Integrative Orchestra to play music by Israeli special-needs composers

This year’s concert will feature two pieces by musicians with special needs, who were inspired to compose through their work with the orchestra.

 THE ISRAEL Integrative Orchestra. (photo credit: SHEKEL)
THE ISRAEL Integrative Orchestra.
(photo credit: SHEKEL)

It’s always a special evening when the Israel Integrative Orchestra, a group which includes musicians with and without special needs, performs. The group will hold its third annual concert on June 14, at the new Nissan Nativ Studio at the Gerard Behar Center, 11 Bezalel Street, Jerusalem. The concert is free and will take place at 7 p.m. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m.

Launched three years ago, the Israel Integrative Orchestra was created with the goal of making space for people with disabilities to express themselves musically as an inclusive part of Jerusalem’s vibrant music scene, while providing an opportunity for them to train with professional musicians. This year’s concert will feature two pieces by musicians with special needs, who were inspired to compose through their work with the orchestra, which has become a kind of musical incubator for gifted composers from all backgrounds.

The orchestra was created through a partnership between SHEKEL, an organization for inclusion of people with disabilities in the community, and the Yitzhak Navon Community Unit of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, with the support of the Perach scholarship project and the American Center of the United States Embassy. It comprises 40 musicians and vocalists, and includes string and wind instruments, piano, accordion and a variety of percussion instruments. It meets once a week for rehearsals at the Academy on the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Givat Ram campus. Their rich repertoire was developed by the entire orchestra and includes Israeli music, as well as popular and classical music from around the world.

For many of those with special needs, the orchestra has provided a stimulating environment in which to develop their abilities. Several students have begun composing music, as well as performing it.

Sima, a violinist who takes part in activities run by SHEKEL, composed a piece of classical music that will see its premiere on Tuesday night.

MEMBERS OF The Integrative Orchestra prepare for their debut in 2020. (credit: Courtesy)MEMBERS OF The Integrative Orchestra prepare for their debut in 2020. (credit: Courtesy)

Adina (not her real name) was inspired by her participation in the orchestra to write a song. The conductor and some of the Academy orchestra members translated the tune into notes and created a rich musical arrangement for the violins, wind instruments and piano that will accompany it. Adina will be singing her song solo at its debut performance.

Both the SHEKEL musicians and the professionals are a diverse group and include both new immigrants and veteran Israelis. Deep bonds have been forged among the members of the orchestra since its inception, which have continued throughout the pandemic period, when at times the orchestra had to rehearse via Zoom.

“I think the orchestra has changed all of us who work with the musicians who have disabilities. We are more open today and understand the significance of inclusion. On the way, we have learned to use music as a means with which to connect and communicate with people in an entirely different way.”

Orchestra director Ido Marco

Clara Feldman, SHEKEL CEO, said that the orchestra embodies the goals of the organization she created, “Cultural inclusion is a major key to the inclusion of people with disabilities in Israeli society. The joint work between the musicians and the artistic integration between them blurs divisions and differences, and creates a moving and professional framework based on equality and true inclusion.”

Shoham Peled, the director of the Yitzhak Navon Community Unit of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, echoed this thought, saying, “A true connection has been forged between the Academy students and SHEKEL musicians that is very moving. It has created an opportunity for both sides to experience significant musical creativity together, expanding the horizons of the Academy students involved and giving SHEKEL musicians a supportive place to express themselves and participate as equals in a quality professional orchestra.”