It was standing room only at Orchestra Night on Monday, February 5. Family, friends, faculty, and staff filled the Middle School Community Room, which was transformed into a concert hall, for a delightful evening of music.
United by their love of music, student musicians from area schools came together to rehearse, connect, and perform. It was a wonderful opportunity for students of varying skill and grade levels to experience the joy of ensemble performance, develop new friendships, and to create a dynamic community of musicians. This was the second Orchestra Night that Milken has hosted, the first was two years ago. David Brown, who directs the concert orchestra, started it as a way to bring students together to perform with Milken’s Upper and Middle School orchestras and encourage them to continue with their music studies in middle school and high school. “I loved seeing so many young musicians energized and passionate about music. We came together for just two days to create a powerful, uplifting, musical journey,” said Brown. Among the schools represented were Adat Ari El Day School, Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Am, Temple Israel of Hollywood Day School, Valley Beth Shalom Harold M. Schulweis Day School, and Alice and Nahum Lainer School —formerly Sinai Akiba Academy.
With only two days of rehearsal, on Sunday and Monday right before the recital that night, the combined orchestra along with the Milken artists in residence — the Los Angeles Ensemble — delivered a polished performance.
The evening began with the Los Angeles Ensemble performing student compositions that were written over the summer during the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH) Witnessing History: Voices of the Holocaust workshop held at Milken. The program connects students to Holocaust survivors and tells their stories through music, short films, and photography. The combined orchestra performed three songs “Comptine d'un autre été” from the film “Amélie,” “Finale” from the opera “Orphée aux Enfers,” and “Thriller.”
Violinist Ethan Shenassa ’20, whose composition, “Escape” was performed, said he drew his inspiration from a story he heard about a Holocaust survivor who was unable to escape Germany. A violin and cello duet, the piece was fast paced, evoking suspense, fear, and shock. Asked how it felt to hear his composition played by professionals, he emphatically replied, “It was magical. That is the only way to describe it.” Student works by Megan Kohanarieh ’19, Alexis Farahi ’19, Ethan Permaul ’19, and Abby Yadegar ’20 were also performed.
Flutist Claudia Johnson Stone ’20 was in the same position as the guest musicians were just two years ago when she participated in her first Orchestra Night as an eighth grader at Wildwood School. “It was exciting to see that there could be so many new people joining the orchestra in future years,” she said.
“It was interesting to see how students expressed themselves with music and really cool to see professionals perform them,” remarked violinist Amitai Segev ’19. He added that it was nice to see students who might one day be a part of the Milken orchestra.
Flutist and Science Research Teacher Polly Kim enjoyed playing with the younger students and thought it was nice that there were both beginners and more experienced players. Kim, who also plays in the Stephen Wise Orchestra, noted that there were three Wise students, including two that were siblings of current Milken Orchestra members, who participated. “It was inspiring to see how accomplished our student composers were and how professional sounding their compositions were.” She added, “It was impressive how much we improved as a combined group over the course of just two days of rehearsing together.”