ON SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10 at 3:00 p.m. the Jewish Federation’s 10th annual Festival of Jewish Music—A Celebration of Jewish Music will take place at Temple Beth Israel Pomona. The festival will feature Kol HaEmek, Jewish Youth Orchestra, and local Cantors. JLife wanted to spotlight the Jewish Youth Orchestra (JYO), a community-based ensemble of musicians ages 10-16 dedicated to the study and performance of Jewish music, liturgical and secular, as well as music influenced and connected to Jewish culture. Directed by Janice Mautner Markham, Assistant Director Ronit Silberstein and Supervisor Cantor Judy Sofer and sponsored by the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys this unique experience offers young musicians a chance to go beyond their classical music training to include a Jewish cultural education drawing from numerous time periods and locations throughout the world. The JYO encourages communication and collaboration as students create this ensemble and grow as musicians and individuals. Their goal is to create music that excites the imagination through the study and performance of traditional and contemporary music and enriches the cultural life of the area by inspiring the next generation of artists and audiences.
Janice Mautner Markham is a Los Angeles-based violinist, theater artist and activist, and has been Artistic Director of the arts non-profit Vox Box Arts Collective since 1991. She currently serves as Music Director of the Jewish Youth Orchestra. I recently had the chance to speak with Janice about the many hats she wears and who has been “instrumental” (pun intended) in guiding her in her Jewish music journey.
“First a big shout out to Jason Moss, the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, who puts on the Festival of Jewish Music and Cantor Judy Sofer who heads up the Jewish Federation’s Cultural Arts Program and plans the groups that participate and how the festival will take shape. This is such a wonderful event for the greater community and is a privilege for the music community (both choral and instrumental) to help tighten the bonds in such a stretched out area. There is so much strife in the world today and any opportunity to lift people’s spirits and bring the community together is much needed in all our lives.”
Janice credits much of her early musical evolution to her father, pianist Raymond Mautner, and violin teachers Harold Ayres and Heiichiro Ohyama. Growing up a violinist in her musical family she fondly remembers listening to classical music and knew the sound track to Fiddler on the Roof by heart. She regularly collaborates with her mentor, Craig Taubman, Artistic Director of the Pico Union Project, and credits him as a true guide to her discovery of Jewish music and her passion for it. She is honored to be Artist-in-Residence at the vibrant interfaith arts and community center and will continue to be involved in their Jewish programming as well as educational outreach programs.
The Pico Union Project is dedicated to the Jewish principle to “love your neighbor as yourself.” It elevates this teaching into practice in a historic building by bringing diverse cultures together through song, story, art, food and prayer. Pico Union Project is a multi-faith cultural arts center and house of worship founded in 2013 by visionary recording artist, composer and musician Craig Taubman. Pico Union Project aims to help invigorate the community of Los Angeles and reflect the Jewish value of being a light to all nations. Most recently Janice led the Jewish Youth Orchestra in their performance for Rosh Hashana services at Pico Union Project.
In her “spare time” Janice is heavily involved, a founding member in fact, in the award-winning Jewish indie-roots band Mostly Kosher. This Post-Klezmer Indie band radically reconstructs Judaic and American cultural musical roots through ravenous klezmer beats and arresting Yiddish refrains. She believes in the power of Jewish thought and ideals and has a keen musical ear. She noticed there was a deficit of Klezmer music and Yiddish in Hebrew schools and with her own children as well as other kids in the community. L’dor va’dor – from generation to generation—is an important part of her life and it is important as artists, educators and parents to pass down what you know and live that!
Mostly Kosher is a musical feast that explodes into a global food-fight of Jazz, Latin, Rock, Hip Hop and Folk. Led by Leeav Sofer, one of Jewish Journal’s “30 under 30” most accomplished professionals in the Los Angeles’ Jewish diaspora, Mostly Kosher is comprised of some of the highest regarded Los Angeles musicians including our very own violinist Janice Mautner Markham, drummer Eric Hagstrom, bassist Adam Levy, accordion/trumpet Mike Bolger, trombonist Mike King, and on guitar, Will Brahm.
Most recently, Mostly Kosher had the honor of being the first Jewish music ensemble at the Disney parks and performed a 2 month residency at Disney California Adventure, featured in the Festival of Holidays. Park-goers had the unique opportunity to eat Jewish-inspired cuisine and listen to live Klezmer-style music! Frontman Leeav Sofer sang in Yiddish, Hebrew and English, banging a Star of David-shaped tambourine. He introduces Hanukkah by singing the holiday’s anthem “Ma’oz Tzur,” and in a circle, dances the hora with the kids. Getting into the spirit of the venue, Janice was seen playing “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Mostly Kosher was credited for “stealing the Festival of Holidays Show” by the acclaimed Fresh Baked Disney podcast. They look forward to returning for their second season at the Anaheim park, as well as participating in the Mostly Kosher debut at Florida’s Epcot Center.
For more information on how to get tickets for the Festival of Jewish Music please contact Cantor Judy Sofer at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 626-445-0810.
Visit www.picounionproject.org to find out more about their great community programming.
To learn more about Mostly Kosher please visit their website: www.mostlykosher.com
Tanya Schwied is a contributing writer and editor to JLife SGPV.