Rising musician studies with nationally recognized performers through scholarship named for West Orange educator and accountant
Ori Chen, a 23-year-old student pianist from Mitzpe Ramon, Israel, became the first young artist to receive the Robin Hodes Jacobs Scholarship, an annual award granted by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Department of Arts Education and the Jacobs family of West Orange.

The scholarship was created earlier this year in tribute to the late Robin Hodes Jacobs, and commemorates her lifelong love of music and arts in education. Mrs. Jacobs, who died in 2018, is survived by her husband Roger and their children Rachel and Joshua.

“She loved Gershwin and Broadway shows, and she could play all of those,” Mr. Jacobs recalls, noting that he gave Mrs. Jacobs a baby grade piano for her 30th birthday, which she played daily. Although she never performed professionally, music was a way for Mrs. Jacobs to relax and to connect with family, Mr. Jacobs says.

The scholarship in Mrs. Jacobs’ name is dedicated to assisting young people in the study of music. Chen, who will enter the New School and Conservatory of Tel Aviv’s joint BFA program in jazz this Fall to pursue her career as a jazz pianist and composer, was granted a scholarship that allowed her to attend NJPAC’s All-Female Jazz Residency in Newark this summer. There, she studied with acclaimed performers including pianist Ellen Rowe and jazz violinist and MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellow Regina Carter, the program’s Artistic Director.

“This program was a huge step forward in my musical abilities and skills,” says Chen, who spent the residency living on the campus of Rutgers University-Newark, with a dozen other aspiring musicians.

“I feel like I’ve gotten the most precious gift by this scholarship. The future of a young artist can be completely changed when someone decides to help them fulfill their dreams. I know this scholarship did that for me,” she says.

After seeing Chen perform at the residency’s final showcase, Mr. Jacobs decided to announce a new effort to raise an additional $50,000 for the Robin Hodes Jacobs Scholarship. The first $5,000 donated to the scholarship fund will be matched by Mr. Jacobs. Those who wish to make a contribution in support of the scholarship fund may call (973) 353-7566.

An accomplished pianist and choral singer, Mrs. Jacobs began her career in special education, and also worked for many years as a certified public accountant. She played piano throughout her life, even during her final illness.

“She had many favorites. She loved Leonard Bernstein and ‘West Side Story,’ and she played and listened to many show tunes,” Mr. Jacobs says.

“She would have enjoyed seeing the NJPAC students perform. It really was inspirational,” he says.

Next season, the scholarship will enable a young pianist to attend NJPAC’s year-long Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens program, which offers weekly lessons and ensemble rehearsal, as well as a program of performances in the city and beyond. As the scholarship’s underlying fund grows, more students from underserved communities will be assisted in pursuing musical studies through annual grants from the fund.

New York Jewish Guide

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