Irrevocably Connected and Making a Difference, Together

By Rachel Brumberger

I’ve grown up looking at the pictures differently – the photographs in the museums and books – showing the faces of the Holocaust victims – those pictures. I search for familiar faces, features, some article they possess that might tell me, “That one’s mine!” I wonder if others do the same…search for their people?

I’ve never been able to look at one of these pictures, or a name on the bottom of a poem or piece of art and not wonder. Does this person belong to me? To my family? Were they a neighbor of my grandfather? Do we know them?

I’d imagine it might be the same for many of us? The curiosity of having never known these people – our family members – and wanting desperately to recognize someone… You see, my grandfather was the only one to survive of his siblings – he was the youngest of 6. He and his two nephews, and a few more distant cousins were the only ones to live. No one was left in his village. As I look at those photos, I am endlessly attempting to catch a glimpse of someone who he may have loved at that time. A face I can remember on purpose.

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Rachel and her grandfather, 1983

And I have grown up knowing that, “We must never forget,” is a big deal – in many ways it’s the only deal.

I also grew up singing in choir, studying music, performing and befriending some incredibly talented musicians.

It was music that had me making friends, wanting to go to school – wanting to participate. The arts and music were my favorite classes and at most times, the only ones I was fully engaged in – giving it my all. I would exhaust myself in practicing and performing with my choir or A Capella group the way that others would study for a biology exam.

Singing is how I would open my heart, open my lungs, breathe deeply and feel deeply; express myself. No longer in any organized group, I tend to do this in my car, often. It remains one of the best expressions I have. My connection to music is evident everywhere – theme songs I think about for life events, even small every day things or the way I am moved to tears by a movie soundtrack even when I listen out of context. I sing to my cats. I hum to babies. My family sings together in the car.

Just about a year ago, one of those talented musicians I’ve befriended invited my family and I to attend a program featuring Haim. This piece reflects and honors the life of another Holocaust survivor, and musician David Arben.

Whenever I hear the word survivor – I know that regardless of the uniqueness of each person’s story, we are irrevocably connected. As all humans are indeed connected, those who have endured the Holocaust (and their family members) share a unique, and knowing bond. So, of course, we attended. And it was a beautiful night.

Now, in just a few short weeks, that same musician and her incredibly talented colleagues are debuting their new organization with another unveiling of this special piece. Sound Impact is taking on making a difference and music is their medium!

I’ve been inspired and excited by Tiffany over time. Over the years since we met in music theory class, circa 1998, she’s been seeking to engage people – conduct outreach – find a meaningful way to connect others with music, with art and with projects and subjects that serve humanity’s greater good. Rebecca and Danielle possess the same drive, and together I know they are strength, power and creativity.

When we allow ourselves to engage in music, we allow ourselves to participate in experiences, we allow our emotions to move, we engage with the world that is bigger than “me.”

Many cultures and generations can be expressed most clearly by their music. We all know this to be true in some way – the defining music of 60’s or 70’s, the inspiring sound of a Gospel Choir in a church, the festive notes of Oktoberfest… Oyf’n Pripetshok – the Yiddish lullaby, and unmistakable song that as a Jew calls me to stop “dead” in my tracks and take a moment to mourn the loss of lives in Nazi Germany, and also those lives being taken around the globe even today – the Congo, the Middle East, I know this list goes on…

We have an opportunity every day to choose to make a difference. Sound Impact is providing the mediumship for our participation in affecting these societal issues which most impact our fellow human beings – our health, our education, our environment, our children, our capacity for food, water, life…

We can open our ears, open our hearts, get involved and make an impact in our communities and in the global welfare. Will you join us?

Please join Sound Impact on October 6th for an afternoon of chamber music masterpieces, which will culminate in “Haim”.  

Sound Impact Debut
Works by Mozart, Brahms, Polina Nazaykinskaya
Sunday October 6, 2013 | 4 pm
Saint Luke Catholic Church
7001 Georgetown Pike | Mclean, VA 22101
$25/General, $10/Student
Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. 

https://www.artful.ly/store/events/1710

 
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Rachel Brumberger is a licensed acupuncturist in Maryland, having earned a Master of Acupuncture and Post-Graduate Certificate in Women’s Holistic Health from Maryland University of Integrative Health. She is an Acu Detox Specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association. The deep value and healing that acupuncture and Oriental medicine can bring to people is the driving power behind Rachel’s passion for practicing acupuncture and she has worked with The American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM) to help ensure the accessibility and integrity of this medicine. Previously, Rachel has worked at The American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles, Nordstrom and the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland College Park. She holds a BA in communication from the University of Maryland College Park, a certificate in non-profit management and has been a board member and/or consulted with multiple non-profit organizations in the Maryland, DC and Virginia area. She enjoys spending time with my family and friends, singing, making jewelry and enjoying the sunshine and moonlight outdoors. Born and raised in Columbia, MD she now resides in Silver Spring with her beloved husband and two cats.

 

 

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Polina Nazaykinskaya – “Simply Brilliant”

Danielle, Rebecca, and Tiffany reflect on the gifted young composer Polina Nazaykinskaya whose works “Haim” and “Lamentation of the Bird” will be featured on Sound Impact’s debut concert October 6th.

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Polina Nazaykinskaya

By Rebecca Jackson

I first met Polina face to face in May of 2012.  She traveled straight from the airport to our first rehearsal of “Haim”.  When we initially exchanged greetings she was both shy and elegant.  “Wow, what a beautiful and warm person,” I thought.  In stark contrast, as soon as we began working on her score, she picked up the baton and revealed the spirit of a commanding lioness.  I would have imagined someone four times her size to radiate such emotional commitment and passion for music!!  The next time we met was later that year when she and her husband Alexei hosted me in New Haven.  I have many fond recollections of my stay with them, but the most pronounced was the joy on Polina’s face as she took me down to her newly modeled studio.  She sat at her piano and began to play many excerpts, encouraging me to join in and “jam” with her.  Her husband Alexei sat nearby in a small chair as she ecstatically played into the night.  This memory, yet vivid, was when Polina transparently revealed her essence.

By Tiffany Richardson

I had the privilege of meeting Polina last year when we performed “Haim” together in DC for the first time.  I was struck by Polina’s maturity and intensity, such remarkable qualities for a young composer, qualities that shine through in her composition.

Performing “Haim” was such an amazing and exhaustive experience, and served as an impetus moving forward in my life.  For me, this performance was deeply emotional and motivational.  “Haim” evoked such a wide range of feelings, from guttural pain and fear, weaving through an endless sense of determination and hope.  “Haim” reminded me of why we perform, and how musical performance should always serve a greater purpose for humanity.

I deeply admire Polina for her true generosity of spirit, and her deep commitment to meaningful music.  I believe this is why we’ve connected through a shared mission, and why Sound Impact will continue to bring us together.

By Danielle Cho

I only came to know Polina a year ago through Rebecca, but even before I met her in person, I knew she was someone special with a deep and kind soul.  In Fall 2012, we had the pleasure of performing her piece “Haim” twice in the Washington DC area.   At a house concert in Mclean, we had one of the most incredible audience responses, and it was one of the musical highlights of my year.  At our first rehearsal of “Haim”, in the first few minutes, I already had chills running down my spine.   Polina perfectly captures the essence of David Arben’s miraculous life story – a story of pain and suffering, but one that also offers hope and joy.  “Haim” has moments of lush romanticism with interjections of loud chords on the piano that evoke this juxtaposition of beauty and pain.

As an advocate of contemporary music, I find it special when I have the opportunity to work firsthand with a composer and to know his/her thoughts behind the composition.  The creative process becomes that much more fulfilling.  Polina’s music has a special power of stirring something to the depths of your soul.  Please join us on October 6th at the beautiful Saint Luke Catholic Church in Mclean and experience the incredible “Haim” for yourself.   www.musicinmclean.org

Polina during a recent interview at Yale: https://yalemusic.digication.com/polinamusic/Press_reviews_interviews

Polina Nazaykinskaya was born in Togliatti, Russia on January 20, 1987 and has been studying music since the age of 4. After graduating with honors from the the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Russia with concentrations in violin and composition, Polina earned her Masters of Music Degree from the Yale School of Music. Her professors at Yale included Christopher Theofanidis and Ezra Laderman. Currently Polina is pursuing Artist Diploma in composition at the Yale School of Music.  In the last four years her music has been performed by Russian National Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Yale Philharmonia Orchestra, Youth Symphony Orchestra of Russia, Omsk Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Metro Opera and others. Polina`s music has garnered numerous national and international awards and received raving reviews in the press. In 2010 “Sony-Music Russia” label released a CD that featured Polina`s symphonic poem “Winter Bells”.  In addition to being a composer Polina is an active violinist and a conductor.

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Polina and violinist Nick Kendall “jamming” post-concert

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after our “Haim” performance in 2012

Cosmos, Ash, Kostya

On October 6th, Sound Impact will feature renowned musicians: clarinetist Ashley William Smith, violinist Jae Young Cosmos Lee, and pianist Konstantin Soukhovetski.

Jae Young Cosmos Lee, based in Boston, is a founding member of A Far Cry, the groundbreaking self conducted chamber orchestra and is also Assistant Concertmaster of Boston Philharmonic.  Ashley William Smith has emerged as one of Australia’s most exciting young players and has been described as ‘incandescent… a masterly display of skill and insight… as an apologist for contemporary music-making, you would search hard to find this young clarinetist’s equal’ (The Age).  Konstantin Soukhovetski, based in New York City, has been named the “rock star” of classical music and is the host and producer of the first-ever classical music reality show Real Pianists of the Hamptons, in addition to being winner at numerous international piano competitions.

Sound Impact is privileged to work with such insightful, sensitive and colorful musicians.  Following is an interview conducted by Rebecca Jackson.  Read on to learn more about our special guests.

Tell us a little about your background. How did you get into music?

AWS: For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a musician. Even though I did not come from a family that played classical music, I grew up with Burt Bacharach and Pavarotti constantly on the CD player. I still greatly admire both these musicians today.

KS: I’m from a family of artists – my parents and sister are painters. But I have always craved live performance on stage – so I had to become a performing artist. (otherwise they would have made me into a painter!)

What is your process when tackling new works?

AWS: Opening the score and sinking your teeth into new music is, for me, the hardest moment. Once I’ve stopped trying to be too precious about it and free myself to experiment a little, the music starts to take shape. I also really love working alongside the composer and trying to execute the piece with everything (and sometimes more) than what they had imagined.

KS: Well – first I get a score…then I do research and listen to as many performances of it as I can – so I have an idea of how differently/similarly artists interpret the same music. If it’s new music – I always look for the motivation of the emotion – what is behind the notes?

Why are you drawn to being a part of Sound Impact?

AWS: The people that I get to play with… I played with Polina, Rebecca, Danielle, Tiffany and Chaerim Smith earlier this year and realised how lucky I am to play with such incredible musicians. It is one of the highlights of my year to come back to D.C again.

JYCL: I cherish the idea that music & the musicians who play it can be a catalyst in making change and awareness to the world at large of the issues of poverty, inequality, war, disease & hunger. And each of the members of Sound Impact understands this at the heart of its mission. It is a powerful stance to be the change that we seek & to be a part of something that is larger than ourselves to help make our world a better place, which is an idea that is completely empowering and so badly needed in our present society.

KS: My dear friends and colleagues and beautiful music we get to make together!

Who has been your most influential musical hero?

AWS: Australian violinist William Hennessey has been a really important mentor to me, and I always play for him whenever I am in Melbourne. He gave me the confidence to throw myself into a performing career, and showed me that life experience is the most important ingredient to becoming a musician. In terms of a musical idol, Cecilia Bartoli ticks every box for me. She is breath taking in every way: technically and musically.

KS: Renee Fleming, Arthur Rubinstein, & my teacher, Jerome Lowenthal

Why is music important for our world?

AWS: I honestly believe that music allows us to experience our emotions and causes us to become more compassionate people. A Beethoven Symphony reminds us that the universe is beyond our comprehension, yet somehow is extremely empowering.  It reminds us to think beyond ourselves.

JYCL: Music has the energy to heal the wounded, console broken hearts, maximize excitement, make us reflect, give us goose bumps, enlighten the soul & remind us how beautiful life can be.

KS: It reminds us of beauty of the human condition – music is man -made and sublime!  Music tends to speak to the heart bypassing the mind – thus it brings out the best in us. It puts us in touch with our true humanity.

If you think of your favorite teacher, what made them a great teacher?

AWS: They were honest, devoted an enormous amount of time, and were (most importantly) inspiring.

JYCL: My favorite teacher was actually a pianist. Perhaps because of that reason, he often focused on serving what is in the score more truthfully & encouraged me to find creative & imaginative ways to make that possible as an instrumentalist. He urged me to always look at the bigger picture & not get caught up on the small things, but with it, he fortified my integrity as a musician and an artist.

KS: Being a great performer and always being inspirational. Never berate your student!

Do you play any other instruments?

AWS: Last year I started singing lessons. It turns out that I have a unique voice type known as a heldentenor. Singing has taught me an enormous amount about clarinet playing.

JYCL: I studied piano for one year after 4 years of already playing the violin when we moved back to Korea because my parents couldn’t find me a suitable violin teacher at the town we moved to. But that was it.  During our second year back, they found me a good teacher & I stopped playing the piano. Then when I tried picking it back up again in college as a requirement for non-majors, I was utterly horrible at it.. Later years of high school & college, I got into mixing beats & DJ’ing, which I was obsessed with for 5years or so, but eventually gave it up to focus more on playing the violin. This I suppose leaves my only other instrument currently to be my voice. I love to sing.

KS: No – piano is….a handful! But I act, produce, direct and host Reality TV!

What is the favorite place you have visited?

AWS: Too many places are my favourite. I adore living in the USA and I have many favourite places here. New York and Seattle are two cities I adore. However, my favourite city in the world is Melbourne: my closest friends live there and the coffee and food is off-the-scale in comparison to anywhere I have visited in the world. The most beautiful city I know is my home town of Perth in Western Australia. Perth has over 300 days of sunshine each year and possibly the best beaches in the world. I feel incredibly privileged to live in two such beautiful countries.

JYCL: Boulder, Colorado. I absolutely adore the Rocky Mountains. The slow rising but jaggedly charaterful eastern foothills of the Rockies in Boulder, which are called the Flat Irons are absolutely magnificent. Boulder has a special energy, the people there are relaxed & fun, over 300 days of sunshine a year and it’s just an all around great place to live.

KS: My favorite place is home – Manhattan! But my second favorite place is the beach – whatever the beautiful location: The Hamptons, South Africa, France…I love ocean and sand.

Who is your favorite visual artist and why?

AWS: That is a tough question. The only way to answer this would be to say that every time I walk into the waterlily room at MoMA I am left speechless. Monet’s work is breathtakingly beautiful. Every few months I go to MoMA on my own and sit in this room for an hour or so.  Actually… That might be my favourite place.

JYCL: I’m a huge fan of the visual arts in general & honestly I have way too many favorite artists encompassing all different periods & regions. But notably the paintings of the French artist, Georges Seurat, I never get tired of. He was a big part in cultivating the technique of “pointillism” & I’ve always been fascinated by it. The idea of little dots making up a bigger picture during the period he lived in just seems so ahead of his time & inventive, and his paintings are original & unforgettable.

KS:  It’s hard to choose as I have 3 – my parents and my sister! 😉  I also like Salvador Dali (for his visionary sense of humor) and Pissarro for his rainy Paris.

Come hear Konstantin Soukhovetski, Ashley William Smith, and Jae Young Cosmos Lee in action along with Danielle Cho, Tiffany Richardson, and Rebecca Jackson for the debut performance of Sound Impact.  Please visit http://www.thesoundimpact.org for more details.

ImageJae Young Cosmos lee, violin

ImageAshley William Smith, clarinet

ImageKonstantin Soukhovetski, piano

David Arben, Mentor of Mentors

By Rebecca Jackson

If one is truly blessed, there is a person who will come into your life and have a profound impact.  For me, that person was David Arben.  I had the great fortune that our paths crossed in 1998 at an orchestral and chamber music festival in Puerto Rico.  Mr. Arben coached the string players.  I was immediately captivated by his genuine dedication to help us.  I observed his wonderfully subtle sense of humor.  Each day, usually cigar in hand, he would invariably greet me with a kiss on the cheek.  His remarkable sense of calm was contagious.  I wrote him a card of thanks after that summer and his reply was the beginning of what has become one of my most treasured friendships.  I have only witnessed Mr. Arben perform once, the Schubert cello quintet, and words are inadequate to describe the emotional reverberations from that moment of my life.  Fifteen years have passed since that summer and I have spent countless afternoons with Mr. Arben, gleaning from his wisdom on music and life. 

The summer we met I remember a young musician’s question.  “Have you seen the tattoo on his arm?  He is a Holocaust survivor.”  I was horrified by the thought and even more awestruck by this man.  In 2007, I interviewed him for my master’s thesis [What it Takes to be a Successful Concert Artist; Conversations with Renowned Musicians].  He shared his tragic past and how it shaped him.  It was a Thursday morning on Spruce Street in Philadelphia.  As he began, the street noises through his kitchen window faded.  There was a deep, aching pain in my heart.  I could barely fathom the tragedies he experienced.  The grief was overwhelming that someone I cared for deeply had suffered so much.  I asked, “What do you consider your greatest musical success and why?”  Upon reflection I believe his response was a touching tribute to his family and their role, sadly cut short, in his greatest achievements. 

The following is an excerpt from that interview:

We were three children and my mother and father would always say to us, ‘You are very special.  Nobody can ever hurt you.  You are talented.  You are everything good.’  My parents called me a violin virtuoso.  When I heard talented I thought it came with the territory.  I didn’t know what talent meant.  Because of living in an atmosphere where parents say you’re very special, when bad times come along, you are a much better fighter to survive.

When I was twelve the war started and everything fell apart.  We tried to hide.  We tried to run away.  At thirteen my family and I were separated.  The reason I am alive today is because of that violin.  There were two occasions where the violin saved my life… there was an inspection by the Nazis.  We all had to step out.  The Nazis are asking some people to the left and others to the right.  After a while you realized going to the left is not so good because you see young people, old people and sick people.  They collected 105 people, including me.  We were marched outside the camp into the woods.  There was a grave ready for us and a firing squad.  We were asked to line up, three in the front- we had to put clothing, if we had any, on the side.  This prisoner of war, the Jewish comandante, saw me, grabbed me and took me to the Obersturmfȕrer (which was for this camp the highest rank of the Nazis) and said, ‘He is a violin virtuoso and we need him.’  This is exactly what I told him when I met him – what my parents called me. I was the only one that came out alive from 105 people who a few minutes later were shot to death or buried alive.  Because of the violin. 

To me, my violin became my family.  My violin became my emotion, my heart, my being.  When I grew up to become much older, if ever something would happen in life that I wouldn’t be pleased, I would pick up the violin, play and it would soothe me.  The violin is the best thing that ever happened to me- it gave me life.  In a documentary I was part of, I was asked, ‘What is music?’  I said ‘to me music is life’ because I experienced life in music.  ‘Music is life. Music is hope.  Music is peace.’  I cannot ask for more. 

Even at the worst time, in some concentration camps, occasionally there was music.  There was a peaceful time because nobody got hurt while you were making music.  Before they might kill you and after they might kill you, but not during music.  This is the power of music, the most incredible power of humanity.

For the 5th anniversary of my chamber music festival Music in May I commissioned a piece, written by Polina Nazaykinskaya, inspired by David Arben’s life.  “Haim” (his given name at birth) is a work for clarinet, string quartet and piano.  Within the piece words written by David Arben are spoken by a narrator. 

Sound Impact makes its debut on Sunday October 6th.  Visit www.thesoundimpact.org for more event details.  Come hear this poignant work, “Haim” and meet its’ namesake, a Mentor of Mentors. 

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David Arben

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David Arben and Rebecca Jackson (2008)