For Chairwoman and President Eva Lerner-Lam, overseeing Si-Yo is truly a labor of love—it is not only an expression of her passion for classical music, but also a continuation of her family legacy. Two of the Foundation’s co-founders, the late Sau-Wing and Jean L. Lam, were her parents.
“While we weren't of great means, they always managed to give me the gift of music education,” she recalls. She grew up in New Jersey surrounded by the music of the great western classical composers, and by the sounds of people practicing the piano and the violin.
Over the years, while her father became increasingly successful in the domestic automotive dealership business, he assembled an exquisite Cremonese stringed instrument collection. He was committed to ensuring that the instruments were played to “keep them alive.” Artists such as cellist Jian Wang and violinist Sergiu Luca benefited from that commitment; after Mr. Lam’s passing, through the auspices of Si-Yo, other musicians who have since played these instruments include bassist Peng Ji and violinists Sergei Krylov, Alejandro Mendoza, Paolo Andreoli, Eric Silberger, and Dan Zhu.
The Lams’ home, naturally, became the center of Si-Yo’s humble beginnings. Formed in 1964 and incorporated as a charitable organization in 1966, the Foundation’s earliest efforts to gather artists, music lovers, and instrument collectors included hosting informal gatherings in the Lams’ living room. Its mission was to “bridge the East and West with classical music,” which it steadily accomplished over the years by affiliating with an increasing the number of talented artists and dedicated arts partners from around the world.
Following Mr. Lam’s passing in 1988, the trustees appointed Ms. Lerner-Lam to the Board and named her Chairwoman. She assumed the presidency of the organization in 2013, re-energizing the Foundation by presenting more musicians and events, and establishing an international platform for lending performance-quality instruments to deserving artists.
In 2017, she evolved its mission to “inspire global a community with classical music,” seeking ways to bring more music to more audiences. Most notably these efforts resulted in the creation of its community and educational outreach programs, which bring Si-Yo Artists™ to perform for those who have few chances to hear live, world-class classical music, such as residents in senior homes and schoolchildren in remote areas.
In 2018 the Foundation announced the creation of the Sau-Wing and Jean L. Lam Award, which honors those who strive to educate, inspire, and support the next generation of musicians from all backgrounds. The inaugural award was given to New Jersey City University’s Caroline L. Guarini Department of Music, Dance & Theatre; the Department’s students and alumni performed at the award concert at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. The event was an unforgettable performance opportunity for the students, one that was especially meaningful for those who were immigrants or from immigrant families, such as the Lams.
“Music endures. It is always powerful but is especially so during difficult times. It’s a respite from the chaos of things beyond our control and an inspiration for us all to hope for a bright future,” Ms. Lerner-Lam says. “Si-Yo seeks to enable great musicians to develop and share the music in their souls, and through our global community, we leverage the strength of our arts partners to support and bring these artists to appreciative audiences around the world.
“It’s so rewarding and satisfying to be able to continue my parents' aspirations. We have begun serving a third generation of music lovers and musicians, and my dream is that we will serve many more after that.”