Picture this:

  • An auditorium filled with elementary school kids in rural Virginia, so excited they can hardly contain themselves ­– they know some of the high schoolers playing in the jazz band and are moved by the music playing onstage.
  • A theatre in Columbia, Missouri filled to capacity because a New York City Opera came to town to perform.
  • Wynton Marsalis and Paul Simon, performing a fusion of their respective music styles to a sold-out house in Lincoln Center, NYC

What do they all have in common?  Someone behind the scenes worked really hard to make these performances happen. This first two “pictures” above were from my past lives as a Band Director and a Company Manager.  That last “picture” was the work of my friend Lisa Schiff, outgoing Chair of the Board for Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Last week, Lincoln Center honored Lisa for her dedicated and influential work, always humbly acting behind the scenes, making countless performances happen – Over the past eleven years, she has helped raise over $300 million in funds that preserve and give life to one of our truly American institutions. Not only did her fundraising help build a Mecca for jazz but it also helped support a musical outreach program, led by Mr. Marsalis, that is second to none.

Lincoln Center’s recognition of Lisa got me thinking about all the folks like her, who through their extensive networking, constant hard work, and philanthropic spirits, make our world’s non-profit organizations run.  Without their work, there would be no theatre, dance, music or art museums, no parks, no recreation, no food banks, and very few community services. Our collective quality of life would be significantly poorer without those who selflessly give back to their communities.

So here’s to Lisa and her peers. Lisa is one of the most generous, genuine, and fabulous people I know.  In her tribute, she was described her as “the perfect balance of grace and grit ” She is inspiring and people like her are one of the reasons I work so hard, so that I can strive to give back to my world too.

The Secret Ingredient:  Give and then give some more.

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