This week, the UJA-Federation of New York honored Michele Anthony, executive vice president of Universal Music Group, at its Music Visionary of the Year Award Luncheon for her leadership and philanthropy at work and in the community.
The elegant affair was held at the Pierre Hotel and many music industry heavyweights and friends came to support Michele including: Sharon Osbourne, Gloria Steinem, Alessia Cara, Jane Rosenthal, Irving Azoff, Neil Portnow, Steve Miller, Lyor Cohen, Danny Clinch, Kevin Liles, Jody Gerson, Jon Platt, Renee Fleming, Daniel Glass, Jason Flom, Martin Bandier, Eddie Vedder and Cary Sherman, to name a few.
“It’s a great honor to be here to honor Michele. I’ve known her many, many years, there’s no one more deserving of this award. She’s the penultimate music person, and a great philanthropist, and I’m thrilled for her and wish her congratulations today,” National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Neil Portnow told The Knockturnal. On the Grammy Awards returning to New York, he exclaimed, “You can expect the best week on the planet. We haven’t been here in 15 years, and it’s gonna be extraordinary. Everybody’s gonna have a great time, and it’s gonna be historic.”
“I met Michele about 29 years ago. She was working with Tommy Mottola, I just started working with Bob De Niro. She is a force of nature in the business and she is an extraordinary friend. All kinds of relationships come and go, but it’s your girlfriends that get you through some of the hardest times and some of the best of times,” Rosenthal shared on the red carpet.
Funds raised at the event are shared between UJA-Federation’s Music for Youth initiative, which enables and supports quality music education programs for children, and UJA-Federation’s annual campaign. Read our interview with Michele below:
What does it mean to be honored today?
Michele Anthony: Obviously, it’s a great honor, and I’m very proud to be representing the UJA today. I’ve worked with them for years, but their role is more important than ever right now, in these unsettling times when even right here in New York, programs like Meals on Wheels are being rolled back.
You are first woman to receive this award as a solo honoree. Can you reflect on that?
Michele Anthony: I’m thrilled to be selected, but honestly I wouldn’t be standing here today if it weren’t for my girlfriends alongside of me, and my mentors who came before me, like Gloria, who’s with us today.
Can you speak about what Gloria means to you?
Michele Anthony: Ever since I was a teenager in the late 60’s and early 70’s, her words and activism inspired me. She literally changed my life, you know? And I try to live by her words and her activism and do my own version of that throughout my life, since I was 14 years old. And so, to have her hear today presenting this award is very special.
Sharon Osbourne, emceed the lunch. First up, past honoree Jody Gerson who is currently Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group toasted Michele. “You are smart, savvy, passionate, determined, ambitious. Yeah, ambitious. And let’s take this moment not to be apologetic about being an ambitious woman. You’re empathetic, loving, caring, giving, and Michele, you’re a fiercely loyal friend and colleague. As my dad would say, you have moxie. In a business that is notoriously difficult … you’ve helped guide and mentor and console and encourage so many people. I am honored to be your friend, to have you as a trusted confidant and sister. Michele, above all, you are a caregiver. You take care of everyone. You care for your family, your mom, your sisters, your nieces and nephews. But what some people don’t know or don’t understand is that it’s not only your family you care for so passionately. It’s your artists and your professional family. To you, the music community is your family. It is personal. In fact, it goes one step further. It’s how you see humanity.”
Next, Irving Azoff spoke. “I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that Sharon was one of my mentors when I started in the management business … she was once a great manager, and she called me one day and said … because I always used to call her for advice. And she said, ‘I have a client who’s driving me crazy, and I’m about to resign. Do you think this is okay? I’m putting out this press release.’ And it said, ‘Dear so and so. I’m resigning for medical reasons. You make me sick.’ [laughter] So when everyone wants to know why I got a sense of humor as a manager, it all started with Sharon.”
In his toast, Azoff said, “Michele Anthony, when I think of you, I think of many things. When I first met Dee’s daughter, she showed an adoration for family that continues on today. Unequivocally the most powerful woman in music many, many times over … I think of the respect that we all have for her, and more importantly, that she has for everyone that she touches. I think of her skillful negotiating and sense of fairness for both sides in a negotiation. Mostly, I think of her passion, passion in all the best meanings of the word, no matter whether she is a lawyer, a record company executive, a voice for a cause or confidant to a creative, she gives all of herself. From the very beginning when I met the young lawyer in California learning the business, I knew I was seeing greatness. She’s been a bundle of nerves here today trying to make this go just right, and I know you all agree that she’s really nailed it … her leadership is unmatched. There’s no more deserving honoree. Relax and enjoy it, Michele. You brought all this together today for all the right reasons. May you never change. You’re perfect just a you are.”
Guests were treated to a wonderful performance by Alessia Cara, whose debut album Know It All was certified platinum this week. She sang “River Of Tears” and “Scars To Your Beautiful.” She thanked Michele for supporting her since day one. Next, Daniel Glass, president and co-founder of Glass Entertainment, as well as vice-chair of the UJA’s Entertainment, Media, Communication division spoke. “I’m really proud of our industry to come together for things like this … But look what we did just a few days ago in Manchester as a business, as an industry. Proud of people like Ariana Grande and my friend Scooter Braun. Look at what we did. We crossed company lines. Artists, executives, and people the way we do each year at this luncheon. And I feel lucky to be amongst you today. I have two passions. Two of my greatest passions are music and giving back … We’re honoring somebody who has spent her life doing the same thing with giving back … Michele has brought a whole bunch of her friends and amazing women who are here today, like Alessia Cara, who was just phenomenal today. She is a true role model. Gloria Steinem is here today, another role model. We’re honoring Michele because she generates and embodies generosity. She’s a trailblazer. She sees challenges not as roadblocks. ”
Glass spoke about how the UJA has supported 4.5 million people in the past year. He gave examples of specific people the organization has supported like a single mom with children who have disabilities. She gets food from a UJA affiliated pantry and gets assistance for her rent. UJA also assisted another mother who was dealing with alcohol addition and an abusive husband.
Hugh Evans, Co-Founder and CEO of Global Citizen spoke about her pivotal role in supporting the organization and annual concert event. He said, “Philanthropy in 2017 needs solutions combined with action, and Michele Anthony is overflowing in abundance with both those traits. Over the last six years, Michele, through her guidance, personal mentorship and tenacity, has supported the actions of over ten million Global Citizen activists, who believe as Nelson Mandela said, that poverty is man-made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Global Citizen’s work centers on the unifying power of music to provide social change, and within that world, no one is more effective in bringing everyone together than Michele. Michele, you are one of a few people who believed that a group of young Aussies with big dreams and no money in their pockets could stage a concert on the Great Lawn of Central Park for 60,000 people, to try to unify the movement to end extreme poverty. I am so thankful to you for that … Believing in the power of human beings to leave the world better tomorrow than how we found it today, is exactly why we’re celebrating you as Music Visionary of the Year. On behalf of the millions of children who will go to bed tonight knowing that they have access to an education, knowing they have access to food security, to water and sanitation, and the millions of girls who now have the opportunity for true equality; on behalf of all of them, thank you so much. I can honestly say with all my heart, the movement to end extreme poverty would not be where it is today without your amazing, amazing leadership.”
Gloria Steinem presented Michele’s award and gave a powerful speech. “Of course, the heart of the reason we are all here today, Michele included, is the work of the UJA-Federation of New York. We know they’ve been doing it for a hundred years, for Jewish people everywhere, and for New Yorkers in all of our cherished variety, work that includes survival services and also such things as music education for young people. I think like the women mill workers, who marched in the streets to found the first union in this country, UJA knows that humans need both bread and roses. For me now, personally, today is yet another award because I get to stand up here and tell Michele how great she is. Michele, the nurturer of other people’s talent, has to listen!”
She spoke about when she first met Anthony who was integral in the success of Pearl Jam and Bjork. “Eddie Vedder, who I did not know was going to be here this afternoon, and the great Pearl Jam folks, were just emerging in the music scene in Seattle … They chose to do, as their first ever benefit, a performance for Voters for Choice, a pro-choice political action committee. It was something we formed because even then … it was early enough Planned Parenthood hadn’t decided that they would be forced, by growing right wing attacks, to respond politically, so Planned Parenthood was on our board instead. If you’ll remember, Christian terrorists were bombing abortion clinics, and they had murdered 11 doctors and clinic personnel, and seemed surprised to learn that this did not make them popular, so they have now turned to using arcane building codes and state legislatures to close clinics instead … Who did I learn was the nurturing force behind this new, brave, principled group, called Pearl Jam? An all male group who supported women’s reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right? And who also took the professional risk of opposing profiteering at the expense of musicians and fans. Well, it was a woman named Michele Anthony.”
To close the event Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Stone Gossard performed songs like “Without You” and “Daughter.” The benefit raised $1.8 million.