Even in a room packed with people from the music business, Rob Stringer was noteworthy in his passion for the medium.
Nearly 600 people turned out for UJA-Federation of New York’s Music Visionary of the Year Award Luncheon to honor Stringer, the chairman and CEO of Columbia Records. The event, hosted by UJA-Federation’s Entertainment, Media & Communications Division, was held on June 21st at the Pierre in Manhattan. It raised nearly $1.4 million to support UJA-Federation’s work.
“I admire you greatly as a friend and as an industry leader,” Adele told Stringer before presenting him with the award. “One of the things I love about you in particular is how much of a fan you still are.” Doug Morris, the chairman and CEO of Sony Music Entertainment, made a toast for Stringer that also touched on Stringer’s remarkable devotion to music.
Many high-profile performers had come to honor Stringer including Adele, Jay-Z, Neil Diamond, John Legend, MGMT, members of Passion Pit, and others. John Mayer and HAIM also played short sets for the crowd.
Colleagues and friends, and even Stringer himself, poked fun at the fact that he was receiving the award though he is not actually a member of the tribe. In a tongue-in-cheek video that played at the start of the luncheon, his daughters remind him he had only a month to go until the UJA-Federation event, so he should “know more about the Jewish faith.” In response, Stringer gets a “live-in rabbi” with whom he peruses Judaism for Dummies and studies Talmud.
But all joking aside, Stringer did get to see UJA-Federation’s work in action when he visited Bronx House Jewish Community Center, a UJA-Federation beneficiary agency. “I was very pleased to see there were people of every creed and denomination being looked after in that wonderful institution,” Stringer said.
“I also loved the fact that they have tons of musical instruments there . . . . When you walk into a room and you see musical instruments that kids can use and they can take violins out, they can take keyboards out, and they can do all that stuff, then you realize what the work actually goes into.”
Why “We’re Really Here”
Daniel Glass, the vice chair of UJA-Federation’s Entertainment, Media & Communications Division, gave the opening remarks and went into more detail about why it was so important that everyone had turned out to show their support.
“We’re really here to help people locally and globally who are struggling to make ends meet. New Yorkers who are just worrying about paying their rent, and where their next meal will come from, how to afford child care,” Glass said.
“Another important way you help UJA-Federation is through Music for Youth,” he added, describing the program “which provides access to music for underprivileged young people in the New York area. It’s unfortunate that the music programs are sometimes the first programs that get cut out of our school system. We believe, and I certainly believe that music education is too vital to be taken away from our children.”
Stringer concluded the luncheon by thanking friends, family, colleagues, and the performers, but also by humbly saying he felt the award was a bit of a misnomer in his case.
“The title is lovely, but I’m not really a visionary,” he demurred. “My role is to be behind the scenes and to work with people who are visionary.”