The 2023 Benefit Gala, presented by the Hot Topic Foundation, will provide essential funding for Music Will’s “mission to provide teacher training, diverse curriculum, and free musical instruments to students—connecting them with the music that ignites their interest,” per the press release, with each of the recognized talent dedicating their time to non-profit music education programs in local schools. Babyface will be focused on launching programs in his hometown of Indianapolis, while Morello has split his responsibilities among 20 schools between Chicago and LA. Menzel will be splitting her time between schools in New York and LA.
Special guest performances will be announced in the coming weeks, along with details on a silent online auction and keynote speakers. Michael Bearden (Lady Gaga, Whitney Houston) will be the night’s musical director.
“At Music Will, we are committed to driving meaningful, systemic change in the field of music education, with a focus on equity and access for all students,” said Janice Polizzotto, Music Will Interim CEO. “We are grateful for the unwavering support of teachers, school districts, local and state governments, corporations, and private philanthropists who share this vision.”
Menzel has been elected as an honoree for her impact as a singer, actor and songwriter, along with her philanthropic work. In 2010, she co-founded the A BroaderWay Foundation which offers girls from underserved communities an outlet for self-expression and creativity through arts-centered programs. In 2014, Menzel was recognized as one of Variety’s Power of Women representatives for her efforts involving the organization.
Morello, known for his work with rock bands Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, will be recognized for his political activism. “I’ve been devoted both musically and as an activist to fighting injustice at every turn,” Morello previously said in a statement. “Amid this heightened sense of impending doom, it’s now time to rally the troops in a last-ditch effort to save the planet, and our artistic souls. By challenging the boundaries of what music is and has sounded like before, you can open people’s eyes to changing the status quo in society.”
Babyface will be recognized for his decades-long impact as a celebrated songwriter, producer and mentor. He’s also widely recognized as the co-founder of the record label LaFace, which helped launch the careers of artists Usher, Toni Braxton, TLC, Outkast and Pink.
“We are delighted to have the ongoing support of leading contemporary talent who personally relate to the value of the unique music programs we offer to young people in all 50 states,” adds Polizzotto. “With their support, we have been able to witness the positive impact our work has on children from diverse backgrounds, and we are proud to be making a difference in the lives of young people across the country.”
Music Will began with Palo Alto schoolteacher, Dave Wish, who was frustrated by the lack of music programming in his school. Today, that organization runs the largest nonprofit music program in the U.S. public school system. Past celebrity honorees have included such acts as Bonnie Raitt, Smokey Robinson, Elvis Costello, Warren Haynes, and Joan Jett, among others. Special guest appearances have featured comedians David Letterman and Tracy Morgan.