Be’er Sheva Mandolin Quartet makes Central Jersey debut
Thanks to the support of Phyllis Chancy Solomon of Marlboro, a talented young Israeli musician has blossomed into a renowned mandolin player who tours internationally and performs with leading Israeli orchestras.
Jacob Reuven will showcase his talents on July 31 in a benefit concert at the Monroe Senior Center. Reuven and the Be’er Sheva Mandolin Quartet’s appearance is a fund-raiser for the Be’er Sheva Music Conservatory and is part of the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey’s celebration of Israel’s 70th anniversary.
“This is an opportunity to see the brilliance of the great musicianship in the Negev,” Solomon told NJJN in a telephone interview.
Solomon has known Reuven since her family foundation awarded him a scholarship to attend the conservatory in the late 1980s.
Solomon, president of the Chancy Memorial Foundation — dedicated to philanthropic projects supporting the arts — said among its endeavors is annually awarding 20 scholarships to gifted young Israeli musicians to attend the Be’er Sheva Music Conservatory, which she described as being on par with the Juilliard School at Lincoln Center.
“The three young men with [Reuven] are all scholarship students and are of the highest quality playing the mandolin,” she said.
The concert, “From Venice to Jerusalem,” will feature pieces by Vivaldi, Israeli folk songs by Sasha Argov, and American musical melodies.
Reuven, who began studying at the 600-student conservatory when he was 8, has been its director for the past five years. The school serves the region’s Jewish, Arab, and Bedouin populations with innovative programs, according to Solomon, including its recent Sarab: Strings of Change program, which teaches Bedouin children string instruments.
“The Be’er Sheva Music Conservatory is an oasis of culture in the Negev,” she said.
Solomon said through “the magical opportunity” of creating music, the multicultural school fosters “cooperation, harmony, and understanding.”
She said the conservatory performs concerts showcasing its jazz choir, Negev Voices Choir, as well as bands, and ensembles that perform chamber music, big band, and more.
Because many young families are attracted to the lower cost of living in the desert region, “the school is growing by leaps and bounds,” Solomon said, and she suggested to Reuven that he hold benefit concerts in the U.S. The Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ “immediately jumped on” the opportunity, she said. The quartet will also perform in New Hampshire and the Hamptons, in addition to Monroe.
For Solomon and her family, the path to the conservatory — and Reuven — came through a dedication to the arts and to Zionism. Her father, Benjamin Chancy, had served as director of music for New York City schools, but in 1971, he suffered a heart attack just before he was to conduct the All-City High School Orchestra at Lincoln Center, and died. Chancy was 62, and he left behind a large collection of classical sheet music, which the family had wanted to donate to Juilliard, but the school declined to accept.
Ardent Zionists, the family decided to donate it to an Israeli institution as an alternative, and eventually found what is now the Be’er Sheva Music Conservatory. Some years later, the family foundation began awarding scholarships in memory of her father; sister, Natalie Joan; and mother Celia. In 2006, another scholarship was added named for Solomon’s late husband, Herb.
Solomon has long been involved in Jewish and musical causes. She’s a member of the federation’s Israel advocacy committee, a trustee and co-chair of fund-raising at Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County, a member of the Gaza Envelope Task Force of the Jewish National Fund, and a volunteer art and music teacher of challenged young adults at Family Resource Associates in Shrewsbury.
Reuven, who also studied at the renowned Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, performs as a soloist and guest artist with leading Israel ensembles and orchestras, including the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Sinfonietta Be’er Sheva, Israel Chamber Orchestra, and the Twenty First Century Ensemble, and has collaborated with the Jerusalem Quartet and Vivace Ensemble, among others.
Reuven is also a member of the award-winning Kerman Mandolin Quartet, Barrocade-The Israeli Baroque Collective, and Ensemble Maktub, which performs classical Arabic and Middle Eastern music. He has performed as a guest with international orchestras, and won the prestigious Internacional de Plectro de La Rioja (International Festival of Plucked Instruments in La Rioja) competition in Spain.
“This will be a unique musical experience for our New Jersey audience,” Solomon said.