Metrotainment: Instruments of change

Nitzan, Ofer and Eyal Ein-Habar team up for the first national competition for young wind instrument players.

Eyal Ein-Habar 521 (photo credit: courtesy)
Eyal Ein-Habar 521
(photo credit: courtesy)
The venue might be modest, but next week in Kfar Saba, 40 young people will be blowing their own horns. An exciting music festival will take place there from May 24 to 31. Wind instrument players from all over the country will come to the Sharon suburb to participate in the country’s first competition of its kind.
“Most of the participants are America Israel Cultural Foundation scholarship recipients, and for us this is a good enough recommendation,” says the artistic director of the competition, Eyal Ein-Habar, who is a flutist and conductor as well as a teacher.
Serving as the second principal flute player for the Israel Philharmonic, Ein-Habar also appears as a soloist and a chamber music player (he is a founding member of the Israel Winds Quintet), and is the head of the Winds and Percussions Department of the Buchman Mehta Music Academy of Tel Aviv University.
“We have accepted the participation of almost all the applicants because this is an important and inspiring experience for beginner musicians,” he says. This year, only woodwind players will participate, but based on Ein-Habar’s gut feeling, they will be joined by brass instruments next year.
The participants are divided into two age groups, 15 to 18 and 18 to 24.
There are three phases of the competition and the final one will be performed alongside the Ra’anana Symphonette Orchestra. This closing concert will take place at Kfar Saba’s Sapir Auditorium and will be open to the general public at no charge.
Among the panel of judges are leading Israeli musicians from different generations, such as flutist Moshe Epstein, who serves as a professor at Hamburg Musikhochschule, IPO veteran Uri Shoham, who was the orchestra’s principal flutist for about 40 years, leading bassoon player Maurizio Paez, oboe player Dudu Carmel and Rishon Lezion Symphony clarinetist Daniel Erdman.
The upcoming competition is very much a family affair: while Ein-Habar is its artistic director, his brothers, Ofer, head of the Kfar Saba Conservatory, and Nitzan, one of Israel’s leading saxophone players, will also be actively involved in the event.
On a Friday afternoon, the three brothers enjoy the warm Tel Aviv morning at a street café and talk about music.
“Music has accompanied us from our very childhood,” recalls Eyal. “Our father’s piano and the stereophonic system were the heart of our family home. When we were little kids, Father played piano for us and we just marched in the living room, following various rhythms. And even when he abandoned music and became a garage manager because he was tired of job hunting, he fixed the car engines judging by their sound – and he taught us to listen, which is the most important thing in music.”
Ofer says that Kfar Saba enjoys a year-long music education tradition.
“It all started more than 25 years ago, when pediatrician Shmulik Franco got hooked on the idea of creating an orchestra in Kfar Saba. He returned from a stay abroad, where he was much impressed by the music traditions of established Western countries, and upon his return he went straight to the Kfar Saba Municipality, where he found understanding,” says Ofer, who in addition to his conservatory duties serves as the artistic director for the city’s annual youth orchestra competition.
“I believe that among Israeli cities, Kfar Saba enjoys the strongest music education system. In all our schools kids are taught string and wind instruments, and although their parents need to pay for it, the prices are quite reasonable compared to other cities.
And not only that: there is an understanding among children that music is an important part of life. There is no such thing as a child abandoning music lessons because he or she is laughed at by other kids who see him with a music case in the street,” says Eyal. “Even if a child does not become a musician in the future, the contribution of music lessons in his childhood is priceless. Nothing develops them emotionally, intellectually and motorically like music does. After all, what we teach the kids is culture, not just music.”
“Dozens of youth orchestras come to Kfar Saba for the competition, and at the closing concert we have 500 children listening attentively and following the movements of the baton of one person, the conductor – have you ever seen anything like that?” Ofer asks.
He has nothing but praise for the city authorities, which support the music activities, and especially for the head of the Culture, Sports and Youth Department, Yair Mashiah, the initiator of the upcoming competition.
“Mashiah has years and years of music institution management experience to his credit; he is not just another municipality clerk, and you can feel it,” Ofer says, and for good reason. The old building of the Kfar Saba Conservatory has been recently renovated according to the highest standards. “The municipality invested millions of shekels in this project, and the renovated building boasts excellent acoustic conditions; it is a sheer pleasure to work and perform there.”
“Different as we are, what unites us is our aspiration for perfection,” muses Eyal. “My students often say: “But you obviously know this…” And I always reply: “No, and I am never satisfied with my knowledge. I just try to reach the horizon.”
Their brother, Nitzan, who will present master classes during the competition, sums up: “It is not a coincidence that the words “wind instruments” “breath” and “soul” sound so similar [in Hebrew]; you are breathing your soul into your instrument and vice versa – the music-making develops and enriches your soul immensely.”
The contest takes place at the Kfar Saba Center for Music and Dance. For more information: (09) 764- 0740/1.