Ernie Boch Jr. presents $5,000 check in Tony Lombardi’s name

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High school sophomore Jaiden Edelman blared the popular “Wipe Out” music riff on alto sax center stage at Alex’s Place Tuesday afternoon. Guitarist James Murray and bassist Jack Holmes sat on amps to his right, guitarist Skyler Hall stood to their left, and drummer Tripp Hopkins held down the back. Together, they are Era of Good Feeling, and a manifestation of what the teen center is all about.

Ernie Boch Jr., the car magnate and seasonal Island resident, jumped up on stage: “These guys sound fantastic. They sound like a hot mess, I love it.”

Alex’s Place is the cornerstone of music and youth, made possible by educator and Martha’s Vineyard staple Tony Lombardi, who died in early December 2017. Boch’s New England nonprofit Music Drives Us donated $5,000 in Lombardi’s name to Alex’s Place. The check was presented Tuesday afternoon.

“There are three reasons why I’m here today,” Boch said to a group of high schoolers gathered in the dimly lit performance room, “One, I love this … Two, out of respect. When I discovered Alex’s Place, I met Tony Lombardi, and he was the engine that drove all of this. I’m here today out of respect for him, and respect for you guys.

“And three, I’m here to give financial support,” Boch said, “Music Drives Us would like to donate $5,000 in Tony’s name to keep it all going.”

Boch presented a large $5,000 check to the teen center, one of his several contributions to Alex’s Place. According to teen center director Ryan Schwab-Doyon, who took over after Lombardi, Lombardi applied for and received a Music Drives Us grant two years ago. Alex’s Place was presented with a $6,000 check, and more than 20 acoustic guitars.

Laurel Redington Whitaker, Lombardi’s close friend and former Alex’s Place assistant director, got in touch with Music Drives Us director Jackie Bell to coordinate this year’s grant.

“It helps us fund some of the music stuff that we do here,” Schwab-Doyon said. “During the summertime, we hold a music workshop, and some of this money will go toward bringing people in to teach kids about the music industry for a whole week.”

Other Alex’s Place funders are the Alexandra MM Gagnon Foundation and Comcast.

While Boch was on-Island, The Times asked him when he expects work to begin on Boch Park in Vineyard Haven, on property fenced off on Beach Road.

“We’re hoping to break ground May 1 at the latest,” Boch said. “My vision is to beautify Beach Road, and inspire others to do so.”