Arts + Culture

Conference at UCLA explores the significance of American Jewish music and its reach

Program opens with the world premiere of “David’s Quilt,” an original libretto about biblical King David

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Anneliese Landau
Courtesy of the Landau family

The conference concludes with a re-creation of a 1945 concert organized by musicologist Anneliese Landau that showcased the work of Jewish immigrant composers.

The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies will present “American Culture and the Jewish Experience in Music,” a two-day conference exploring the influence that Jewish customs, values and beliefs have had on American music and the growth of music for Jews in America.

Convened by Mark Kligman, the Mickey Katz Endowed Chair in Jewish Music and the director of the Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, the performances and discussions will illustrate how the inventiveness and flexibility of American culture provided unprecedented opportunities for Jewish artists to thrive across musical genres. 

“The period of intense creativity among American Jewish musicians began nearly 125 years ago, and it has transformed what we listen to,” Kligman said. “The effect can be seen in popular music forms such as ‘Hava Nagila,’ and the birth of the Broadway musical, as well as the incorporation of art, folk and jazz in the innovative work of composers such as Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland, whose music transcended the concert hall and entered into popular consciousness.”

An evening concert on Sunday, Nov. 5 at the Stephen S. Wise Temple in Bel Air opens the conference. Featuring the world premiere of “David’s Quilt,” an original, contemporary libretto that explores the life of biblical King David, the new work by 15 Los Angeles-based composers, including school of music faculty and students, will be performed by UCLA students and alumni including the Chamber Singers. 

The symposium, which will convene on campus Nov. 6 and 7, will survey the enduring template that Jewish cultural expression, born of liturgical music, Yiddish theater and traditional klezmer music, has on compositions found in film, television and cartoons.

Highlights include:

  • A symposium devoted to the legendary composer and Academy Award-winner Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who is considered to be the father of film music. 
  • Panels delving into the remarkable legacy of “Fiddler on the Roof” as a signifier of Jewish identity, and universal touchstone for other musical endeavors. 
  • Scenes from musicals based on Jewish topics enacted by UCLA musical theater students, such as “Fiddler on the Roof” and “The Last Five Years.”
  • “100 years of The Jazz Singer,” a presentation and film screening that explores a story that has, for nearly a century, defined and redefined popular representations of Jewish culture and worship. 

The conference concludes with a chamber music concert by school of music students and alumni that re-creates the seminal, 1945 Wilshire Ebell Theatre concert organized by the musicologist Annaliese Landau, to showcase the work of Jewish immigrant composers, among them Korngold, Ernest Toch, Arnold Schoenberg and Louis Gruenberg. 

The American Culture and the Jewish Experience in Music conference also inaugurates the Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. A gift of the Lowell Milken Family Foundation, the fund enables the school to build on the work of the Milken Archive of Jewish Music, a collection of recordings, scores and historical materials that document the Jewish experience in America over the past 350 years.

The conference is presented by the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies. Funding is provided by the school of music’s Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music, Mickey Katz Endowed Chair in Jewish Music, and Center for Musical Humanities, as well as the Natalie Limonick Symposium in Jewish Civilization.

The concert at the Stephen S. Wise Temple is presented by the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, in collaboration with the Max Helfman Institute for New Jewish Music. Funding is provided by the school of music’s Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music and David and Irmgard Dobrow Fund, as well as the Max Helfman Institute for New Jewish Music. 

View the full conference schedule. Conference reservations are required: cjsrsvp@humnet.ucla.edu or (310) 267-5327. 

The concert featuring the premiere of “David’s Quilt” is free, but attendees must make a reservation at Bit.ly/DavidsQuilt.

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