Interview: Dr. Noreen Green, Conductor of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony

on their 30-year history of presenting concerts in L.A.

By: Apr. 24, 2024
Interview: Dr. Noreen Green, Conductor of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony
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Interview: Dr. Noreen Green, Conductor of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony

Dr. Noreen Green, the Founding Artistic Director and Conductor of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony (pictured) has spent 30 years presenting music of the Jewish experience. I decided to speak with Maestra Green on her history with the LAJS, conducting past concerts, and the group’s recent 30th Anniversary celebration on Sunday, April 14 at Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Brentwood.

Thank you for speaking with me today, Noreen. Were you born and raised in Los Angeles?   

Yes, I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and second generation here. My Mom was born in Boyle Heights!

For those of us just meeting you, tell me about your music education and training.

I grew up playing piano, accompanying, and singing in choirs. I earned a Bachelor’s in Music Education from University of the Pacific, a Masters of Music in Choral Conducting from Cal State – Northridge, and my Doctor of Music – Choral Conducting from USC. My Treatise was on the Music of Great Jewish Synagogue composer David Nowakowsky, with my second discipline – Instrumental Conducting.

When did you first start pursuing your ambition to found and conduct the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony?

During a summer at the Aspen Music Festival, Maestro Murry Sidlin presented a Jewish music concert at the Aspen Jewish Center. Murry planted the idea of creating a Jewish Symphony in Los Angeles. I had been music director at a Synagogue for 10 years. And previous to that, I taught Jewish music at Jewish Day schools. So I had experience – but this was taking it to a new level.

Interview: Dr. Noreen Green, Conductor of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony

Dr. Noreen Green conducting the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony at Wilshire Blvd. Temple in Brentwood.

What is the significance of presenting concerts at Wilshire Boulevard Temple?

We are thrilled to be collaborating with Wilshire Blvd Temple, in the room where it all started for the LAJS, in the newly remodeled Sanctuary at the Brentwood campus was the site of our debut concert. When we were there, it was University Synagogue. We performed our debut concert plus seven concerts there in our early years. The idea to have our 30th Anniversary Celebration Concert there started when we were performing at the Historic Wilshire Blvd. Temple campus in Korea town. We found out that the merger of the Temples was happening, so we booked the concert at that time, not having any idea what the renovation would look like. It’s so beautiful and we are very happy to be one of the first big events in the newly remodeled space.

The evening’s featured work “Symphony of the Holocaust” which was composed by Holocaust survivor Shony Alex Braun, was also presented as a documentary feature film. Where can it be seen?

There was a screening of it at the LA Holocaust Museum on April 18, or you can view it on the new streaming service - Sunn Stream – at

We were the first documentary to be produced and funded by Sunn Stream and it’s been an incredible experience! The director Greg DeHart, who is not Jewish, did an amazing job telling the story of Holocaust Survivor, violinist, and composer Shony Alex Braun.

Interview: Dr. Noreen Green, Conductor of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony

I read of your involvement with the Stories From the Violins of Hope concerts, which I attended at CSUN (pictured). It moved me to tears hearing such beautiful music played on exquisitely restored violins from those who were in the concentration camps. What’s your most significant memory from that experience?

The whole experience was surreal, especially since we were supposed to perform the concert a week after the world shut down from the Pandemic. I think watching the violinists in the orchestra choose the Violins of Hope instruments they were to play at the concert was an emotional experience for them and me. One of my violinists chose a violin because of the sound. Then she read the story about it – it was from Czechoslovakia where the violinist, Johana Krejci, is from, and she was in tears. One of the highlights was finding a violin for the collection from a High School friend’s mother who survived in the forest – and the only thing she brought with her was her violin. My friend had no idea what to do with the violin, which had been under her bed since her mother died. She felt renewed life by donating it to the collection. The concert was such a high – I felt so connected to the audience – it was an experience of a lifetime!

Interview: Dr. Noreen Green, Conductor of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony

Please tell me more about the LAJS 2023 education outreach program. When was it created and what is its purpose?

Almost since the beginning of the LAJS, we have had Education programs. With a degree in music education, I always felt that my true calling was to educate. At all our concerts, I speak about the music before we play it so the audience becomes active rather passive listeners.

The programs for the schools have evolved. We now focus on our flagship program Patchwork of Cultures bridging the Sephardic and Latino connection which uses our shared music and tradition from Spain as the bridge between the Jewish Latino communities in LA. It has been going on for over 20 years – funded by grants – and is the highlight of our year.

Interview: Dr. Noreen Green, Conductor of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony

Dr. Noreen Green, Conductor of the LA Jewish Symphony

LAJS Teaching artists go into the schools and present workshops on the material and then the students come to a culminating concert. We have LAUSD public shoals with a concentration of Latino students and students from the Jewish Day schools who sing and dance together at the final concert – it’s a beautiful site! The concert takes place in a Synagogue; the idea is to break down barriers and build bridges of understanding. Most of the LAUSD students have never been inside a Synagogue nor heard an orchestra play.

As the Founding Artistic Director and Conductor of LAJS, please tell me about its founders and their vision for presenting music of the Jewish experience in Los Angeles.

I am the founder of the LAJS with my husband Dr. Ian Drew. This is our mitzvah (contribution) to the community - to present Music of the Jewish Experience – and we are so grateful for the support we have received from the community over these 30 years. We couldn’t have done it without our dedicated board, funders and supporters who come to every concert!

Tell me about some of your favorite concerts with the group during the past 30 years.

There have so many! The Ford Theatre was our home for 14 summers and I loved performing there. Some of our themes were Cinema Judaica, The Jewish contribution to Hollywood Film Music East Meets West, Cultural Collaborations.

Interview: Dr. Noreen Green, Conductor of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony

We celebrated our 20-year anniversary in concert with Hershey Felder (pictured), who has been an advisor and supporter since our very early days, including 8 years of concerts at Disney Hall with the Kindred Spirits organization. We raised money for so many organizations. My commitment to highlight Jewish Women Composers, which started in 2000 with the premiere of Women of Valor Oratorio by Andrea Clearfield, which we also recorded, speaks to my commitment to present music that might be lost. Our production of The Music of Eric Zeisl, a holocaust survivor, premiered his ballet Jacob and Rachel fifty years after it had been written but never performed. We also recorded that.

Interview: Dr. Noreen Green, Conductor of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony

Dr. Noreen Green conducts LAJS Founding Concertmaster Mark Kashper during the LAJS 30th Anniversary Celebration concert.

Tell me about the Triumph of the Spirit program for the Symphony’s 30th Anniversary Celebration; its creation and format.

The Symphony of the Holocaust by Shony Alex Braun was performed in its entirety at the 30th anniversary concert. It originally was one of the pieces performed at the education outreach program at the Soraya.

LAJS’s 30th Anniversary Celebration included clips from the LAJS 2023 education outreach program "Triumph of the Spirit: Holocaust Stories through Music" in collaboration with the Arts Education Program at The Soraya featuring "Symphony of the Holocaust" by Shony Alex Braun with LAJS Founding Concertmaster Mark Kashper as soloist.

Interview: Dr. Noreen Green, Conductor of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony

Have you and Mark Kashper (pictured) been performing together with the LAJS during its 30-year history? If so, what makes your partnership as performers work so well?

Mark is my founding Concertmaster and principal soloist. Every year we have performed together, and in over 30 years, he has had to miss just a handful of concerts due to scheduling conflicts. He is my rock. He is a superior musician (Associate Principal of the LA PHIL and acting Principal this year). He is from St. Petersburg and being in a Jewish orchestra for him, when being Jewish wasn’t even allowed while he was growing up, has been in his words, “a dream come true.” We go over the repertoire choices together and discuss everything musical. He is also a Mensch – which is the highest compliment of all.

Tell me about the other featured performers who are longtime friends of the LAJS: Cantor Lisa Peicott, Cantor Ilan Davidson, and young artist Eden Kontesz.

Interview: Dr. Noreen Green, Conductor of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony

Lisa Peicott (pictured) is the Senior Cantor at Wilshire Blvd. Temple. I met her when she was a cantorial student at AJRCA (local school for Rabbis, Chaplains, and Cantors). I knew she was something special since her voice and musicianship were superb. I came to find out that she gave up an opera career to become a Cantor, and for her it was the most fulfilling choice to express both her musicality and spirituality. She grew up singing in a local Temple and I am just thrilled for her. She has the best combination of true talent, hard work, and a sacred soul.

Interview: Dr. Noreen Green, Conductor of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony

Ilan Davidson (pictured) and I have worked together for over 20 years. I first performed with him at his Temple in San Pedro and we just clicked. We went on to perform a couple of concerts in Palm Springs. He then created the concert series Kindred Spirits at Disney Hall and asked me join him to produce and conduct those productions – it was an amazing annual concert for 8 years. Of course, I wanted him to help us celebrate our 30-year since he is an important part of our history. And his voice is still fantastic!

Interview: Dr. Noreen Green, Conductor of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony

One of the missions of the LAJS is provide opportunities for young Jewish musicians to perform with an orchestra, We have had some incredible soloists who have gone on to have international careers. I invited Eden Kontesz (pictured), who is our youngest performer, and she has been singing each year at our education concert since she was 6 years old, and now at 13 her career is skyrocketing as a recording artist and actress.

What do you find the most personally rewarding experience while conducting the LAJS?

Conductor – I love that word – it represents how I feel on the stage. I am the conduit between the music making and the audience. Energy surges through me; I can feel the connection between those of us on stage and the audience as they listen to the music. But you can also feel it when you lose them, which thankfully has been a rare occurrence.

As an Educator, I love it when audience members tell me they were entertained and also educated! The music also resonates at a gut level; people feel moved, I feel moved, and the performers feel moved. It’s what live performance is about – connection – and we lost some of that during the pandemic. Now we are back and there is nothing better!

Interview: Dr. Noreen Green, Conductor of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony

The soloists taking their bows at the LAJS 30th Anniversary Celebration concert.

How are you involved with the selections for each of the group’s concerts?

I do all the repertoire selection. It’s a big puzzle with all the pieces out there, and I put them together to fit into the theme of concert.

Tell me about the others who organized the LAJS 30th Anniversary Celebration with you.

Audrey Yoder, our managing director, is my counterpart in all LAJS events. She takes care of all the admin/production details, coordinating all the different people involved, and making sure all the T’s are crossed an I’s are dotted.

Our board really stepped up to help sell out the concert and, of course, our hosts Wilshire Blvd. Temple have been wonderful collaborators. Of course, all the performers always rise to the occasion to do their best! In rehearsals, soloists move chairs and help to figure out how to place the choir. Tech was there to figure it all out. When we are in a Synagogue rather than a performance venue, there are many more moving parts – and it’s always a challenge! But when it all comes together and works – it’s Magic!

Interview: Dr. Noreen Green, Conductor of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony

Does the LAJS include singers as well as musicians among its members?  Or do the performers change with each concert? (Pictured: singers at the LAJS 30th Anniversary Celebration concert.)

The LAJS performs regularly with choir, and some of my singers have been with me from the beginning while some are new for this concert. Each concert is its own entity; and we do have a contract with the Local 47 union, so those players are always our first call. We also have a chamber group that performs – the LAJS Chamber Players – and depending on repertoire requirements, and what the program is, who we are collaborating with from that ensemble can change.

And how do you do outreach for new members and/or participants?

I have a vast network – like anything it’s about who you know and reaching out.

Do you have a set group of subscribers for the LAJS concerts? And how do you reach out to bring in new audience members?

We have a mailing eblast that goes out to our followers every week. We gain members by word of mouth and press articles like this. We have been around for 30 years, but we still hear, “I didn’t know there was a Jewish Symphony in Los Angeles!”

Interview: Dr. Noreen Green, Conductor of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony Given the worldwide rise of antisemitism, in what ways did the LAJS address this issue during the 30th Anniversary Celebration?

We have armed security. This is our reality and we must protect ourselves. The Temples require it and so do we, so no one will be allowed in without a ticket. It’s unfortunate, but we can’t open our doors like we used to do. And given what is going on in the world, we opened the concert with a piece called Prayer to remember all those we have lost – especially over the last few months.

Lastly, what is your vision for the future for LAJS?

To continue in our mission to perform music of the Jewish Experience and to use music as a tool for building bridges between communities. Our next concert is this summer at Disney Hall in collaboration with the LA Korean Music Association. This will be our 2nd collaboration with them, and I love learning about other cultures through the performance of music.

Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me.

To learn more about Dr. Noreen Green, the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony and its programs, visit


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