Phi Theta Kappa Alumna’s Song Performed for World AIDS Day

A Mother’s Masterpiece was written twenty years ago in a Washington D.C. hotel room by PTK alumna Joni Scrivani. Now Broadway star Heidi Lee is performing the original song at this year’s C.U.R.E. (Community, Unity, Respect and Education) commemoration of World AIDS Day at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas on November 30.

“I am as surprised as can be that this song I wrote many years ago to coincide with the Phi Theta Kappa service project of AIDS Awareness, is once again in the spotlight,” Joni said.

Joni was a member of the Alpha Epsilon Phi Chapter at Bergen Community College in New Jersey and wrote the song, A Mother’s Masterpiece, while attending the 1997 annual convention with her chapter advisor, mentor and friend, Professor Robert Saldarini.

Phi Theta Kappa’s Annual Service Project that year focused on AIDS Awareness and many panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt were on display, including one celebrating the life of Kenneth J. Rasmuson, the lifelong and much-loved friend of Robert’s.

It was the first time Robert has seen the quilt since his own mother, Rita Saldarini, had created it; and viewing it brought a flood of fond memories and raw emotion.

Ken had been stricken with AIDS at a time when the cause of the disease remained a mystery, the treatment was woefully inadequate, and the stigma attached to it was horrendous.

Rita began making the quilt shortly after Ken’s death, searching tirelessly for fabric as close to the beautiful blue of his eyes as she could remember; her son taking her from store to store until she found a bolt that was just right. It took her one year to complete Ken’s quilt, which included a favorite tee shirt and beautifully crafted symbols of the things he loved.

This story inspired Joni to write A Mother’s Masterpiece.

When celebrated singer Heidi Lee heard the song and its story, she was immediately moved and agreed to record the song and perform it live at a World AIDS Day event at Bergen Community College. Joni’s song also won a Music Excellence Award in a Phi Theta Kappa songwriting competition held at the time. As a result, more people heard Ken’s story, learned of Rita’s quilt, and received the song’s message of hope and remembrance.

Many years had passed, but when Heidi contacted Joni about performing the song at this year’s C.U.R.E. commemoration of World A.I.D.S Day at the George W. Bush Institute, she immediately gave her consent, telling Heidi that she always hoped the song and the story might continue to move and inspire until a cure is found, and there is, indeed “…hope for everyone.”

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