Teen Plays Beethoven for Wall Street’s Grown-Up Boys’ Clubby
John Griffin, Lee Ainslie benefit Boys’ Club of New York
BBH’s Tyree continues Harriman tradition of philanthropy
Wearing his Boys’ Club of New York blazer, Julien Sifontes, 13, played piano for Blue Ridge Capital’s John Griffin, Citigroup’s John Noesen, Maverick Capital’s Lee Ainslie and Steadfast Capital’s Robert Pitts on Wednesday night at the charity’s annual awards dinner.
Queen’s "Under Pressure" was one selection befitting the hedge-fund and investment-banking crowd. Sifontes also played his favorite: "Fur Elise" by Beethoven.
Sifontes studies piano through the Boys’ Club of New York at a cost of $20 a semester, a perk of membership, which is $5 a year. That gets more than 3,000 boys, ages 6 to 20, a passport to art, music, sports including yoga and swimming, robotics, and certainly not least, a place to do homework after school. Financial aid is available. More than 500 members took music lessons.
"There are over 40 programs," said Amy Griffin, president of the Women’s Board, who got involved at the urging of mentors and friends Josie Robertson and Jackie Williams after she became a mother of boys.
"Boys are being decimated," said Williams, noting the higher enrollment of women in college. "So I’m happy the Boys’ Club is providing a place for them, especially boys without fathers. At the Boys’ Club they act, they cook."
Williams, a BCNY board member, was honored at the event with the Northrop Award for decades of service. A close friend of her parents (her mom was a daughter of the 10th Duke of Marlborough) first introduced her to the organization.
Bill Tyree, BCNY board president and managing partner of Brown Brothers Harriman, received the award named for the family of Gilded Age railroad baron E.H. Harriman, who founded New York City’s first Boys’ Club in 1876 -- and whose sons Roland and Averell were founding partners of Tyree’s firm. All of which makes Tyree, 53, an honorary Harriman, continuing a tradition of service.
Of course, not everyone at BBH chooses the Boys’ Club for their philanthropy. In fact, there’s some friendly competition at the firm as to how well colleagues serve their nonprofits.
"I want to lay down a challenge to you," one of Tyree’s partners, Andrew Tucker, said to him under the warm glow of the Mandarin Oriental’s chandeliers. "Last night we raised $3 million for the East Harlem Tutorial Program. Can you match that?"
The BCNY dinner had garnered $1.7 million as the event began, and Tyree had an idea on how to raise more: inviting potential donors to visit one of the BCNY’s three clubhouses in the city, venues he prefers to a midtown conference room for the organization’s board meetings.
Stephen Tosh, BCNY executive director, is the lucky guy who gets to work in a clubhouse full-time.
"Anytime I get frustrated, or wonder why I am spending all my time dealing with insurance," said Tosh, "I walk out my door and see boys running up the stairs to the gym or the art room."
Sometimes the notes of "Fur Elise" spill out into the hallways.