When William Bai was pursuing graduate study at Stanford in 2006, he started volunteering to teach disabled children and lead them in small concerts. With help from friends from Juilliard and Yale music schools, Bai started organizing an independent music academy and arts-focused charity and held the organization's first performance in a Stanford auditorium. That performance has grown into a charity called Beautiful Mind, which held the Beautiful Concert at the United Nations in New York City on Tuesday. The concert, which celebrated the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention of the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, featured several professional disabled musicians.
"We are very honored to advocate for the rights of those with disabilities," Bai told NBC News. "Hopefully people will find, disabled or not, to do something in society. We are all equal and we should all participate."
The Beautiful Mind concert's feature performers included the visually impaired clarinetist Lee Sang-Jae, the physically impaired violinist and professor Cha In-Hong, and the only performing pianist with cerebral palsy Kim Kyeong-Min.
The concert is one of roughly 50 or 60 that Bai's charity holds every year, he said. About 20 of those are international: the Korean-based charity pursues cultural diplomacy by sharing the arts with the less privileged. Bai founded the charity in 2007 in partnership with the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was himself made a cultural attache. Before opening sister chapters in Singapore in 2007 and Vietnam in 2015, Beautiful Mind opened their Beautiful Mind Music Academy in 2008, giving neglected children free music lessons from professional musicians.
"We hope it will be like the Juilliard school for disabled people," Bai said.
Not all performers in Beautiful Mind's regular performance ensemble are disabled, but they make a point to perform for disabled organizations and hospitals. Bai wants the concerts to emphasize the capability and humanity of disabled people.
"We think that music has the power of healing. Our music not only inspires but heals people's hearts and minds. We don't have a choice of whether to receive love but we do have a choice to give love," Bai said.
Beautiful Mind will perform at the Rio Paralympics following performances at the 2012 London and 2008 Beijing Paralympics.