Celebrating a 40th birthday that was three months ago, Wyclef Jean gave an impromptu birthday performance of Maria Maria for his friend Lang Lang — “I could not be with you then, so let’s do it now”. This was one of the high notes of the Lang Lang International Music Foundation’s “Lang Lang and Friends Gala” in New York CIty, which was on hiatus since the pandemic. John Paulson chaired the black tie event, offering “I tried to play many instruments in my life but learned that I’m better as an audience. But the work of the foundation is important. Thousands of children will play music and gain confidence because of this foundation and your support.” Lang Lang then joined CEO of his Foundation, Leszek Barwinski Brown, on stage and greeted the audience with, “Thank you for coming tonight to help celebrate the power of music, all I can say to you is Good Job!” The black-tie evening raised in excess of 1.3 million dollars.
The Foundation’s Ariela Rossberg announced their first annual Teacher of the Year Award, Davis Cahill of Jefferson Elementary School in Greensboro NC. Lang Lang commended him personally for his outstanding commitment to music education and presented him with a check for five thousand dollars.
Barbara Tober presented a posthumous Lifetime Philanthropy Award to longtime board member Shirley Young, who befriended Lang Lang when he was just ten. Shirley’s sons, David, Doug, and William Hsieh announced a $100,000 challenge grant for new Keys of Inspiration school sponsorship in her memory. Tober also announced the creation of the Donald Tober Piano Fund for Scholars, helping talented young pianists with tuition fees, travel to competitions, lessons, and piano maintenance.
The evening was filled with musical performances including Lang Lang himself playing several from his new album The Disney Book as well as the Chinese favorite Jasmine Flower. He was joined by Mauro Castillo from the cast of Disney’s Encanto for a version of We Don’t Talk About Bruno. Afterwards, the crowd held glow sticks in the air while Lang Lang and his wife Gina Alice performed a romantic rendition of When You Wish Upon a Star. Castillo took the stage once more to perform a Celia Cruz salsa with Young Scholar alumni Maxim Lando, followed by Wyclef’s surprise concert.
Among over 300 guests were Lang Lang International Music Foundation Board members Christy Cressy, David Hsieh, David Hryck, Joseph Rallo, Elizabeth Segerstrom, and Kyle Wool. Supporters included Kelly Bensimon, Candace Bushnell, Mauro Castillo, Kelly Cutrone, artist Steven Ladd, as well as Afsaneh Akhtari, Janna Bullock, Amanda and Carter Burch, Angela Chen, Joan Hardy Clark, Judith Anne Corrente and Wym Kooyer, Laurie Cumbo, Nathanael Hausmann, Joanna Fisher, Chloe Flower, Carole Guest, Michele Gerber Klein, Ellie Manko, Sherrie Mu, Liane Pei, Lydia and David Sarfati, Jean Shafiroff, Daisy Soros, Vivienne Tam, Veronika Vilim and Victoria Wyman.