A Tribute to Charles and Ling Zhang
Pacific Symphony is thrilled and honored to pay tribute to Charles and Ling Zhang, Production Sponsors of the 2017 American Composers Festival, featuring Ellis Island: The Dream of America.
As a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, Charlie was at Ellis Island to receive his award in 2014. It was this special honor that first brought him to the attention of Pacific Symphony’s Board of Directors, which invited him to join in 2015.
His appreciation for his new home in America prompted him to help underwrite these concert presentations. But he has also sponsored and helped fund numerous concerts and events during his short tenure on the board.
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Notable among his recent support is the joint funding of the performance by Yo-Yo Ma in May 2015, the three-city international tour to China by Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra in June 2016, founding member of the Jade Society and chair of the Chinese Community Leadership Council in 2016, and his leadership as chair of the 2017 Chinese New Year event and sold-out concert this past January.
With all the recent fanfare and generosity, it’s hard to imagine that Charlie had very impoverished beginnings. He was born in Shanghai, China into a loving family with nine siblings. His father began one of the largest coffee distributors in China, but was later imprisoned for 22 years for standing up to the repressive government regime.
Penniless, Charlie worked two jobs for 13 hours a day and faced unthinkable hardships. At 25, Charlie migrated to the U.S. with just 20 dollars in his pocket and his treasured clarinet. He arrived in America with no college education, connections, capital or proficiency in English, yet he possessed a more valuable asset: hope.
Charlie attended music school and worked two jobs at a gas station and a restaurant.
Shortly thereafter, Charlie developed a cost-effective idea for the food service industry with taste-oriented, traditional Chinese food, using fresh ingredients-and Pick Up Stix was born. Charlie opened his first restaurant in 1990 and within a decade, he had built an empire with more than 100 locations. He sold his enterprise and distribution center in 2001 for $50 million.
He then established Zion Enterprises, a real estate development company involved in over $100 million worth of commercial, retail and residential projects in the Western U.S. Revitalizing communities and adding value at every level are among the core tenets of Zion Enterprises.
Still not content, Charlie began his next venture in 2004 with Aseptic Solutions, a technologically advanced bottling process to extend the shelf life of premium organic beverages. The state-of-the-art beverage bottling company was sold in 2012 for over $60 million.
Today with the Symphony, Charlie continues to innovate and bring fresh ideas as an active board member. Among his most valuable gifts of time, in-kind and monetary contributions is his purchase and renovation of a new building in Irvine that leases office space to Pacific Symphony, OC Music & Dance and Arts OC. Pacific Symphony now enjoys new space that is nearly triple the size of its old office, but is offered at the same monthly rent as the former, much-smaller Santa Ana office. The staff is full of admiration and adoration for its dear board member.
Charlie and Ling have contributed the highest amount of individual contributions every year since Charlie joined the Symphony family. Their year-end matching grant program, the Zhang Challenge, surpassed goals in both 2014-15 and 2015-16, and it brought in an additional 1,200 donors far-exceeding all year-end campaign benchmarks in new and increased donations for the Symphony.
Moreover, Charlie and Ling are valued Pacific Symphony subscribers, just completing their third consecutive season as premium VIP Box Circle members. And they both hold a very special place in the hearts of the staff, board and musicians of Pacific Symphony. Thank you again, Charlie and Ling, for your ongoing generosity!
2017 Zhang Challenge:
Your Contribution Goes Twice As Far!
Our special thanks to Charlie and Ling Zhang who will match dollar-for-dollar, up to $250,000, every new or increased gift to the Annual Fund received by June 30.
"I look at all of the people of the Pacific Symphony family - with Carl's leadership - and it moves me. This is a forever world-class orchestra. I want to step up and set a leading example challenging everyone to give a proportion of that support to our orchestra - working together as a team." --Charlie Zhang
Give or renew your Annual Fund gift today!
Go to PacificSymphony.org/donate or call 714-876-2362.