||Wandering Jewish Symphony Attending the Aspen Music School in the summer of 1993, conductor Noreen Green rounded
up 35 musicians and presented a rare concert of Jewish music. The event changed her life.
Murray Sidlin, my teacher, sat me down the next day at lunch, Green says. He said, This is your niche. This is what you should do. And you should do it in Los Angeles, among the third largest Jewish population in the world. And you should do it on the most professional level you can.
Green heeded the advice. In 1994, she resigned as a music professor at Cal State Bakersfield and created the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony. Today shes the artistic director and conductor of the group, and one of the few female conductors to start her own orchestra. The ensemble of 65 musicians plays music by Jewish composers or inspired by Jewish themes, including the world and West Coast premieres of many works.
Its the only Jewish symphony in the world outside Israel, says Green, who received her PhD from USC in 1991. Some Jewish Community Centers have orchestras, but theyre not necessarily dedicated to Jewish-themed music.
Noreen Green at the podium, leading the only Jewish symphony in the world outside Israel.
The ensemble performs an important educational role, says Green, who wrote her dissertation on little-known composer David Nowakowsky, the so-called Bach of Jewish music. I think its important when I play the music of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco to know that he was a Jew and had to leave Florence for the United States because of the Holocaust. That puts a whole different light on his music and his life, she says.
Music also offers a chance to reach secular Jews. A connection to a synagogue, religion or God scares a lot of people, she says. Music is a non-threatening way to allow people to identify with their Jewishness.
In her spare time, Green is music director at Encinos Valley Beth Shalom congregation. Shes also married and raising two small children.
TODAY THE ORCHESTRA performs three concerts a year, but Green aspires to doubling that number. Were in a growth spurt, she says. Orchestras always start, but they dont last. The fact that weve been here six years is an achievement in itself.
The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony performs in diverse locations around the city and has even played in Tel Aviv. Were the wandering Jewish orchestra, Green jokes. Wed like to find a home if anybody can come up with a 1200-seat auditorium. For now, shes happy to have permanent office space on the Westside. Weve been working out of our homes, Green says. We cant do that anymore.
Her long-term goals are more ambitious: Id like to have the orchestra play for the [next] Democratic Convention, Green says. And if Joseph Lieberman makes it to the White House, Id like the orchestra to follow him.