More than 350 music industry professionals turned out at The Pierre in Manhattan on June 25th to pay tribute to the leadership and philanthropy of Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy, which manages the GRAMMY Awards. Portnow was honored with UJA-Federation of New York’s Music Visionary of the Year award.
A wide range of musical artists offered their talent, passionate performances, and grateful appreciation for Portnow at the event.
“We’re all pleased to honor and perform today for Neil,” hip-hop artist and actor LL Cool J said. “We proudly present this award to our dear friend, who is a true pleasure to work with.” He presented the award along with the artists who performed at the event: world-renowned pianist Lang Lang, songwriter and singer Valerie Simpson, jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, classical guitarist Sharon Isbin, and soul singer Ryan Shaw.
“Thank you all so much. I am truly grateful and humbled to receive this honor. I’m more comfortable giving awards than receiving them,” Portnow said as he accepted the award. “Sincere thanks to UJA-Federation for the hope you offer so many,” he added. “It’s truly inspiring.”
Portnow had a chance to see this hope firsthand when he recently visited the Barry and Florence Friedberg Jewish Community Center, a beneficiary agency of UJA-Federation. “This was a fantastic facility,” he said, and added that the community center on Long Island was an example of “why your generosity and support is so valuable.”
Daniel Glass, one of the vice chairs of UJA-Federation’s Entertainment, Media & Communications Executive Committee, noted, “We’re here this afternoon to honor Neil, someone who values those who make a huge impact in our industry with their words, music, and generosity.”
Always There in Times of Need
Glass added that in much the same way that music is always there for people in times of need, so is UJA-Federation, through its network of nearly 100 nonprofits that help people with everything from hunger and homelessness to job training and more.
He noted that UJA-Federation’s Music for Youth Initiative reaches thousands of underprivileged students and children with disabilities through funds for school programs, music lessons, choruses, youth orchestras, instruments, and instruction.
LL Cool J also thanked UJA-Federation and pointed out how the event came “full circle” for him since his children have attended summer camp at Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, which is a nonprofit in UJA-Federation’s network.
During the lunch, Martin Bandier, chairman and CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, raised a toast to Portnow and said, “Neil is a successful music executive and has done an incredible job for all of our industry.”
Videos from Congressmen Hakeem Jeffries, Jerrold Nadler, and Joseph Crowley, and musical performers including Pharrell Williams, Demi Lovato, and Taylor Swift also offered congratulations and expressions of gratitude for the dedicated leadership and service that Portnow has shown to the music industry and the wider community.
“Innocent creativity is what inspiration is all about,” Portnow said. “May you always act with open minds and your virtuosity.”