ORI CHEN, a 23-year-old pianist from Mitzpeh Ramon, Israel, became the first young artist to receive the Robin Hodes Jacobs Scholarship, an annual award granted by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s (NJPAC) Department of Arts Education and the Jacobs family of West Orange.
Robin Hodes Jacobs, who died in 2018, is survived by her husband, Roger, and their children, Rachel and Joshua.
Chen, who will enter the joint BFA program of The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and the Center for Jazz Studies at the Israel Conservatory of Music this fall, intends to pursue a career as a jazz pianist and composer. The scholarship has allowed her to attend this summer’s All-Female Jazz Residency in NJPAC in Newark, where she studied with such notable performers as pianist Ellen Rowe and jazz violinist and MacArthur Foundation “Genius” fellow Regina Carter, the program’s artistic director.
“This program was a huge step forward in my musical abilities and skills,” said Chen, who spent the residency living on the campus of Rutgers University-Newark with other student musicians. “I feel like I’ve gotten the most precious gift by this scholarship. The future of a young artist can be completely changed when someone decides to help them fulfill their dreams. I know this scholarship did that for me.”
Roger Jacobs said his wife, an accomplished pianist and choral singer, began her career in special education and worked for many years as a certified public accountant.
She played piano throughout her life, even during her final illness, and the scholarship commemorates her lifelong love of music and arts in education.
“She would have enjoyed seeing the NJPAC students perform. It really was inspirational,” he said.
Next season, the scholarship will enable a young pianist to attend NJPAC’s year-long Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens program and a program of performances. As the scholarship’s fund grows, more students from underserved communities will be assisted in pursuing musical studies.
After seeing Chen perform at the residency’s final showcase, Jacobs announced an effort to raise an additional $50,000 for the scholarship, and that he will match the first $5,000 donated. Those wishing to make a contribution may call 973-353-7566.