The Lang Lang International Music Foundation raised $1.2 million on Monday night, with a gala concert at Carnegie Hall followed by a dinner at the Time Warner Center. The charitable venture, co-founded by the extrovert pianist Lang Lang, aims to raise awareness for educational programs in schools and award young classical musicians with scholarships.
Monday's concert was originally scheduled for October but it was postponed in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. As Lang explained in a phone interview from Peru on Friday, all of the original headliners returned, including its host Alec Baldwin, the soprano Renee Fleming, singer John Legend and violinist Joshua Bell.
The concert also featured performances by six beneficiaries of his scholarship program, an initiative designed to give pianists ages six to 11 some ongoing interaction with Lang, whether in person or via the Internet. Each was selected by a committee who scoured online videos or accepted industry recommendations; three are based in the U.S., two are from Hong Kong and two from Germany.
Founded in 2008, the Lang Lang foundation has been operating on a relatively modest budget of $750,000, according to its 2011 tax returns, although the pianist reportedly endowed it with a $5 million grant. The organization has also been developing partnerships with orchestras, presenters and schools, including the Manhattan School of Music and Oxford University.
The foundation has also been enlisting corporate sponsors. Mastercard and Allianz insurance have recently signed on to sponsor dedicated programs. "They have an incredibly big platform which we need in order to grow," Lang said. "Because in the end of the day we have a good music circle but we need to broaden our circle for people to know what we’re doing."
Along with providing financial and technical assistance to public school music programs around the U.S., the foundation aims to launch an Internet-based music competition next year, to showcase up-and-coming pianists, likely with support from an Asia-based Internet company.
Lang acknowledged his own teachers, including Gary Graffman, Daniel Barenboim and Christoph Eschenbach, as a motivation behind his work on the charity. "There’s a lot of knowledge I learned from these great musicians," he said, "which I like to share with the next generation and I want to do it right away."