Robert F. Smith’s Support for the Menuhin Competition

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Robert F. Smith is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners (Vista). Vista is a leading global investment firm that invests solely in enterprise software, data and technology-enabled businesses. From an early age, Smith was inspired by music. He learned to play the piano from his grandmother and father, quickly becoming a fan of classical pianist André Watts. His passion for music and the arts has grown throughout his career and has influenced his philanthropic initiatives, including his support for the Menuhin Competition.

In 2014, Smith and Vista sponsored the Menuhin Competition in Austin, TX, which was the competition’s first visit to the U.S. With Smith’s support, the Cleveland Orchestra, one of the “Big Five” orchestras of the U.S., was brought in to perform at the conclusion of the event. The following year, Smith personally arranged a unique opportunity to feature two Junior Prize winners in performances at an event in Berlin, Germany, and at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

In regard to the event, Smith stated, “Vista Equity Partners is thrilled to bring the talent of young Menuhin violinists to the World Economic Forum in Davos, and there is no better place than the World Food Programme dinner to showcase the bright stars of the future.”

Smith has attended several fundraising events throughout the years that have supported the Menuhin Competition, including the #HealthyNotHungry Dinner, which featured a performance by SongHa Choi, who won the Senior 2nd prize at the Menuhin Competition in London in 2016. This event, which was held in Davos, Switzerland as part of the 2017 World Economic Forum, continued Smith’s practice of helping Menuhin Competition alumni perform on an international stage. In 2021, Smith also lent support to the virtual Menuhin Competition in Richmond, VA.

Smith supports many other organizations and programs that promote the accessibility of music and arts education for underserved communities. For example, in 2016, Smith invested $250,000 in the Sphinx Organization, a social justice nonprofit that helps transform lives through music and art. His contribution helped establish the Robert Frederick Smith Prize, which awards the winners of the organization’s annual competition with funds to help prepare them for a career in the classical music field.

Some of the other organizations Smith works with include Carnegie Hall, where he serves as Chairman, and the Apollo Theater. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Louis Armstrong House Museum, which helps keep the famous jazz musician’s legacy alive and hosts one of the world’s largest jazz archives of a single musician.

More About Robert F. Smith

Smith’s passion for philanthropy is rooted in the lessons his parents taught him as a child. For more than fifty years, Smith’s mother made a monthly donation of $25 to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). In addition to his parents’ teachings about the importance of giving back to others, they taught Smith the critical need for a solid work ethic and the necessity of a good education.

In 1985, Smith earned his B.S. in chemical engineering from Cornell University and later his MBA from Columbia Business School. Throughout his career, Smith has used his platform to create similar educational and professional opportunities for others. Between 2016 and 2022, Smith donated a collective $70 million to his alma maters to fund the construction of new buildings, educational programs and scholarship funds. As a part of his commitment to create opportunities for others, Smith paid off the student loan debt of the 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College. Inspired by the positive impact his donation had on the students, Smith partnered with business and educational professionals to find a way to help more students. The result of that partnership was the creation of Student Freedom Initiative (SFI). SFI is a program that provides students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) with professional, educational and financial resources to help them succeed in college and beyond.

To provide sustainable resources to STEM and music education nonprofits that bring opportunity to underserved communities, Smith helped to establish Fund II Foundation in 2014 and now serves as founding director and President. Fund II Foundation is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to preserving Black American culture, protecting human rights, providing music education and preserving the environment. He also partners closely with Southern Communities Initiative, a catalytic effort to accelerate racial equity, programming and convening organizations in six Southern U.S. communities that are home to half of all Black Americans.

As a result of his philanthropic efforts, Smith has received many honors. In 2022, the Americans for the Arts named Smith a National Arts Awards honoree, and he also received theGrio Philanthropy Icon Award the same year. Smith was also awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2019 and was named among TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in 2020. Other honors include the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Chair’s Award, the UNCF President’s Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Justice Prize and the Ronald H. Brown American Journey Award.

Learn more about Smith by following him on social media, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.