The hands and wrists of a Black pianist wearing a white cuffed shirt are posed on top of piano keys with sheet music

Robert F. Smith: Music Lover

Philanthropist Robert F. Smith has a deep appreciation for music. As part of his work as Fund II Foundation’s founding director and President, he has helped foster music education in communities all over America. Part of the mission of the nonprofit granting organization Fund II Foundation is to provide funds for music education opportunities, especially to nurture the talents of underrepresented students in primary and secondary schools.

As a young man, Smith idolized André Watts, a classical pianist and prodigy considered one of the world’s greatest living pianists. Smith’s love of music connected him, at a young age to a world beyond the confines of his Denver, Colorado neighborhood. This deep appreciation of music was fostered by his family members who shared their own love of music with him as a child. Smith often fondly recalls how his grandmother and father taught him how to read music and play the piano.

As an entrepreneur, Smith’s desire to share his multi-generational love of music has inspired  much of his giving to ensure that all children have access to the many benefits a musical education provides.

Smith, the Chairman of Carnegie Hall 

When Smith became a member of the Carnegie Hall Board of Trustees in 2013, he was put in a unique position to create new opportunities to inspire joy and love of music in students.

Then in 2016, Smith was elected Chairman of Carnegie Hall – the first African American to hold the position. Smith took on the honor of leading Carnegie’s board with a deep sense of duty. Upon election, Smith told a New York Times reporter:

“When I look at the folks that inspired me growing up, people like Frederick Douglass, they had to stand up and take positions in public in order to make a difference. Part of the responsibility I have, because of the opportunities I’ve been granted, is to take leadership positions and help expand access for others.”

As Chairman, Smith has aided the development of the following youth music education programs:

  • The Link Up program, a group that develops music curriculums for youth orchestras nationwide.
  • The National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, which was created by Carnegie’s Weill Music Institute.

Other music nonprofit organizations Smith has contributed to include:

  • The Louis Armstrong House Museum.
  • The Sphinx Organization, which supports diversity in music education.
  • The Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition.
  • Ensemble Connect, which was a collaboration between Carnegie Hall, the Juilliard School, the Weill Music Institute and the New York City Education Department.

To learn more about Smith’s work with underserved populations, read about his work with the Eagle Academies.