As activist, Jones leads with his heart

Billion-Dollar Maestro: Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones started giving back early — and never quit. The music impresario has worked on countless humanitarian campaigns over the years, supporting Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s and famously orchestrating the 1985 charity sing-along “We Are the World.”

More recently he has backed several music education initiatives and another all-star sing-along, this time by Middle Eastern musicians, to raise money for children in that region. He also makes time for medical research nonprofits and fundraisers while remaining a prolific producer.

“Love drips from his finger tips,” says Madelyn Bonnot Griffin, exec director of the Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium, who traces his philanthropic drive to his belief that music changed his life. “He absolutely every day thinks where he came from. It resonates through his soul.”

Indeed, Jones has spoken frequently about how a chance encounter with a piano ignited his love for music and set him on a path away from juvenile delinquency. Bonnot Griffin, who got to know Jones decades ago while running one of his TV stations in New Orleans, says he taught her then to never underestimate the power of one kind word or hug for those in reduced circumstances.

“Things we take for granted make a difference in people’s lives,” she says.

Jones is working to get more instruments in children’s hands and to broaden music curriculum to include American jazz greats, in addition to European figures such as Beethoven, through the organization.

The past four years, the organization has worked with Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts, VH1 Save the Music, Mr. Holland’s Opus and UCLA, launching programs in South L.A., New Orleans and New Jersey. Jones is working with the L.A. Unified School District to develop its music curriculum.

“Q is just the groove that brings it together,” Bonnot Griffin says. “He’s very available when we need him.”

Jones is also involved in Global Gumbo Group, an initiative to raise money and awareness in the Middle East through music. A partnership between Jones and Emirati social entrepreneur Badr Jafar, org released the charity single “Tomorrow/Bokra,” showcasing Middle Eastern singers and and recently announced a Dubai Music Week slated for Sept. 25-30.

“Tomorrow/Bokra” was a No. 1 hit in the Middle East, and has racked up more than 7 million views on YouTube. According to G3 exec director Taymoor Marmarchi, the single has raised $450,000, all of which has been disbursed to children’s charities.

Jones has also been providing inspiration for the Global Down Syndrome Foundation since its formation five years ago, according to Michelle Sie Whitten, exec director of the Anna and John J. Sie Foundation.

“We couldn’t do what we do without Quincy,” she says. “He brings a certain amount of magic, a Quincy dust, to everything.”

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