STAR ROONEY

Star Rooney, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

FOUNDER

mailto:[email protected]Star Rooney is the visionary behind the AHAVA Festival, which she founded in 2018. Her goals for the festival are to raise funds for local charities whose mission aids those in need through financial, spiritual or social services and to impact the seven spheres of society: arts and entertainment, business, education, family, government, media, and religion. Her plan for the inaugural event in 2020 is of a space where the community can gather to express love through the act of giving (or ahava) in support of these goals and effect change for the betterment of the city. Star’s faith plays a significant role in all she does, and how the festival came to be is rooted in something larger than herself. In 2011, when Star was developing a dream board as inspiration and motivation for ways to give back to her community, she had a vision, a God-dream, of a grand music and art festival with the purpose of helping others.

 

Star is an entrepreneur and has an extensive background in business, advocacy and fundraising. She earned a real estate licensed in 2008 and worked for a while as an agent at Coldwell Banker. She left the agency to start a childcare center, running it for two years, before returning to real estate in 2013. She is currently co-owner of Great Oaks Realty, a real estate brokerage in the heart of downtown Covington. In 2013, Star also established Token of Love Foundation, a 501(c)3 that helps women survivors of domestic abuse, sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. She serves as director and spearheads the nonprofit’s initiatives and fundraising efforts, as well as oversees its New Life Program, which provides counseling services and skills-development training in self-esteem, communications, parenting and money management. Star has always been passionate about helping others, and the humanitarian work she does—including with Token of Love Foundation and the AHAVA Festival—is fueled by her faith and her own personal experiences. Her continued efforts are to help expand services and raise money for other charities, as well as to partner with nonprofits in a number of ways to make a stronger impact on the community.

 

Star was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, is a mother of five, and values being part of a shared community. As a teenager and young adult, she participated in pageants, winning many, including being crowned Miss Congeniality and Miss Kenner.

She danced at Giacobbe Academy of Dance for about 19 years, beginning at age 3, and between 1979 and 1987 she danced professionally with Delta Festival Ballet, including in productions of Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Snow White and Swan Lake. Star was awarded scholarships to the Boston Ballet and Southern Methodist University to study ballet.

Star Rooney is the visionary behind the AHAVA Festival, which she founded in 2018. Her goals for the festival are to raise funds for local charities whose mission aids those in need through financial, spiritual or social services and to impact the seven spheres of society: arts and entertainment, business, education, family, government, media, and religion. Her plan for the inaugural event in 2020 is of a space where the community can gather to express love through the act of giving (or ahava) in support of these goals and effect change for the betterment of the city. Star’s faith plays a significant role in all she does, and how the festival came to be is rooted in something larger than herself. In 2011, when Star was developing a dream board as inspiration and motivation for ways to give back to her community, she had a vision, a God-dream, of a grand music and art festival with the purpose of helping others.

 

 

DALILA SERUNTINE

Dalila Seruntine

ENTERTAINMENT DIRECTOR

mailto:[email protected]Dalila Seruntine is a vocalist, bandleader and entrepreneur. At the center of all she does is her faith in Jesus, her love of music and her hope to make the world a better place through the gifts she has to offer.

 

Dalila was born in New Orleans to Nicaraguan parents. She grew up with music in her blood—her grandmother was an opera singer and her uncles sang and played instruments. As a teenager, Dalila was mesmerized by vocalists with great depth and range. She was always practicing scales and would sing along to her father’s Donna Summer albums, before discovering Barbara Streisand and Bette Midler. She joined her high school choir for a brief time in her freshman year. But it wasn’t until 1998 when she reconnected with drummer Tony Seruntine—a childhood friend who would become her husband two years later—that music truly took center stage in her life. Tony was entrenched in the New Orleans music scene, performing with local icons Mem Shannon, Bobby Cure and Kipori Woods, and Tony was Dalila’s introduction to the magic of live music. She was a fixture at just about all of his shows and rehearsals, toting their young sons with her. Through this exposure, Dalila’s talent took root and blossomed. At age 25, she sang her first song on stage as a guest vocalist for Bobby Cure and the Summertime Blues, singing Aretha Franklin’s “Baby, I Love You”—the first song she had ever learned to sing fully.

 

Dalila went on to develop her skills, performing regularly as a lead vocalist at various Bourbon Street clubs, with a variety of bands, sometimes three and four nights a week. She performed exclusively with the rock band Showtime between 2002 and 2005, and she was invited to sing backup on a few occasions with Soul Remedy, including when the band opened for Musiq Soulchild at House of Blues. Through the years, Dalila’s faith was always front and center and part of her musical journey. She sang at churches in between projects and sought to explore her faith through connections with others, becoming a spiritual muse to her bandmates, offering prayer and hope when needed.

 

Over time, Dalila struggled with the sometimes-dark underbelly of the Bourbon Street music scene. Around 2006, she left Bourbon Street for good, and honed her craft further performing at weddings and corporate events. She became a student of her faith even more, seeking to create a path to redefine her life, connecting for a time with a Christian label and participating in a few showcases and music festivals, including Freedom Fest.

 

In 2007, Dalila and Tony formed Groovy 7, a premier and highly sought-after party cover band. In addition to female vocalist, Dalila is the band’s booking agent and manager. Under her and Tony’s leadership, the band has become the go-to for festival, wedding and corporate event planners. Groovy 7 was voted “Best of Weddings” by theknot.com in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2018, and received the Hall of Fame award in 2016. In 2016 and 2017, Borrowed & Blue readers voted Groovy 7 as “Best Band in New Orleans,” “Best Ceremony Musicians” and “Best Booking Agent.”

 

Groovy 7 has opened for a host of national acts, including Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Kiss, Rod Stewart, KC and The Sunshine Band, Pitbull, Steven Tyler and Flo Rida. In the 2014 movie Barefoot, the group was featured in a cameo as the “wedding band,” and they recorded two songs for the movie’s soundtrack—Johnny Mathis’ “Chances Are” and A Taste of Honey’s “Boogie Oogie Oogie.” Dalila sang backup on Dwight Fitch Jr.’s album For Those Who Believe, and she was a background actress in a few movies released in 2004: Miracle Run, The Dead Will Tell, and Ray.

 

Along with spearheading Groovy 7, Dalila is currently the entertainment director for the inaugural AHAVA Festival, a fundraising event to support nonprofits and businesses whose mission is to educate, train and help others through practical teachings and demonstration of loving others through the act of giving. She’s developing a new business, Joy of Life Productions, to help creative professionals, from artists to musicians to crafters, find opportunities by showcasing them and connecting them to a vast network of resources. Once a month, she also volunteers with the prison ministry through Church of the King.

 

Dalila took vocal lessons with Joey Winters in 2002 through 2004. She also trained with multi-instrumentalist and jazz instructor Bob Sunda. Most recently, in 2015, she trained privately with renowned jazz vocalist and Berkelee professor Cindy Scott. Her musical inspirations include Michael Jackson and strong female vocalists, including Alicia Keys, Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, Yolanda Adams, Sara Bareilles and New Orleans singer Robyn Costello.

 

MICHELLE LAYCAYO

Michelle Lacayo-Harney

ART VENDOR COORDINATOR

mailto:[email protected] Michelle Lacayo-Harney is a creative spirit, a prolific artist, a maker of music and things. Born in McComb, Mississippi, Michelle has lived in the New Orleans area most of her life and currently calls Metairie home. She’s worked full time as a set dresser in the film and television industry for more than 10 years, and she spends many evenings behind her drum kit pounding out rhythms for one of the two bands she performs with. Over the years, she’s been in numerous rock bands, having discovered in the mid-1990s a talent for playing drums. A lifelong interest in art was fueled in earnest, also in the 1990s, when Michelle worked as a server and then a bartender at House of Blues New Orleans, where she was exposed to the extensive collection of folk art showcased in its restaurant and music hall. She began moonlighting with the House of Blues art department and was introduced to different mediums and ways of making art, including bead art and glitter art.

Working in the New Orleans-based warehouse, she painted a multitude of frames for the collection of works at various House of Blues venues, as well as created design work using paint and flashing for several bar fronts and beadwork designs for wall installations, frames and wardrobe cabinets. She also created beadwork guitars and painted frames, furniture and other items for House of Blues retail stores.

Through the years, Michelle experimented with her own art, further refining and expanding the techniques used in her professional work. Michelle’s most recent endeavor is designing and stitching small practical items, like clutches, wallets and purses. In 2016, she took a sewing class, made a tiny tote, and promptly became obsessed. She researched techniques, watched numerous YouTube videos to grow her skills, then started a small business, J. Michelle. She has a keen eye for color and pattern and assembles unexpected fabrics and prints, exploring ways to embellish her works with sequins, hardware and embroidery. The rewards for her are seeing a creation spring to life and making something unique from endless possibilities. Michelle took a variety of art classes at Delgado Community College. In the past, she designed and decorated custom cakes. She’s been a drummer for Siren Scream, Pink Slip, Manwitch and Terranova. Her current bands are Norco Lapalco and The Siouxsies. Michelle considers herself fortunate to be surrounded by her artistic inspirations—her guitarist husband, family, friends, bandmates and professional peers—and get to learn from them every day.

STACI SCHWITTAY

STACI SCHWITTAY

LIl KINGDOM DIRECTOR

mailto:[email protected] Staci Schwittay is an operations manager for a local nonprofit organization that helps provide physical and relationship support to foster families through the creation of partnerships with government, faith, business and community.  Staci has worked with children and has been involved in the arts for over 30 years.  She studied art at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and Burren College of Art in Ireland.  She has received several awards and has been in over 20 galleries around the United States.  Staci’s artwork exhibits a vast variety of subject matter, technique and color.  She is constantly trying new ways of representing the world by experimenting and pushing her talent to areas that she is not familiar with.

Her creativity and willingness to look at the world through different eyes gives her an edge on making choices to creating something spectacular, imaginative and fun. 

LYNDSEY LEE

LYNDSEY LEE

LIl KINGDOM COORDINATOR

Lyndsey Lee is twenty-three years old, born in Hattiesburg, MS, raised in Bay St. Louis, MS.  She graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2018 with a Liberal Arts Degree/minor in Biology.  From the moment Lyndsey could walk she was kicking the soccer ball around.  Lyndsey breathed soccer for the majority of her childhood, all the way through to her last days of college winning many awards.  Lyndsey is an aspiring artist and loves to play the ukulele. 

http://lillulugallerie.com