The Jewish Advocate | June 2017

By Judy Manelis, Advocate correspondent

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NEWTON CENTRE – Zamir Chorale of Boston’s “AwePsalm” concert last week featured luminary composers such as Leonard Bernstein and 16th century Jewish violinist Salamone Rossi, and a 24-yearold Boston native who is quickly gaining a reputation as a sought-after musical talent: Jeremiah Klarman.


Zamir Chorale performed Klarman’s composition, “Hallel Shir v’Or (Praise, Song and Light)” at the concert, held at Temple Emanuel here on June 14 to honor Zamir’s outgoing chairman, Robert Snyder. Klarman originally composed the piece when he was 16 years old.


Congregants at Temple Emanuel, where Klarman holds membership, know him from his piano playing at Shabbat services and community events, and from his compositions of liturgical music for the synagogue. Few people are aware of the depth and breadth of his musical ability, his atypical journey from childhood and adolescence to adulthood, and his view of music as a unique tool to create sacred space and to contribute in a positive way to the wider world.


“Music can often reach people more easily than words,” he said. “As a child, I sometimes used it as an escape, or as a means to express feelings that I couldn’t put into words. But as I matured, I also recognized the power of music to elevate words and to give them new meaning.”


Klarman, who began composing as a 6-year-old, described his childhood urge to play the piano when he heard one of his sisters practicing. He felt drawn to the instrument and often made up songs or tried to recreate the melodies he heard on the radio or on television. He said his parents recognized his musical gifts and were supportive from the beginning.


Another early influence on the young composer’s life was his maternal grandfather.


“He made everyone, including me, feel special and we were very close,” Klarman said. “He was especially creative and loved to fix things. When he didn’t know exactly how to repair something, rather than get upset, he would simply wait and say he knew a solution would eventually show itself. As I get older, I identify more and more with him and find his philosophy speaks to me and the challenges I face when composing.”


Klarman composed “Larger than Life” as a tribute to his grandfather.


He also credits teachers and music education programs with nurturing his talent and helping him grow as a person. His teacher Angel Rivera, pianist and director emeritus of The Rivers School Conservatory in Weston and former director of the New England Conservatory’s Preparatory School, helped him expand his personal relationship to the piano in particular and to music in general.


“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Mr. Rivera,” Klarman said.


Rivera’s message was that musical excellence and expression are not limited to technical mastery, but require a sensitive reading of the instrument, the composer and oneself, Klarman noted. Rivera stressed the importance of curiosity and the asking of questions such as, ‘What was Beethoven thinking when he wrote this piece?’ Or, ‘How would this piece sound if played by an orchestra?’


“I don’t want to lose my curiosity and that special relationship with music that I developed during the years I studied with Mr. Rivera,” Klarman said.


In addition to The Rivers School Conservatory, Klarman described his high school experience at Gann Academy as especially meaningful. He credits the school with reaching out to him and to all its students to promote inclusiveness and to accommodate what he described as “different learning styles and challenges,” as well as to encourage each student’s special talents.


“They recognized what I had to offer,” he said. “I was able to participate fully in school life.”


Today, Klarman pays tribute to his alma mater by accompanying the chorus.


His experience at the New England Conservatory preparatory school, which offers extracurricular music classes, helped Klarman decide what he wanted to do with his passion for music. He realized he wanted to use music to give back and make a difference. This decision would find musical expression in his piece, “Elegy,” which he dedicated to the memory of the victims of the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.


He wrote a second piece, an orchestral tribute to the city of Boston, “Boston Strong,” after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.


Eventually, Klarman matriculated to NEC for college, where he worked with many professors, including acclaimed composer, musician, ethnomusicologist and chair of NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation Department, Hankus Netsky.


Klarman also played with the Jewish Music Ensemble at NEC, solidifying his love of klezmer music, one of Netsky’s special areas of expertise.


Klarman said NEC helped shape his current creative process. He said when he started the NEC Prep program, he remembers walking down the halls and seeing all the closed doors.


“Inside each room was an individual student practicing or composing,” he recalled.


Klarman described the isolation and solitary space required for creative expression, describing it as being in one’s own “musical bubble.” He later realized the need to balance this desire for solitude with social time, connecting with other people and engaging with the world.


As a regular performer at Temple Emanuel’s Friday service Shabbat Alive, Klarman compared the response of Jewish congregants to worshippers at a Baptist church.


“It’s wonderful to see the members of the congregation interact with the music and with each other as an expression of joy and a feeling of community,” he said.


Since his graduation from NEC in May 2016, Klarman continues to embrace a variety of musical activities, saying he does not like to be pigeonholed. He composes, plays the piano, dabbles as a percussionist, and surprisingly, works in an improvisational comedy group, Catalyst Comedy.


“I love comedy; I love musical theater; I love improv,” he said. “It has been a wonderful learning opportunity.”


Klarman’s compositions have twice appeared on the National Public Radio show, “From the Top”; most recently, the Boston Pops played his “Symphony in C” on the radio program’s 10th anniversary show in 2015. His compositions, which often fall into the categories of Jewish liturgy, pop and choral music, have won multiple awards and been performed by several local orchestras.


Klarman has no plans to narrow his focus. He continues to embrace every opportunity to learn and to expand his musical self-expression. Even as he explores his musical potential, though, he affirmed his commitment to the Jewish community and its music.




MetroWest Daily News | March 18, 2015

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When the popular NPR program “From the Top,” with host Christopher O’Riley, comes to Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley on March 26, it will be in the form of a special collaboration between the synagogue and the Boston Jewish Music Festival. As always, the show, to be recorded for a future broadcast on WCRB (99.5), will feature the talents of classically trained young musicians from all over the country.  This will mark the third time the show has presented new music from South Brookline composer and pianist Jeremiah Klarman, whose klezmer-inspired piece “Greser Vi Dos Leben” (“Larger Than Life”) will have its world premiere as the show’s finale.


Now 22, and a senior majoring in composition at New England Conservatory, Klarman first got his fingers on a piano when he was 4, started playing violin when he was 5, and wrote his first piece when he was 6.  “We had a piano in our house, and my older sister was taking piano lessons,” he said of his earliest keyboard memories.  “I would go up and try to play what she was playing, then I would try to take over the piano because I loved playing so much.  And I just kept playing.”


Though Klarman stopped violin lessons, he still plays the instrument, but his interests remain with piano performance and writing mostly classical music.


“Composing is a lot of work,” he said.  “But I was always improvising.  I love playing by ear.  I never really wanted to learn to read music, and I would try to pick out something on the radio, and then put my own chords in.  Sometimes I would sit down at the piano and just make stuff up, but eventually I came up with some things I wanted to write down, and that’s how I started.”


Notice really began coming his way in 2007, when he was honored with the Morton Gould Young Composer Award for his piece “Dance Suite for Orchestra.”


“I had written that at the request of the conductor, the late Charles Ansbacher, who heard a piece of mine and asked me to orchestrate it for the Boston Landmarks Orchestra,” said Klarman.  “I think that award got my career off to a start, and it definitely was a good starting place.”


The piece he’s working on for the upcoming show (don’t worry, it’s almost finished) is the result of “From the Top” producers asking him to write a klezmer piece, klezmer being the traditional Eastern European Jewish music that often has a kind of jazz-folk sound.




Jewish Ideas Daily | February 3, 2010

Jewish Ideas Daily has been succeeded and re-launched as Mosaic Magazine (article is no longer available online).

Of making Jewish music there is no end, but how many contemporary composers of distinguished work in this genre have been featured on From the Top, National Public Radio’s program about exceptional young musicians?  Jeremiah Klarman, age thirteen when he appeared on the NPR show, may be the sole exception.  Now seventeen, with a demonstrated mastery of styles from classical to klezmer, and with chamber, orchestral, and pop compositions under his belt, Klarman has turned his lavish and protean talents to choral music.  A premier of his latest work, the cantata Hallel, Shir v’Or (“Praise, Song, and Light”), drawing largely on well-known verses from the book of Psalms, took place in late December at Temple Emanuel in Newton, Mass.  Performed by the Zamir Chorale of Boston under the direction of Joshua R. Jacobson, it culminates in a room-rocking, soul-lifting Halleluyah! for chorus and orchestra.




The Boston Globe | April 30, 2006

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Abstract (Article Summary)

[Osvaldo Golijov] treated [Jeremiah R. Klarman] as a colleague, not a student. He led off by remarking, “I hear a few different styles and influences in your music.  I’m very cool with that.” Golijov is known for his own assimilative style, and before their meeting, Klarman was scanning the shelves.  He could have seen musical scores from every period, the complete Beatles catalog, recordings by Miles Davis and Gil Evans, DVDs ranging from Fellini’s “La Strada” to “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” copies of “Don Quixote” and “War and Peace,” books about Picasso, Da Vinci, and Frida Kahlo.

Golijov had specific advice about how to accomplish this: Fragment the theme, develop new and contrasting accompaniment figures to create textural and tactile differences, put the theme through different rhythmic paces.  “Rhythms play with your bloodstream,” he said. He also recommended “make believe” getting other instruments to sound like a tuba or an accordion.  “Make it more theatrical,” he urged.  And he offered examples from Beethoven, Mozart, Stravinsky, and a host of other models, including tango pianist Octavio Brunetti.  “Listening to other music can only be good for you,” he said.

At the end, Golijov said he was “moved, impressed, and amazed” by Klarman’s talent and early work.  “I am very curious about where you are going to go,” he said.  “Don’t get scared of anything, and follow your heart so that you are always exploring a new area, doing something new.”