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Made in Jerusalem: Music and Dance

Students of JAMD's Younes and Soraya Nazarian Program of Excellence in Chamber Music. Photos: Yonatan Dror

Wine glasses, when clinked together, make a pleasant ringing sound that pleases even those people who don't understand the scientific explanation for the phenomenon. Glass, like all material, has a natural resonant frequency which determines at what speed it will vibrate when clanked. If a person sings at the same tone as the ringing note produced by bumping glass, the sound vibrates the air molecules around it at the resonant frequency and the glass will start vibrating too. Sing loudly enough and the glass will shatter.

Sing like David D'Or and your voice will crack a centuries old chandelier – an event he claims occurred at his debut concert in Chile. David D'Or, who recently charmed an ESRA audience at a sold-out magical concert, is only one of Israel's finest musicians who've honed their musical gifts at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, where 1800 students a day come to learn to dance, sing, conduct, and play instruments ranging from the piano to the piccolo. Some students start as babies, others continue to learn and create well into their careers.

JAMD consists of three institutions. The High School for 7th – 12th graders, with a dual curriculum of regular Bagrut subjects and advanced studies in music or dance, is Israel's equivalent of 'FAME'. Youngsters, hoping that they're gonna live forever and determined that people will remember their name, pray hard to be accepted into these classrooms.

The Conservatory provides professional training in music and dance to pre-college students … and to pre-kindergarten pupils as well. Tiny tots who can barely totter attend singing 'lessons' with their parents; watch the video online to see our future stars banging on tambourines and yelping with delight as they hit all the right notes at the age of one. The Conservatory is the oldest establishment of its kind in Israel, and among the leaders, with a curriculum spanning individual instruction in all instruments, music theory, ballet and modern dance. 

Double basses at the double ... Israeli and International students of JAMD

Then there is the Academy, providing undergraduate and graduate degrees in almost all genres of music and dance. Wanna learn the Bassoon, or how to sing a lied? The Academy is the place for you. Fancy a Master's Degree in performance practice of 21stcentury chamber works? - A JAMD program beckons. The keyboard department offers piano lessons with Israel's greatest teachers, but you can also study the harpsichord or the church organ or even the accordion. From solo instrumental and vocal instruction to chamber music and jazz, orchestral music, choral singing and composition, conducting and music theory – Academy has something for all musical appetites.

And because the faculty is cross-disciplinary - the pulse of Classical Arabic music mingles in the corridors with the haunting strains of Jewish Klezmer melodies - a magical situation of coexistence reigns supreme.

"JAMD is a bubble of sanity," says Professor Yinam Leef, President of the Jerusalem Academy and an acclaimed composer in his own right. "And in an Israel which has become a cynical land, creativity is more important than ever."

Leef is a good commercial for the institution he heads: as one of Israel's premier composers, his work ranges from small, intimate solo pieces to massive orchestral composition and has won critical acclaim and numerous awards. He has even won the Prime Minister's Prize for Israeli composers … twice! His works have been commissioned by prestigious organizations ranging from Harvard to Holland and are performed all over the world. Leef, who himself graduated from the Jerusalem Academy and went on to do a PhD in Philadelphia, believes that serious Israeli musicians need to spend some years abroad before they hopefully come home to roost and to write and to record. To encourage excellence, Leef aims to turn JAMD into an all-endowed school where students can concentrate on creativity and don't need to wait on tables at night.

Amina Harris, Chairman of the Board, is keen that the Israeli public at large recognizes the creativity and master-craftsmanship that percolates within the walls of the Academy. In a move to introduce JAMD to a general audience, an intimate concert was held at the German Ambassador's home in Herzliya with acclaimed international stars. German violinist Erika Geldserzer and British Pianist Professor Ian Fountain (both of whom are giving master classes in the Academy) joined JAMD Professor and cellist Zvi Plesser to play Beethoven and Brahms to highlight the work of the Academy, and entrance the listeners. 

JAMD's production of Italian opera “The Coronation of Poppaea” by Claudio Monteverdi

The German Ambassador's Residence is an appropriate venue: the history of music education in Israel is very strongly connected to German and Hungarian tradition. JAMD was established in 1932 by Emil Hauser who was joined shortly afterwards by Josef Tal and Hanoch Yakobi, both of whom learnt their craft in Berlin. Germany's support of Israel's music scene stems not only from the shadows of history, but also from shared cultural values and the recognition of the value of Jewish musicians in pre-war Germany.

More magical events are planned to introduce the public to JAMD's outstanding young musicians. This summer, the annual Board of Governors' meeting will span three days and audiences will be invited to see and hear graduates performing in different fantastic Jerusalem locations. Recipients of Honorary Fellowships – renowned pianist Evgeni Kissin, Carnegie Hall Director Sir Clive Gillinson and founder of Vertigo Dance Company Noa Wertheim – will add glamour to the festivities, at which Dr. Sharon Nazarian will also receive an honorary award on behalf of her family's great support for the Academy.

Out of Zion much has come forth; the sweet strains of King David's harp echo today in the Academy that stands only meters from where he might have composed some of his loveliest melodies. It's a harmonious thought. 

 

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Sunday, 19 September 2021

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