When Joshua Bell performs with the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra on August 20, Lincoln Center will donate five dollars for every ticket sold to Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS. But, wait. Aren't performing arts organizations usually the ones passing the hat? "I don't know how unusual it is," replies Hanako Yamaguchi, Director of Music Programming for Lincoln Center, "but we're thrilled to be collaborating with Classical Action and its founder, Charles Hamlen. Charlie is a longtime colleague as well as a great music lover."
In 1993 Hamlen resigned as co-director of IMG Artists in order to establish Classical Action. As AIDS devastated the lives of his associates and friends, he says he felt compelled to devote all of his energy to combating the epidemic. Since then, Classical Action has raised more than $5 million and distributed those funds to AIDS-related services nationwide. In 1997 Classical Action joined forces with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
"When I sat with each of my clients to explain why I was leaving IMG," Hamlen recalls, "the first words out of their mouths were invariably, 'How can I help?'" Today, there are well over 100 artists who have performed in Classical Action benefit concerts. Renée Fleming, James Galway, Fred Hersch, Evgeny Kissin, James Levine, André Previn, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Deborah Voigt, and André Watts are but a few of the names on this starry, ever-growing list. Bell, whose early career was managed by Hamlen, has been working with Classical Action for almost a decade; Mostly Mozart's music director Louis Langrée is an enthusiastic new recruit. Both artists have agreed to add to Lincoln Center's contribution by donating a portion of their fees.
Hamlen says he eagerly awaits the day when a cure for AIDS makes Classical Action unnecessary. But, until then, he promises to keep fighting‹through music.
Andrew Farach-Colton writes frequently about the arts.