Our Perspectives on the Latest Issues
During the 2017 Philadelphia Fringe Festival Sept. 23, PennFuture was the recipient of an amazing benefit concert put on by Cory O’ Niell Walker, also known as Cookie Diorio. Cookie and her musical team, Garrett Obrycki and Matt Brower, held the concert, which was sponsored by the First Unitarian Church’s Social Justice Ministry. The concert celebrated “Forces of Nature” with Cookie’s wildly original tunes, in addition to operatic and Broadway favorites.
And how Cookie can sing! Cookie is a diverse performer, composer, and designer who performs multiple genres, including opera, musical theater, art song and dance. She holds a Master's Degree in vocal performance from Ithaca College, where she also studied composition. Cookie also has a popular voice studio in Philadelphia and performs regularly with The Opera Company of Philadelphia and The Mendelssohn Club Chorus.
After Cookie began managing the “Art of the Heel,” a special star was born. Cookie told me she loves using her 6.5 inch heels to “celebrate diversity, promote social justice and create civically engaged art by hosting world class music showcases to benefit nonprofit organizations making a difference in our communities.”
I asked Cookie how she thought of the idea to give back to nonprofit organizations through music. Originally, she did not know where to start. She began looking at organizations that shared her values and concerns, but there were so many! Cookie said, “It was a learning process for me and I’ve learned there is no shame in not knowing all of the answers right away. I am just committed to learning more to make good decisions.”
For Cookie, the next step was this: “If I can’t give a massive donation, how can I put my art together to give back? Yes, I am giving my time and time is valuable. But I can’t do this alone. I am so lucky to have friends and colleagues who hold the same beliefs I do. They fully support what I choose and are gracious enough to give their time. They tell me, ‘Give my entire fee to the organization.’”
This brings us to how she chose PennFuture as the beneficiary for September’s concert. Cookie believes in environmental advocacy and learning more about the environmental issues we face in our state. What caught her eye when she checked PennFuture out was, “the many ways in which PennFuture works.” She was inspired by all of our legislative and legal work. She could not believe how many pieces of legislation go through the General Assembly. She puts that part of our work on the macro level:
“The really big things that are important in making a difference.” But it was also the other things we do regularly like our outreach team’s work on environmental matters that also impressed her.
We finished our conversation when Cookie quoted something I had said at the start of that brilliant performance in September. Graciously allowing me to talk about PennFuture’s work before she sang, I ended my talk saying, “What we are fighting for is what all of us need as human beings - clean air and clean water. These are a necessity.”
Cookie said, “That says it all.”
Thank you, Cookie, for supporting us with your incredible talent! Yours was a performance I won’t soon forget!