programs, venue, and more!

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Arts Education with Schools n’ Stage

schools n stageby Jaclyn Wood, Community Engagement Coordinator
Grunin Center for the Arts

What do a swashbuckling pirate, a Korean jazz group, and a Chicano band from East Los Angeles have in common? They’ll all be performing at the Grunin Center this winter as part of our Schools n’ Stage series, and you can see them!

The Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts is pleased to announce a new slate of school programs in our new School n’ Stage. Piloted in 2016/2017 with Doktor Kaboom and The Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars, this series brings the best in science, arts and culture programming to young people in elementary, middle and high school. Based on feedback from teachers, we’ve hand-picked five great programs for the 2017/2018 school year!

S.T.E.A.M.: Integrating Arts Education

One of the biggest topics in education right now is S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). And integral part of this is the Arts- S.T.E.A.M. Studies show the benefits students receive from exposure to and participation in the arts.* With “Janet’s Planet: Tour of the Solar System” and “Pirate School: The Science of Pirates,” we will be bringing entertaining, engaging science-based K-5 programs to our stage.

Janet's PlanetJanet’s Planet comes to the Grunin Center on January 18, 2018. “Janet’s Planet and her JP Space Crew are taking their new friends on an out of this world adventure! Janet, along with Galileo her Super Computer, Cody the Robot, Professor Cosmos and Dr. Comet are going to start at the sun and share the wonder of our Solar System by visiting every planet orbiting around the star at the center of it all! One young astronaut (a special cadet in training from the audience) will even get to walk on the moon!”

On February 7, “Pirate School: The Science of Pirates” sails onto our stage to excite with Pirate Schoolthe allure of swashbuckling fun while introducing simple concepts and technologies outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards. “Pirate School: The SCIENCE of Pirates!” is an uncommon and engaging matinee assembly for students Grades K-5, promoting curiosity in the sciences by presenting S.T.E.A.M. curricula with a comical, nautical twist! Developed with the Long Island Children’s Museum Theater in NY, this rousing show is the creation of 25 year veteran family entertainer David Engel, who has performed across the US, Europe, and Asia. Subjects covered will include Optics, Simple Machines & Engineering, Navigation & Astronomy, Aero & Hydrodynamics, and rudimentary physics of how a cannonball flies.

World Music: A Gateway Through Arts Education

In addition to our S.T.E.A.M. shows, we’ll also be hosting three world music concerts, in conjunction with the Ocean County Cultural and Heritage Commission: Black String, Las Cafeteras, and Kuniko Yamamoto.

Black StringBlack String, founded in 2011 as part of the Korea-UK cultural exchange program “UK Connection” plays “borderless contemporary music from Korea.” When you come to the Grunin Center to see Black String perform, you will learn about South Korea and hear “amplified bursts of sound of the geomungo (6-stringed zither) and Korean bamboo flutes, the fierce quake of Korean traditional percussion, and unpredictable melody of jazz guitar (that) will grasp all your senses.” In addition to the performance, Black String will also engage students in a question and answer session, so students can interact with the group and learn more. Black String will be here on January 25, 2018.

Las CafeterasOn January 30, students will enjoy performances by Las Cafeteras, a band from Los Angeles. They are influenced by the culture, storytelling, and poetic music of Son Jarocho, a traditional music from Veracruz, Mexico. They will sing in English and Spanish and play a variety of instruments including a requinto (a small guitar-shaped string instrument), a box-like percussion instrument called a cajon, and even a donkey jawbone! They also use a wooden platform called the tarima to dance zapateado. You may hear familiar tunes like “La Bamba” and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” as well as original songs like “If I Was President.” Las Cafeteras use their performances to inspire social change.

Black String and Las Cafeteras will also play night time performances that are open to the public, so if you are not a student, don’t worry about missing out!

KunikoLast but not least, on March 19 performance by Kuniko Yamamoto. She will tell Japanese stories and folk tales using music, masks and mime, and will use origami (the art of paper folding) and magic tricks as she performs. We are also excited to have Kuniko here to lead workshops for the student at the Ocean County Teen Arts Festival.

Interested in booking your students for a School n’ Stage performance? Contact Jaclyn Wood, Community Engagement Coordinator at 732-255-0400 ext. 2487 or Be sure to sign up soon, because tickets are limited!

*Learn more about arts education and become an Arts Ambassador at

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Hometown Heroes Share Their Stories This Veterans Day

Telling Jersey Shore Veterans

by Elizabeth Stacy, OCC Student

Telling: Jersey Shore Debuts at the Grunin Center

With a lot of social and political issues going on in the world today, it is difficult to concede with most of what circulates in the media. One thing that we as Americans, and as human beings, agree on is the importance of those who have laid themselves on the line for this country. Not only do they miss holidays, birthdays, and the small moments that we take for granted every day, these men and women risk their lives, rick becoming disabled, and can develop stressful conditions. These sacrifices were made to make sure that the people back home are safe.

Telling: Jersey Shore allows us a diverse glimpse into the life of a soldier. An important stage performance that lets the audience get close to these men and women by letting them express their stories, this is an event for younger and older generations alike. It isn’t just for those who have been directly affected by war or know veterans, it is for anyone who would like a deeper understanding of the lives of veterans and to support each other as human beings.

About the Veterans Participating

Two of the local veterans that will be sharing their stories are Phillip Zimmerman and David Rosenak.  Phillip served in the U.S. Navy until he was discharged in December of 1986 when a colleague turned him in to the National Investigative Service for being gay. What would have been a long and promising career in the Navy ended abruptly. However, he has taken a negative and turned it into a positive by serving as a veteran’s services officer. He now helps other veterans, especially those who have been treated unfairly, to regain their honor and benefits which they very much deserve.

David Rosenak spent his nine years of service in the U.S. Air Force, traveling all over the world. He’s had assignments in, but not limited to, Texas, England, Kansas, France, and Vietnam. Although he got to see much of the world, it wasn’t without sacrifice. David has many stories, some involving rocket attacks, losing friends in Cambodia, an emotional visit to the American cemetery in Normandy, and coming home with PTSD. Despite his time in the Air Force, David still has a long history in professional theatre, as well as a background writing poetry, which is another reason he was thought of for this project.

Show Your Support of Our Local Veterans

Don’t miss the opportunity to not only show support to these brave men and women but also to gain knowledge and consideration. Not only will this be a glimpse at the lives of veterans during their service, it will also allow the audience to see that they are more than soldiers, they are people. This performance looks at the human side of war and what serving your country really means. It is a truly emotional and riveting performance by and about Jersey Shore Veterans and their families. The best way to help Veterans transition back into normal, everyday life is to understand what they have been through.

Get your tickets now! All performances take place in the Black Box Theatre.

Friday, November 10th at 7:30pm
Saturday, November 11th (Veterans Day) at 8:00pm
Sunday, November 12th at 2:00pm

Thursday, November 16th at 7:30pm
Friday, November 17th at 7:30pm
Saturday, November 18th at 8:00pm
Sunday, November 19th at 2:00pm

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Becoming a Financially Independent Dancer

Financially Independent Dancer

by Catherine Mancuso, Ocean County College Lecturer II, Dance
Performing Arts Program

How to be a Financially Independent Dancer

In all my years of intensive dance training I was told that in order to succeed in the dance industry I needed to take as many classes as possible and train as hard as I could. I was told to take classes with choreographers I wanted to work with and to study at the best institutions in the country. I was told it would be hard but that if I was willing to put in the time and effort, I would be rewarded greatly. So what did I do? I trained hard and followed this advice to the letter. I’m sure many of you have done this as well. What no one told me was that being a dancer meant being the CEO of my own business. No one talks about a career in dance this way. The reality is that you need to be your own accountant, lawyer, manager, branding specialist, PR rep, website designer, social media strategist, content creator, media editor, HR, and payroll. I learned a lot of this information the hard way, but what I learned from my experience early on is that you must treat your dance life like a business or else you will be a starving artist. If I could go back and do college again I would have allocated one of my electives for a business 101 course. In my opinion, it should be a required course for all dance majors.

I can tell you from my own experience in the industry that treating your dance life as a business is vitally important information that will keep you from being a starving artist and allow you to thrive financially and mentally as a dancer. I’ve noticed a trend in the world of dance to push the business aspect aside and rely on your artistry alone to survive.  The fact of the matter is that the number of jobs available is much lower than the number of people applying for those jobs.  A 2014 study conducted by the BFAMFAPhD found that while 2 million arts graduates have degrees in the visual and performing arts, only 10% make their living as working artists. That is a staggeringly low statistic. If you want to survive and earn a living you must invest in yourself as a business entity.

The key to survival in the current job market is to implement a strong business plan that includes multiple streams of income, a strong marketing plan, and a unified brand image. So how exactly do you do this successfully?

Here are my top 3 strategies for setting up your dance life as a business:

  1. Invest your time and money into learning about business. When I first set out to create a business model for myself, I spent a lot of time researching business information online. I followed people on social media who were social media strategists, business advisors, and entrepreneurs who consistently gave out advice and information about running a business. When I had exhausted all of the free resources I began hiring coaches and mentors to take my plans to the next level. The biggest jumps in my business success came after I hired people to help me, but I made a lot of headway early on by investing my time when I didn’t have the money to invest. The free information gave me a solid foundation to start with and I definitely recommend you exhaust all these sources first.
  2. Identify your mission statement. What is your mission and purpose in life? Why do you do what you do? Your mission should encompass all aspects of your vision both performance and non-performance related. Use this mission to brand yourself and have this message everywhere for potential clients to see.
  3. Create multiple streams of income. In addition to performing what other services do you have to offer? There are a lot of people willing to pay for services that they don’t know how to do or don’t have time to do. Here’s a list of some ideas to get you started:
  • Teach Private Dance Lessons
  • One-on-One yoga sessions
  • One-on-One Pilates sessions
  • Music editing
  • Writing about dance for magazines and news outlets
  • Financial Planning
  • Organization skills
  • Dance Wear Designer
  • Nutrition and Meal Planning
  • Social Media Marketing

This is just a list of skills you may have and is only meant to be a reference point. Think about a problem that people have and how you can solve it. If it’s a common problem, people will be very interested in your services.

We as an industry must let go of the idea that being a starving artist is normal and acceptable. This image takes the control out of our hands and places it blindly in the hands of others. This is not, nor should it ever be the case. If you look at any other arts related endeavors, you’ll see that the business model is completely entrenched in it. One example is the film industry. You don’t see major Hollywood films creating a movie and just hoping that someone pays to see it. There is a huge team involved that ensures the business model for the film is set up to succeed and earn money. You must do the same for yourself as a dancer.

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Accommodations & the Arts

grunin center

by Gina Zippo-Mazur, MS, LAC, CRC, CPRP, Ocean County College Coordinator of Disability Services

Most people get to experience the Arts with typical senses and abilities that allows a person to appreciate and process the experience of theatre, music and the arts in several ways. When thinking about people with disabilities, we must question how people with impairments get the same artistic experience. People with disabilities have the right to access anything and everything people without disabilities do. It begins by having conversations about inclusion and awareness.

Inclusive practices allow people with disabilities to openly access accommodations that help them gain a theatrical experience just like the general public.  Accommodations such as captioning services and assistive listening devices for the hard of hearing and Sign Language Interpreters for the Deaf are most commonly utilized in the Arts. Sensory friendly shows can offer people with Autism a safe and enjoyable environment by simply turning the lights up, reducing loud or jarring sounds, and allow people to talk, move, dance, all during a theatrical experience.

What else? Safety is a priority for all who attend theatre and exhibits. Most importantly, people using mobility devices must have access to accessible seating and clear pathways for exits in case of emergency. Safety practices can be provided through training, which is an integral part of the customer service experience and adds to providing a meaningful experience for people with disabilities.

Staff who work in the Arts should be formally trained on how to manage accommodation requests and safety protocols, as well as disability etiquette when assisting people with disabilities. It is recommended to have people who have disability involved in facilitating trainings to share their perspectives and experiences with staff. This method follows the “not about us, without us” approach that is vital to breaking stigma and promoting the inclusive environment we want to create in our venues.

The promotion of services and accommodations is a vital part of helping people with disabilities feel welcome. By providing written accommodation statements on advertising materials and webpages, theaters can promote access and inclusion and allow people to get the support and tools they need to gain an integrative experience.  Accessibility standards outlined by federal law mandate accessible materials such as accessible websites that include media advertisements, in addition to providing flyers and brochures that are made available in large font or braille.

The Kennedy Center provides a list of resources through the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD) website. Some resources include Tip sheets on; Training, Service Animals, Relevant ADA Law, and Universal Design practices.

Lastly, we are all responsible and accountable for providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all people.  After all, “Accessibility allows us to tap into everyone’s potential.” ― Debra Ruh

Visit the Accessibility page to learn more about the Grunin Center’s accommodation offerings.

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Performances set for the weekend of August 19th in Red Bank and Toms River; cast culled from Basie Performing Arts Academy camp with famed Los Angeles Opera director Eli Villanueva and musical director Jason Tramm.

(RED BANK, NJ | JULY 12, 2017) The Count Basie Theatre Performing Arts Academy has revealed the names of cast members studying under Los Angeles Opera director Eli Villanueva for a pair of performances in collaboration with the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts at Ocean County College.

The students, part of a two-week intensive headed by Villanueva, will perform Brundibár and Friedl, a pair of dramatic presentations set in Germany’s Theredienstadt concentration camp during World War II. Villanueva will be joined by musical director Jason Tramm, an assistant professor and director of choral activities at Seton Hall University.

Tickets for the Count Basie Theatre performance at 8PM on Saturday, Aug. 19 and the Grunin Center performance at 2PM on Sunday, Aug. 20 are on sale now by clicking through or visiting the venue box offices. All tickets are priced at $20.

Brundibár and Friedl tell important stories of a part our history that we cannot forget or allow to happen again,” said Adam Philipson, President and CEO, Count Basie Theatre. “The stories demonstrate how even under the direst of circumstances, the arts can be transformative.”

“I believe that our performances, made up of some of the most talented young vocalists in Monmouth, Middlesex and Ocean counties, will convey the important messages of the need to overcome injustice and forge a path of tolerance and mutual understanding.”

The following young vocalists have been named to the Brundibár and Friedl casts:

Brundibár: Lauryn Boyle (Wall, chorus); Lev Brewer (Tinton Falls, chorus); Catherine Creed (Highlands, chorus); Cakie Dym (Rumson, chorus); Frances Forte (Rumson, ‘Little Joe’); Amir Kamal (East Brunswick, chorus); Jack Kelly (Toms River, chorus); Olivia Lee (Manahawkin, chorus); Isabella Lee (Manahawkin, chorus); Lydia Lu (Red Bank, chorus); Olivia Marino (Toms River, chorus); Regina Messenger (Toms River, chorus); Isabella Moitoso (Holmdel, chorus); Alejandra Morales (Bayville, ‘Milkman’); Amanda Philipson (Little Silver, ‘Bird’); Andreas Psillos (Toms River, ‘Policeman’) Camille Pugliese (Red Bank, ‘Ice Cream Vendor’); Abigail Pukin (Holmdel, ‘Annette’); Sofia Ranucci (Interlaken, ‘Baker’); Francesca Ranucci (Interlaken, chorus); Nevaeh Sickles (Ocean, chorus); Mia Spallina (Manahawkin, chorus); Grace Sweeney (West Long Branch, chorus); Claire Taylor (Ocean, ‘Dog’); Ria Kiafoulis (Middletown, chorus); Alexandra Pennington (Middletown, chorus); Skylar Yannello (Holmdel, ‘Cat’); Nick DiBlasi (Holmdel, chorus); Trinitee Smith (Red Bank, chorus); Eli Fisch (Elberon, chorus); Alicia Henderson (Manalapan, chorus); Amaya Love (Lakewood, chorus); Nevaeh Love (Lakewood; chorus)

Friedl: Lauryn Boyle (Wall, chorus); Lev Brewer (Tinton Falls, ‘Jerry Rind’); Catherine Creed (Highlands, ‘Tella’); Frances Forte (Rumson, chorus); Amir Kamal (East Brunswick, ‘Josef Novak’); Jack Kelly (Toms River, ‘Ivo Keo Kaytz’); Olivia Lee (Manahawkin, chorus); Isabella Lee (Manahawkin, chorus); Lydia Lu (Red Bank, ‘Ruth’); Olivia Marino (Toms River, ‘Ela’) Isabella Moitoso (Holmdel, chorus); Amanda Philipson (Little Silver, ‘Anita’); Andreas Psillos (Toms River, ‘Peter Ginz’); Camille Pugliese (Red Bank, chorus) Abigail Pukin (Holmdel, ‘Helga’); Sofia Ranucci (Interlaken, ‘Eva’); Nevaeh Sickles (Ocean, ‘Maria’); Mia Spallina (Manahawkin, ‘Flaska’); Claire Taylor (Ocean, ‘Friedl’); Ria Kiafoulis (Middletown, ‘Lilly’); Alexandra Pennington (Middletown, chorus); Skylar Yannello (Holmdel, chorus); Nick DiBlasi (Holmdel, chorus); Trinitee Smith (Red Bank, chorus); Eli Fisch (Elberon, chorus); Alicia Henderson (Manalapan, chorus); Amaya Love (Lakewood; chorus).

Brundibár, by Jewish Czech composer Hans Krása, tells the story of a brother and sister who join forces with a sparrow, a cat and a dog to outwit an evil organ grinder named Brundibár. Brundibár was performed by the children of Theresienstadt concentration camp in occupied Czechoslovakia, and has since been staged around the world to symbolize the plight of people joining forces to fight intolerable situations. “It was performed at the camp 55 times, providing distraction and perhaps a small respite from the misery,” according to the New York Times. “But it was also exploited by the Nazis for propaganda purposes in their attempts to present Theresienstadt as a comfortable environment.”

Friedl tells the story of Theresienstadt prisoner Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, a teacher from Prague who, like all prisoners, were permitted to carry just 50 kilos of personal belongings. While most prisoners understandably chose to pack valuables and personal belongings, Dicker-Brandeis used her allowance to carry art supplies. “Upon arrival in Theresienstadt, children were forcefully separated from their parents and family and sent to live alone in overcrowded children’s houses,” according to the World Holocaust Remembrance Center (, “The starvation, illness and brutality of Theresienstadt, along with lack of stability and structure, put an enormous strain on the coping mechanisms of these children. They desperately needed direction and purpose, and Friedl was there to give them that.”

The Basie’s inaugural opera camp season is sponsored by OceanFirst, and Brundibár is presented by arrangement with Bote & Block Berlin and Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.

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Welcome to the NEW


At the Grunin Center, we strive to provide a first-class experience for our patrons, and therefore we are introducing the new!

Take some time to look around; we hope you find our new site engaging, informative, and easy to navigate. Here is just a sampling of the new features we think you’ll love:

  • An easy to navigate show listing section that allows you to search for events, sort by related events, and view in a format that you enjoy.
  • Clearly explained and easy to find policies, procedures, and information about the Grunin Center, and,
  • More information on the arts opportunities we provide outside of Main Stage productions.

In addition to the new website, we also have some exciting new offerings at the Grunin Center:

  • New Subscription Packages! No matter what your taste in performances is, we have a subscription to fit your needs. Learn more by visiting the Subscriptions and Group Sales page.
  • Expanded Community Engagement! Jaclyn Wood has joined our team as the Community Engagement Coordinator, and her goal is to expand our reach in the area. If your group or organization wants to see a show, or discuss a potential engagement opportunity, give her a call!
  • A first-class 2017 – 2018 season! We proudly announced our new season in June. Subscriptions go on sale on Monday, July 3rd at 9:00am, and tickets go on sale Monday, July 17th at 9:00am.

We look forward to welcoming you to an upcoming event, and to an entertaining 2017 – 2018 season.

~The Grunin Center Team

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