In 1994 in his hometown of Portland, OR, Thomas Lauderdale was working in politics, thinking that one day he would run for mayor. Like other eager politicians-in-training, he went to every political fundraiser under the sun but was dismayed to find the music at these events underwhelming, lackluster, loud, and un-neighborly. Drawing inspiration from music from all over the world—crossing genres of classical, jazz, and old-fashioned pop—and hoping to appeal to conservatives and liberals alike, he founded the “little orchestra” Pink Martini in 1994 to provide more beautiful and inclusive musical soundtracks for political fundraisers for causes such as civil rights, affordable housing, the environment, libraries, public broadcasting, education, and parks. One year later, Mr. Lauderdale called China Forbes, a Harvard classmate who was living in New York City, and asked her to join Pink Martini. Their first song “Sympathique” became an overnight sensation in France, was nominated for Song of the Year at France’s Victoires de la Musique Awards, and to this day remains a mantra for striking French workers.
Featuring a dozen musicians, Pink Martini performs its multilingual repertory on concert stages and with symphony orchestras throughout Europe, Asia, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and North America. Pink Martini made its European debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 and its orchestral debut with the Oregon Symphony in 1998 under the direction of Norman Leyden. Since then, the band has gone on to play with more than fifty orchestras around the world, including multiple engagements with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the Boston Pops, the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center, Cleveland Orchestra, and the BBC Concert Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall in London. The ensemble made its San Francisco Symphony debut in 2006. Other appearances include the grand opening of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, concerts at Carnegie Hall, the opening party of the remodeled Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Governor’s Ball at the 80th Annual Academy Awards in 2008, performances with the Sydney Symphony at the Sydney Opera House, multiple appearances at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Paris’s L’Olympia Theatre in 2011, and Paris’s fashion house Lanvin’s ten-year anniversary celebration for designer Alber Elbaz in 2012. In its twentieth year, Pink Martini was inducted into both the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame and the Oregon Music Hall of Fame.