By Danielle Beurteaux
Not many hedge fund managers keep a piano handy at work, but
Roy Niederhoffer has a Steinway grand right in his office.
| Anne Fitzgibbon and Roy Niederhoffer: It's
fun; it makes people happy
Niederhoffer, 44, is the founder and president of R.G.
Niederhoffer Capital Management, a short-term quantitative
trading fund with assets just under $1 billion. He has also
been playing music for most of his life. Niederhoffer is a
founding member of the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, an
orchestra of accomplished amateur players, where he has a seat
as a violinist. In 2008 a woman named Anne Fitzgibbon gave a
presentation during a PACS intermission about the organization
she'd recently founded: the Harmony Program, a free music
education program for elementary school kids. Niederhoffer
immediately knew this was a group he wanted to support. "She
had a very inspiring vision for what she could accomplish," he
says. "I decided to try to get the orchestra involved and get
Harmony Program kids, who come from three area schools-one
each in Brooklyn, Harlem, and the Bronx-take a music lesson
every day after school. The program, based on El Sistema,
Venezuela's famous national music education program, aims to
reach young kids who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to
study music. It also recruits and trains college music
students, from the undergraduate to postgraduate level, to be
"If you don't start somebody at age four or five in music,
it's very, very rare for them to achieve a high level of
skill," says Niederhoffer. He should know-he began his own
musical training at age four, learning violin with the Suzuki
method (a music pedagogical system developed by Japanese
violinist Shinichi Suzuki).
Why is music education important? Niederhoffer, who likes
hiring musicians to work at his fund, has some compelling
arguments. "It teaches extremely important lessons about how to
achieve any goal," he says. Kids learn how to break tasks down
into manageable parts, and they also learn about work,
cooperation and responsibility. "It gives a structure and rigor
to what kids are doing," says Niederhoffer.
Fitzgibbon praises Niederhoffer not just for his passion for
music and commitment to music education, but also for his
willingness to take action.
"He isn't a talker, he's a doer," she says. "He thinks
creatively and strategically, and he'll make something happen.
If he says he's going to do it, he'll do it."
Luckily for Fitzgibbon, she gave her presentation at exactly
the right time: the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony was looking to
expand its charitable work with music education and has since
become a supporter of the Harmony Program, both musically and
financially-it recently raised more than $100,000 for the
group. Says Niederhoffer, "This seemed like a perfect way to
focus our efforts."
Of course, Niederhoffer hasn't forgotten the simplest
pleasure that music brings to the lives of both musicians and
their audiences. "It's fun; it makes people happy," he says.
"It's a great thing to share." AR