Lauren Veronis joined the Board of Directors of American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 2000 and currently serves as Chairman of the Executive Committee and Vice President. A dedicated supporter of the IPO, she has been involved in many events and is a co-chair of the November 5th New York Gala. Mrs. Veronis recently shared her thoughts on what the orchestra means to her, why the upcoming United States tour is so exciting and more.
You’ve been on the AFIPO board for 15 years, why did you initially become involved with the organization?
Number one I love Israel. Number two I love music. Number three I love Zubin Mehta. So this seemed like an absolutely perfect marriage. I’ve known Zubin personally since the 1970s and had heard a great deal about the orchestra from him and had heard them play. Zubin is so passionate about the orchestra, he talks about them both while touring as well as when on his own. We’re exceedingly lucky to have him as the music director, he’s such a great people person, wherever you go in the world he is so highly respected and well-received.
What excites you the most about AFIPO’s mission?
To me the most exciting part, clearly it’s a magnificent orchestra and they are world-class musicians, but the thing is that is truly exceptional is that they are the face of Israel. Most people will not visit Israel and there is nothing else in Israel that travels around the world – not museums, not hospital research centers – but this is an orchestra that you can experience in your own home town. Especially Asia, South America and Russia – the audience may never have seen an Israeli or a Jewish person and then there is the orchestra, looking wonderful and playing beautifully. They are the greatest messengers of the beautiful Israel that we love.
What do you find most challenging about supporting the orchestra?
Well, I think the most challenging part is the fact that, when I joined I thought that because music is an international language that it would appeal to people of all religious groups. But I found that is not the case. It is mostly supported by the Jewish community, which I find unfortunate in a way. Also, in today’s climate, with diminished interest in classical music it’s more difficult to get young people on board and excited than it was perhaps 25 years ago.
What do you wish other people knew about the IPO?
I think that it is the greatest messenger of Israel and totally our greatest ambassador, showing the most beautiful face of the Jewish people and of course its music and playing is superb. It is sometimes difficult to get people to become interested in classical music but I think if they came just once and experienced it they would feel really proud.
What is the most memorable concert of the IPO for you?
I don’t think I can pick one out, they are all different and special in their own way so it’s hard to select one. However, there was a concert two years ago in New York; it was dedicated to the memory of Marvin Hamlisch, a great friend of mine. My husband and I had co-chaired a previous New York gala with him. And in 2012 he passed away in an untimely death and we dedicated this concert to him. At the end of it the orchestra played an overture of his music and it was very touching and beautiful.
You are very involved in the events AFIPO has, is there one that stands out for you?
Again, it’s hard to pick just one. I think we’ve done some wonderful events in New York and they’re doing amazing events in LA. But now there is a definite interest in getting different regions of the US involved. We are a national organization and that momentum has really picked up. We’ve had some wonderful patron trips as well – those are very special. You get to experience the orchestra in different cities while they are on tour and it really brings people together.
You’re a co-chair for the upcoming NY Gala what does that involve?
Well, the gala is a huge fundraising event and to make it financially great you have to really get behind it and generate support. There’s a lot of work to be done to raise awareness and support, my husband John and I are both happy to pitch in. Then of course there are all the details and planning – the food, flowers, program…all the things that go into making the evening very special.
What are you most excited about regarding the November IPO tour?
This year the orchestra is going to cities they don’t get to very often, which is going to help expand their reach. For instance, they haven’t been to Dallas in 22 years, so probably most of the people in the audience will never have experienced them. I think it is extremely important for the orchestra to go to these other cities. We in New York and LA like to think we’re the big cheeses in the US, but there are many other cities that have great music lovers and it’s wonderful to get the orchestra to them and spread the message.
As you look ahead to the next several years, what do you see for the IPO?
The orchestra is doing an awful lot of programs of great interest now. They’re helping many children in Israel; they’re reaching at risk children, teaching them to play instruments. This program, called Sulamot, has 18 symphonic orchestras and bands throughout Israel. More than 1,000 children are in this program and there is a special program to teach blind children. Additionally, we have KeyNote, which is the orchestra’s program for music education and community outreach with over 20,000 members from kindergarten through the army. It teaches respect and tolerance through music and it is open to all Israeli citizens whether they be Jewish, Christian or Muslim.
They also have Shesh Besh, the Arab-Jewish musical ensemble. So they’re doing many things beyond playing classical music in concert halls and I think a lot of people are interested in that, especially younger people. So now people that are not great classical devotees are finding new ways to support the orchestra.
What is your hope for AFIPO in the future?
We really want to get more young people on board because the future of any organization is with the young. I want them to support the work of the orchestra. My goal is to see more and more young people come out to help.
What is your favorite piece of classical music?
My husband and I both like Mahler very much we’re both very excited to hear Mahler’s 2nd at the New York concert this year. It’s going to be very special and we’re looking forward to it.
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