Monday, March 22, 2004

Remembering Ira Silber Z'L

Today I received the following email from David Bogner:
Dear Blogger in Dm:
I know your blog has become sort of a clearinghouse for rumors, irony, gripes, sarcasm, and criticism from a JM insider’s point of view. But it would be altogether appropriate for you to invite musicians to share their bandstand memories of working with Ira Silber (Z"L). In anticipation of that invitation, I'd like to offer the following:
My first introduction to Ira back in 1986 took place over the phone when he called me up in my YU dorm room to ask if I would like to audition for his band, Ruach. I explained that I didn't know a lot of the tunes, but I would be interested in an 'on-the-job-training' arrangement. After a quick audition up in the Ave 'M' offices of Ruach Orchestras (remember the sign with the white ‘ghost hands’ over the keyboard), Shmu (Klaver) and Ira decided to give me a few gigs.
A few gigs turned into a few seasons, and the rest (as they say) is history.
Ira was a very patient mentor, and was eager to answer my questions about tune calling, wedding customs, bandstand etiquette, section harmony, etc. He was never bothered when I didn’t know a tune, and he would often play softly along with me if I seemed tentative about a melody or harmony line. Under Ira’s tutelage I played in horn sections with the likes of Eddy Hajian, Shelly Gordan, Ron Horton, Spencer McLeash, Gene Keys, and Ray Musiker (to name only a few). If he had given me a paid subscription for a series of Julliard master classes, he couldn’t have devised a better education for a young, inexperienced club-date musician. He placed me in an internship that would be very difficult to duplicate today. In addition to making sure I new the music, he also took pains to make sure I knew the do’s and don’ts of being part of a professional ensemble. There were more than a few gigs at the Aperian Manor that were followed with gentle advice /constructive criticism sessions over shwarma at Steakiad Dizangoff.
Ira took me under his wing and gave me a no-questions-asked entrĂ©e into a world where few second chances are ever offered…and let me tell you, he gave me more than a few second chances.
There came a time when, thanks to the education and preparation Ira had given me, I began to get calls from other offices. I talked with him about it, and he was a true mentch about letting me freelance around.
Ultimately, my freelancing gave me a taste of the different bandstands. Some bands I grew to hate...and others I instantly loved. I ended up turning down work from the one’s I hated and actively sought a lasting relationship with the one’s I loved.
The end result was that I drifted away from Ira because Ruach didn’t engender either of these strong emotions. Ira’s bandstand had always been simply comfortable for me…no fireworks…just comfortable. It wasn’t until years later (when I was getting ready to leave Jewish Musica altogether and make aliyah) that I realized that comfortable is just another flavor of love.
A few years ago on Purim I ran into Ira over at Yitzy Braun’s house. We hadn’t seen each other in years, and spent a few minutes catching up on each other’s lives. Far from being bitter that I’d taken his gift of a club-date education and moved on to ‘greener pastures’, he seemed genuinely pleased at my relative success. I took that opportunity to thank him for bringing me into ‘the business’ and gave him a hug & kiss when I left. However, our parting was more of a ‘seeya later’ than a real ‘goodbye’ (aren't they always?).
While I’m happy that at least one important ‘thank you’ in my life wasn’t left unsaid…It doesn’t do much to fill the empty space left by his passing
Goodbye Ira. Thank you. You were a mentch.
I'm going to take up David's suggestion and invite anyone who wants to share their memories of Ira to send them in.