New sounds blowing in the Or Yehuda wind

Taking a different path, the Concert Band of Or Yehuda is an orchestra made up solely of talented wind players, both brass and woodwinds, with a small percussion section.

Buxbaum conducts the Tel Aviv Municipal Youth Wind Orchestra at Neveh Tzedek’s Old Train Station complex (photo credit: Courtesy)
Buxbaum conducts the Tel Aviv Municipal Youth Wind Orchestra at Neveh Tzedek’s Old Train Station complex
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Meet one of the most popular young conductors on the Israel music scene.
Shai Buxbaum is energetic, enthusiastic and definitely loves being a “cool” jazzman who wears a small gold hoop in one ear.
Recognized by both critics and audience for his skill and competence in leading repertoire from baroque to Broadway, Buxbaum loves introducing different sounds to the public. It is with contagious excitement that he relates the story of the Concert Band of Wind Instruments of Or Yehuda, which he leads.
It is a familiar idea that string instruments have always been the forte of Jewish musicians. Taking a different path, the Concert Band of Or Yehuda is an orchestra made up solely of talented wind players, both brass and woodwinds, with a small percussion section.
“It is an amateur orchestra in the best sense of the word,” explains Buxbaum, its musical director for the past nine years. “It has gone from being a good orchestra to one on a high level. By day, the musicians include doctors, lawyers and career army professionals. I do not care what they do during the day; when the 40 members meet for rehearsals and concerts, I treat them as professionals. In turn, they play as such.
“They come together as close friends whose goal is to make fine music. My demands are high, and they put in the time and effort to make better music on every occasion.
“Audiences in Israel love that the concert band offers a new sound, as well as a variety of music,” Buxbaum details.
“The city of Or Yehuda is hosting us and we recently had a symposium for wind instruments. It is exciting that we are becoming a center for wind players throughout the country.
“Most important is that the musicians are full of enthusiasm and love performing. I would like to take them abroad,” he continues, revealing that many of them formerly played in the Ramat Gan Concert Band with legendary conductor Dov Ronen.
Buxbaum thinks the Or Yehuda Concert Band’s members express their link of friendship in their music. “The art of listening to each other is of utmost importance. It is the foundation of any music ensemble, and in a concert band the wind players experience and express it differently.
Here, the arrangements give an equal opportunity for the instruments to shine.”
Michael Vromen is the first oboist in the Or Yehuda Concert Band. “My personal pleasure,” he says, “involves the exposure to a surprisingly rich repertoire of music arranged for this particular ensemble, and many of the works have worthy oboe parts.”
Moreover, he says that the greatest pleasure emanates from the persistent effort invested by all members, contributing to an improved and pleasant sound, harmony and dynamics, and the results speak for themselves.
Buxbaum, for his part, is a professional conductor. A graduate of the Thelma Yellin High School of the Arts, he was awarded the prestigious Keren Sharett Scholarship from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, which honors outstanding students in the arts. The piano was his first instrument, and at the age of 16, famed Israeli clarinetist and sax player Albert Piamenta suggested he try the tuba.
“There is something that drew me to this instrument, whose deep voice has unexpected capacities,” Buxbaum recounts, “both in terms of melody and rhythm.”
He served in the IDF band as a pianist and tubaist, later graduating cum laude from Tel Aviv University’s Buchmann- Mehta School of Music.
The world of music is big, and nowadays Buxbaum is not only conducting but also teaching and arranging music for various ensembles, both instrumental and vocal.
He is a veteran member of the Isradixie Band, whose Dixieland renditions wowed audiences both on a Beijing tour and during this year’s White Night festivities in Tel Aviv.
This year the Or Yehuda Concert Band will play selections from Broadway, swing, big band repertoire and arrangements of music from the classics.
A highlight of one of the first concerts this season will be Fingal’s Cave by Felix Mendelssohn, a Romantic German composer.
“This is a piece of music that I think will be perfect for our concert band,” notes Buxbaum.
The sea cave, known as Fingal’s Cave, is located in the Hebrides Archipelago off the Scottish coast and is known for its exquisite natural acoustic properties. Mendelssohn visited the cave and was so inspired and excited by the unusual sounds he heard within that he immediately wrote the opening bars to a new overture and sent it on a postcard to his sister Fanny.
“I have always wanted to capture the sounds in Mendelssohn’s mind with an arrangement solely for wind ensemble,” Buxbaum details. “I feel it will capture the music in a beautiful and unique way.
“Music for wind ensembles is varied; it spans the repertoire from the beginnings of written music until this very minute. When programming, a music director has to know and give the audience what they know and love, but I believe that they should not always get it,” he says with a grin. “Both the audience and the performers need to grow in tastes and spirit.”
The key to growth in any area, Buxbaum believes, is in education: “My dream is to invest in kids.”
This will be Shai Buxbaum’s sixth year as the head of the wind and brass department at the Music Conservatory of Holon, where he is the director and head of the Holon municipal school program, as well as the conductor of the Holon Youth Orchestra and the Holon Wind Ensemble.
He explains that the municipal school music program enables fourth graders to chooses a woodwind or brass instrument and receive instruction. Within a very short time, they are grouped in small ensembles and making music. In the second year, the program offers them subsidized private study, ensemble playing and membership in the municipal youth orchestras.
There is also a program for string instruments developing in the city. Another one of Buxbaum’s goals is to have an ensemble where the strings and winds sit together side by side and play music that will produce a mixed blend of unique sounds.
“I feel that like living, music is also expansive,” Buxbaum relates. “Whether it is for children in the beginnings of music or experienced adults, there is time for private lessons, sectionals and development of new skills.
I myself try not to give up on anything, and encourage the members in ensembles I lead, the students I teach and my own young children of the importance of music in life.
“It is not only notes but an opportunity to be creative, and music can be one of the healthiest and exciting experiences a person can have.”
For more information: groups/423196167723802/