Howard Tevlowitz says Israel has been portrayed negatively in the news, but that he knows a different side of the country.
“They see wars. They see a lot of intolerance going on in parts of the Middle East,” Tevlowitz, executive director of The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee (JFSM), says about what viewers are shown. “The Israel we know has a vibrant arts, performing and cultural community … it’s a country based on positive life, not negativity.”
That is why the nonprofit organization is sponsoring Israeli contemporary violinist Miri Ben-Ari’s May 11 performance, alongside Sarasota Orchestra, called “Revolutions.” Ben-Ari is most well-known for providing the hip-hop violin tracks for famed artists Kanye West, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, and for performing for President Barack Obama.
The concert is part of JFSM’s Israel 65 initiative, which celebrates the 65th birthday of Israel as a country. It’s an opportunity to promote a positive identity for Israel.
Finding her forte
Ben-Ari grew up in a small town in Tel Aviv, Israel, where she says as a little girl she couldn’t have imagined having a career like she has today. Ben-Ari served in the Israel Defense Forces when she turned 18 years old and played for the Israeli Army String Quartet. She was classically trained, but upon the end of her military service, she started playing a lot of jazz. She’s played at venues around the world — in China at the Miss Universe Pageant to Washington, D.C. — and she loves every opportunity she receives to play in Israel. Ben-Ari now lives in New Jersey.
“A lot of Israelis look up to me and are proud of me,” she says. “I get to represent a different side of Israel — the curly hair, the music, the softer approach, and it’s a great opportunity.”
Ben-Ari will perform four of her songs with the Sarasota Orchestra — it’s the first time she’s played with a full orchestra, and she’s excited.
One song, in particular, called “Never Forget,” was written for her grandparents, who survived the Holocaust.
“People who survived the Holocaust don’t talk about it, and they only shared it with me one time,” she says. Her grandparents shared their stories from the Holocaust with Ben-Ari when she was a young girl working on a family-tree project.
Her songs move through history. One accompanies the audio of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream”speech; another is more upbeat with Brazilian flair. But she’s never lost her roots.
“I have the Israeli flavor in my personality and my playing,” she says.
Stringing ‘revolutions’ together
Associate Conductor of the Sarasota Orchestra Dirk Meyer is maestro for the Innovations series, of which this “Revolutions” concert is a part. The series’ mission is to present classical music in a new way.
“The idea is to present different compositions and different types of music that have all had some kind of revolutionary impact — they either describe a revolution or have been revolutionary, themselves,” says Meyer.
A scriptwriter, Steve Schlow, wrote the narration for the concert, and an actor portraying Albert Einstein will lead the audience through revolutionary compositions in history.
In addition to a genre-bending hip-hop classical violinist, there will also be pieces such as Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” which created a riot when it was first performed (the Sarasota Orchestra will perform it almost exactly to the day 100 years later). There will also be Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 3 (Eroica), First Movement,” which Meyer says, “changed the course of classical music.”
“I’m really excited for this one because it’s so different from anything we’ve ever done before,” he says of the concert.
IF YOU GO
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11
Where: Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave.
Cost: Tickets are $31 to $47
Info: Call 953-4252