BALTIMORE SCHOOL FOR THE ARTS

THE BALTIMORE SUN

EXPRESSIONS," BALTIMORE SCHOOL FOR the Arts annual fundraiser, is always a sell-out. There are the classes that guests take in art, music, dance and theater. There's the dinner, the auction and the knock-out performances by some of the school's students.

"It's the best event that Baltimore has. It's such an exciting place. Students do such a fabulous job. And it's totally uplifting," said Chickie Grayson, Enterprise Homes president, voicing a common opinion.

But, this year, there was even more to celebrate. There was the success of BSA's $30 million capital campaign. And there was the completion of the school's renovation and new space.

"This really does feel like a new start for the whole school," said BSA director Leslie Shepard. "Our facilities now match the quality of our kids and the teachers and the programs."

Speaking of new beginnings, there was the evening's surprise guest -- Project Runway winner Christian Siriano, a BSA graduate, now at the start of a promising design career.

"It's great to be back at BSA. ... My senior year at Expressions, I think, was the first year they did a silent auction, actually. And I helped coordinate it. ... So, it's really funny that I'm in the auction this year," he said with a grin.

In fact, Siriano's participation also put this year's party over the top. His offer to create a design especially for someone brought on a bidding war, with two winners, each paying $25,000 for the privilege.

"It's my wife's 70th birthday next week and she loves Christian's designs. ... I can think of nothing I'd rather do more than support the School for the Arts and to honor my bride of 48 years," said winner A.C. Hubbard, retired president of T. Rowe Price.

A DRINK WITH WILLIAM 'BILLY' MURPHY JR.

ATTORNEY BILLY MURPHY JR., 64, IS known for his fearless -- and sometimes flamboyant -- approach to life and the law. Founder and senior partner in the Murphy Firm, Murphy specializes in "high stakes" civil and criminal trials. Divorced and with five adult children, Murphy lives in Canton.

What are some of your favorite things?

Miles [Davis] and [John] Coltrane in the background. [Jazz greats] Elvin Jones, Jimmy Cobb, Tony Williams, Philly Joe Jones, Roy Haynes and Art Blakey playing drums anytime, anywhere. ... Great food. ... Beauty in all forms. ... I'm a vegetarian, so I like all the vegetables and fruits on the planet.

What are your pet peeves?

Bigotry. Sexism. Deliberate ignorance. People who aren't interested in the facts. They're more interested in having an opinion than in what's really going on.

What other interesting tidbits should we know about you?

I'm a meditator. Every day. I practice a form of yoga: surat shabd meditation. And I play the drums every day in my music room.

Any goals or dreams you have yet to fulfill?

To start a great jazz label that's owned 50-50 by musicians, and distributed all over the world over the Internet. And to give away as much money as I can. I've never seen a Brinks truck in a funeral procession.

ONLINE Read more of the conversation with Billy Murphy at baltimoresun.com / drink

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