Last night VH1 threw a celebration at New York City's Lincoln Center to mark the tenth anniversary of its Save the Music Foundation, which raises money for music education in public schools. An eclectic list of celebrity guests walked the red carpet under a late summer sunset, including industry powerhouses Quincy Jones, L.A. Reid, Russell Simmons and Lyor Cohen, as well as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Project Runway's Tim Gunn, Conan O'Brien and Maria Menounos. The evening's honorees -- Mariah Carey, NAMM [the International Music Products Association], MTV executive John Sykes, former president Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton -- stressed the importance of the group's fight, repeatedly asking the audience to consider what would happen if the next great artist never realized his or her potential because they were never afforded the chance to play an instrument.
The speeches were all passionate, but the performances between them drove the point home. John Mayer delivered a succinct plea before playing: "I just want to say to anyone who considers themselves in the music industry and is frightened by the future and looking into new media, don't. It's called old media and it's been around for a hundred years. It's called putting instruments into the hands of young people." That said, he broke into a gorgeous -- and inspiring, judging by the crowd's reaction -- rendition of "Waiting on the World to Change" with the Save the Music Student Orchestra providing backup. Mayer stuck to the acoustic guitar, shifting the spotlight to the Orchestra's guitarist for the song's solo, then playing the quieter "Heart of Life," because it "felt good" for the evening's message.
Jon Bon Jovi stepped onstage next and asked, "Is Richie Sambora in the house?" When the answer was a clear no, he announced Mayer -- who he would later refer to as "the Eric Clapton of the next generation" -- would be filling in on an awesome acoustic duet of "Wanted Dead or Alive." Charming the audience with his characteristic charisma, when the song was done Bon Jovi asked the student orchestra if they were ready to rock before leading them into a rousing "Who Says You Can't Go Home."
Last up was Roger Waters, but as Conan O'Brien pointed out in his opening monologue, "who better to save the music than the guy who wrote the lyric 'we don't need no education'?" Waters reminded the crowd the lyric was written ironically, and proclaimed music "the most precious gift we can give our kids." He then went the obvious route and broke out "Another Brick in the Wall Pt. II." Waters left the instrument-playing to the orchestra and his backup guitarist in favor of joining the Trenton Youth Choir in the pit, dancing and singing and ultimately succeeding in getting the crowd on its feet to chant "We don't need no education."
Two million dollars had been raised for Save the Music prior to the start of the night's event, with an additional $45,000 during the show from the auction of a signed Paul McCartney guitar. More donations are expected from auctions held both during the night and following it, as well.