KKR's Bae, Nuttall Spend Night With Fantasia at Lincoln Center

(Bloomberg) -- Joe Bae may not have identified with “American Idol” winner Fantasia when she belted out her R&B hit “Lose to Win” Tuesday night at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.

From Harvard to Goldman Sachs to KKR, his winning streak is long. This applies to his love life, too. Bae met his wife, author Janice Lee, in college. They’ve been married for 23 years and have four children.

KKR's Bae, Nuttall Spend Night With Fantasia at Lincoln Center

But on the night he agreed to be honored, Bae did lose a bit of his artistic anonymity. Katherine Farley, Lincoln Center’s chair, apologized to Bae for revealing to several hundred guests that he’s a classical pianist.

Sadly, Bae didn’t come up and play in front of his co-president at KKR, Scott Nuttall, who said he can only play the hand flute, and 2019 Miss America Nia Franklin, who composes and sings. But he did revisit his serious training.

KKR's Bae, Nuttall Spend Night With Fantasia at Lincoln Center

“My father, a retired chemist, would come home after a long day’s work and drive me to piano lessons a little over an hour from home,” Bae said.

Dad wasn’t just the chauffeur.

“He’d sit in the corner of the room while I was taking my lessons with a tape recorder, and on the way home, he’d play back the entire lesson to make sure I did not miss any nugget of wisdom that my teacher had to offer," Bae said.

KKR's Bae, Nuttall Spend Night With Fantasia at Lincoln Center

The anecdote was well-placed at a gala that raised $1.4 million for Lincoln Center’s youth programs, offering them opportunities like its audition boot camp, which helps rising eighth graders apply to New York City high schools specializing in the performing arts.

“There are a lot of people out there who think if my kid is interested in the arts, they’re going to be an unemployed actor,” said Lincoln Center acting President Russell Granet. “Our point of view is the skills of the artist are going to make you a very good principal, a better doctor, a better attorney.”

Or, in Bae’s case, a better financier.

“When we talk to donors, policy makers and elected officials, we often say, ‘What do you want for your own kid?’ ” Granet said. “They say, ‘Stand up straight, be articulate, make eye contact.’ Yeah, everything we do encourages that kind of behavior.”

With his responsibilities at KKR, Bae doesn’t have much time to play Chopin. He keeps a piano at his house in the Hamptons and futzes around on it only occasionally, Bae said in an off-stage interview.

He satisfies his artistic side at Lincoln Center, where he’s a board member. His contributions include serving on the search committee for incoming President Henry Timms, who starts on May 6; subsidizing tickets for youth from the South Bronx and central Brooklyn; and raising a son who has helped develop a group for teens.

What drives him? It’s not the fact that Lincoln Center is the gold standard in performing arts, but that “they really want the arts to have this transformational impact around the world,” he said.

One of his priorities is bringing younger audiences through the doors. “It’s about digital marketing, technology, not just about the content,” he said.

As for talent in his own family: “My daughter is a robotics champion,” Bae said.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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