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Rainforest Foundation Celebrates 21st Anniversary With Carnegie Hall Benefit Concert

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Sting and his wife Trudie Styler gathered together alongside other legendary music icons across generations Thursday night for the annual Rainforest Foundation benefit concert at Carnegie Hall. Every two years, a slew of artists from different genres come together for an evening of music to support the preservation of rainforests worldwide and the rights of their indigenous peoples. This year's lineup was based on an '80's theme and included legendary performers Elton John, Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen, Debbie Harry, Mary J. Blige, Shirley Bassey and Sting.

Such an epic and eclectic roster is nothing new for the foundation. Now in its 21st year, the Rainforest Foundation consistently brings unique twists and turns to the stage, pairing unexpected artists together and having musicians cover songs outside of their usual realm. Together these iconic artists come together and unite for one single cause which has raised over $25 million.

Their ability to do this and bring together people through music for a common cause served as the inspiration and founding principle of Music Unites. In 2008, founder and executive director Michelle Edgar attended the Rainforest Foundations benefit and watched the magical ability of music to connect all types of people, regardless of age, race, or background, as Billy Joel, James Taylor, Sting, Brian Wilson, Chris Botti, Feist, operatic tenor Roberto Alagna, cellist Natalie Clein and a few of their family members graced the stage including Alexa Ray Joel, CoCo Sumner, Ben Taylor and Sally Taylor.

Overcome by the experience, Edgar was inspired to create Music Unites, a non-profit dedicated to the same principles she witnessed first-hand at work during the Rainforest benefit.

"What the event does and what it stands for served as the founding philosophy of Music Unites. Both organizations use music to create a common bond amongst people for a greater cause," says Edgar. "Music Unites main goal is to bring music education into underfunded inner city schools, which we do by giving the students and general public access to emerging and established musicians across all genres via benefit concerts. Like the Rainforest Foundation, we try and create a powerful musical experience by pairing different genres and types of artists together to heighten the awareness of different musical forms and to break barriers."

Music Unites remains dedicated to the Rainforest Foundation and their cause and has even had the opportunity to honor with Sting on some of their own projects. This past December, Sting and Trudie joined Music Unites when it hosted the New York premiere screening of their film Twin Spirits at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space. After a screening of the film, which tells the poignant and tragic love story of Robert and Clara Schumann told in words and music, Sting and Trudie read the couples letters on WQXR's live audio stream. All proceeds from the evening benefited the Music Unites Youth Choir and the Royal Opera House Education Programs.

Celebrating its one year anniversary next week and accomplishing more than they could have imagined, Music Unites is still dedicated to the work of Sting and Trudie Styler and continues to be inspired by them.

By Mara Siegler