In 1994 in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, Thomas Lauderdale was working in politics, with the intention of eventually running for office. 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 unneighborly.
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, cleaning up the Willamette River, funding for libraries, public broadcasting, education and parks.
One year later, Lauderdale called China Forbes, a Harvard classmate who was living in New York City, and asked her to join Pink Martini. They began to write songs together. Their first song, “Sympathique” (“Je ne veux pas travailler”), 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 (“Je ne veux pas travailler” or “I don’t want to work”) for striking French workers.
“We’re very much an American band, but we spend a lot of time abroad, Lauderdale says. “Therefore, we have the incredible diplomatic opportunity to represent a broader, more inclusive America — the America which remains the most heterogeneously populated country in the world, composed of people of every country, every language, every religion. Except for Native Americans, all of us are immigrants from every country, of every language, of every religion.”
Featuring a dozen musicians with songs in 25 languages, Pink Martini performs its multilingual repertoire 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 70 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, the San Francisco Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Sydney Symphony at the Sydney Opera House, and the BBC Concert Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall in London.
Please note: Biographies are based on information provided to the CSO by the artists or their representatives. More current information may be available on websites of the artists or their management.