Benefit for music teacher diagnosed with leukemia

Ray Penney, one of the North Fork’s best-known guitarists and music teachers, is quietly fighting leukemia, and his friends are rallying to help him and his family.

On June 8, Peconic Bay Winery, where Mr. Penney frequently performed before he had to stop working while undergoing chemotherapy, will host a benefit to help him and his family get through his current round of treatment.

Ellen Gomez of Southold, a neighbor whose son was one of his students, is helping organize the event.

“He was diagnosed over a year ago, but he was in remission for a year,” she said. “He’s been sick for the past few months and they’re trying to bring it back into remission.”

Ms. Gomez said Mr. Penney has been unable to play guitar or teach for the past several months, and bills are beginning to pile up.

“He has two teenage boys at Southold High School and a family to support and it hasn’t been easy,” she said.

Mr. Penney plays frequently with the jam band Great Caesar’s Ghost, which held a benefit for him last fall at Guild Hall in East Hampton.

“They were so far behind, that caught them back up,” Ms. Gomez said. “His musical friends and fans want to try to get him back on his feet and back working again.”

Musicians Gene Casey, Southold Slim & the Park Avenue Gypsies, Laura Hoch and Geoff Schroeder, Donna Butler and George Agnew will play at the benefit, along with Mr. Penney’s students Rob Europe and Jon DiVello.

Jon DiVello’s father, Rocky DiVello of Mattituck, who hosts open mic nights across the North Fork, has been helping organize musicians for the event.

“Ray is a great guy. I don’t need to say that,” he said. “He’s a talented musician and a good friend of my son’s. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and they’re in need of help. Ray is such a proud guy. He’d never ask for it. But I’m very happy to help out with his situation.”

Laura Hoch runs the music programming at Peconic Bay Winery and helped organize the event from the winery’s side. She said the winery will donate 10 percent of sales to Mr. Penney all day June 8, and also provide a free glass of wine to each benefit attendee.

“Ray has been playing at the winery for years, ever since I’ve been here and before that,” Ms. Hoch said. “A lot of people who play here took lessons from him. He’s an amazing guitarist. He does great work and he’s amazing to listen to. He was playing and playing and playing and all that time he was sick. Out of nowhere, he had this terrible illness. We want to get Ray on his feet.”

The event will run from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, June 8. Admission is $10, which will go entirely to Mr. Penney’s family, and there will be a barbecue, auction and 50/50 raffle along with the live music. The Peconic Bay Winery is located at 31320 Route 25, Cutchogue. For more information, call 734-7361.

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