Friday, September 20, 2019. A beautiful almost-Autumn day, yesterday in New York, with temps in the low 70s by midday and into the mid-50s at night.
Circling back. Still looking over this past week’s calendar, this past Monday night, Friends of the Lang Lang International Music Foundation gathered in one of the towers high above Manhattan at the home of their long-time supporter, Silas Chou. The gathering was two-fold — to present the work and achievements of the Foundation, and to celebrate the recent marriage of their founder, Lang Lang, to Gina Alice who were married in a ceremony awash with orchids on June 2nd in Paris, followed by a star-studded reception at the Palace of Versailles.
Our host, Mr. Chou, with his wife Celia, offered blessings for the newly married couple: “Congratulations to the most beautiful couple. I wish you all the best and cannot wait for your family to grow with children.”
Lukas Barwinski–Brown, the ebullient CEO of the Foundation continued, “We strive each day at the Lang Lang International Music Foundation to help every child have access to music education.” He proudly told the guests that through the foundation’s Keys of Inspiration program, there are now 24,000 children in more than 60 public elementary schools across the country who have access to Lang Lang’s piano curriculum.
Then Silas Chou offered Lang Lang and Gina Alice a beautifully framed traditional Chinese Double Blessing before shouting, “Now let’s party!”
A live performance followed the cocktail hour. Lang Lang and Gina Alice performed a four-handed piano duet of classical Chinese music, “Colorful Clouds Chasing the Moon.” The diminutive Dr. Ruth was in the front row and opined, “Anyone who plays together like that will never need lessons from me.”
Lang Lang followed the duet with a piece by Mendelssohn, and a modern composition. There were also astounding performances from two brilliant teenage protégées of his Foundation, Aliya Alsafa and Maxim Lando, both of whom are personally mentored by Lang Lang.
Guests, even including New Yorkers who’d seen it all were wowed by the views from the 82nd floor penthouse which overlooks Central Park. Among the nearly 100 guests were Lang Lang International Music Foundation board members David Hryck, Kyle M. Wool, and Shirley Young. Lang Lang’s teacher Gary Graffman, Jenny and John Paulson, Judith Ann Corrente and her husband Wim, Kyle Haug, Véronique Bich, Noreen and Ken Buckfire, Joan Hardy Clark, Misty Copeland, Suzi Cordish, Karon Cullen, Marie de Foucaud, Tiffany Dubin with her daughter Tatiana, Susan Gutfreund, Cathy Hardwick, Grace Hightower, Jeff Hirsch with his wife Danielle, Coco and Arie Kopelman, Maria Eugenia Maury and Bill Haseltine, Patricia Underwood Moynihan, Dailey and Gordon Pattee, Sana Sabbagh, Dame Jillian Sackler, Fred Seegal, Daisy Soros, Agnes and Oscar L. Tang, Barbara and Donald Tober, Lulu C. Wang, Jackie Weld Drake, and Victoria Wyman, and Jason Wu with his husband, Gustavo Rangel.
Founded in 2008, The Lang Lang International Music Foundation strives to make music a part of every child’s life by offering music education to children across the world. The Foundation reaches children at all levels regardless of their background or talent. Its Keys of Inspiration program redefines what music education looks like in public schools by providing up to 30 Roland keyboards and a complete music curriculum to underfunded schools.
The Foundation’s Young Scholars program nurtures the development of gifted young piano talent. Young Scholars are offered master classes, mentorship, and entry into international festivals and competitions. Young Scholars also received practical training on becoming world class concert pianists. For more see: langlangfoundation.org
More Lang Lang. Out in Southampton last Saturday night, Chris Burch hosted a Young Scholars Concert for the Foundation at his home. Steinway & Sons transported a concert grand piano to Burch’s patio amid a remarkable grove of blooming hydrangeas by the ocean.
Three brilliant teenaged pianists, Maxim Lando, Chelsea Guo, and Clayton Stephenson, each mentored by Lang Lang himself, performed before more than 150 guests.
Each of the Young Scholars spoke fondly of the opportunities the Foundation has created. Maxim Lando told guests, “The time since I joined the Foundation has been the best of my life. I’ve played in the most beautiful venues across the world, made new friendships, and learned from other cultures.”
As the performance headed to its end, Chris Burch introduced an impromptu finale: the young scholars played Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” with the host and his friends leading eveyone in a sing- along.
“This is the best singer you will ever hear!” he told his guests. “I promise it will be like the first time you heard The Beatles.” Okay…
In the audience: Music Foundation board member David Hryck as well as Janna Bullock, Joanna Fisher, Esther Herrero, Lucia Hwong, Andrea Karambelas, Cheri Kaufman, Jeanne Lawrence, Aimee and William Maroney, Jessica Mezzacappa, Danielle Porthault, Felicia Taylor, and John H. Zieman.
Then, this past Tuesday, along with the events I got to, Jackie Weld Drake hosted a reception for nearly 100 friends to kick off Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education’s annual “Fiesta” Gala which will be held on October 15th at the Plaza. This year’s honorees are newlyweds Ambassador Mary Dawkins and Brigadier General Peter Dawkins, Edgar Legaspi, as well as interior designer Juan Montoya. All were present. Also being honored is the John Hardy jewelry company.
Guests included Casita Maria Board members Ben Rodriguez-Cubeñas, Michèle Gerber Klein, Annabelle and Alberto Mariaca, Fiesta co-chairs Urban Karlsson, Mary Snow, HRH Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, also Steven Aronson, Yanna Avis, Cathie Black, Merilee and Roy Bostock, Geoffrey Bradfield, Liliana Cavendish, Joan Hardy Clark, Angela Chen, Suzi Cordish, Adiana Echavarria, Camila Mendoza-Echavarria, Nick and Edmée Firth, Susan Gutfreund, Ambassador Brenda Johnson, Alice Kandell, Maria Eugenia Maury and William Haseltine, Christopher Mason, Mary McFadden, Ann and Bill Nitze, Tom Quick, Marc Rosen, and Adrienne and Gianluigi Vittadini.
The Casita Maria Fiesta brings out a glamorous international crowd. It is always a lively evening, light on speeches, great fun, and all in the service of our serious purpose. Much of the operating budget of the organization is raised at the event.
Tickets can be purchased here.
The Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education is the oldest Latin charity in New York City, providing high-quality, innovative arts programming to over 1,000 students daily both during and after school. Located in our country’s poorest zip code, the South Bronx, the Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education creates a safe and welcoming community, enriching and uplifting youth and families towards success, through shared cultural, art and educational experiences and programs and producing participatory, well-rounded individuals who go on to fulfill their dreams.
Photographs by Aurora Rose/Patrick McMullan (Lang Lang); Richard Lewin (Burch); Annie Watt (Casita).