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Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen


Francesco Spagnolo

Jews & Music Scholar-in-Residence

Jonathan Cohen


Jews & Music

Since its inception in 2015, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale’s Jews & Music initiative has taken audiences on journeys of discovery that deepen connections for Jews and non-Jews to historical, political and social contexts that inform the creation of music. Philharmonia is the only major American orchestra with a permanent initiative dedicated to exploring the relationship between Jews and music from the 17th to the 21st centuries.
Jews & Music (JAM) is a continuous exploration that probes the rich legacies of Jewish composers and performers; non-Jews who worked with Jews or drew inspiration from them; the socio-political milieu they inhabited; and Jewish themes that have emerged across music and visual art over time. Programs illuminate the achievements of Jewish composers such as Felix Mendelssohn, as well as those who were obscured by time and persecution, such as Salamone Rossi and Ignaz Moscheles. Canonical oratorios by George Frideric Handel gain historical heft and depth when revisited with insightful analysis of his scriptural sources and the social forces that supported his music. Rare gems of the repertoire that draw inspiration from Jewish culture, such as Maurice Ravel, a non-Jew who wrote one of the most famous adaptations of the Kaddish, shines a light on the inspiration of Jewish history, heritage and music.
JAM’s unique programs bring together dynamic musical performances and conversations in a deep dive into the arts and history. Events are presented in a multimedia format that connects major conductors, guest artists and scholars, with audiences. Each program provides for audience participation and a wine reception with the artists and scholars. Over the past five years, Music Director Laureate Nicholas McGegan has led these vital programs; Music Director Richard Egarr and other major artists will participate in future years. JAM also maintains its own Scholar-in-Residence, Francesco Spagnolo, curator of the Magnes Collection at UC Berkeley. He participates in and moderates every program.
JAM is woven into the fabric of all of Philharmonia’s artistry, and serves as a platform to collaborate with peer organizations and commission new works that are Jewishly-inspired. JAM has become very popular and the programs have taken place throughout the Bay Area and across the country, with plans underway for appearances in New York and in Europe.

Jews & Music receives vital support from:

Drs. Ross E.  Armstrong & Jonas (Jay) K. Stern Jews & Music Fund

The Koret Foundation

The Marmor Foundation

Gaia Fund

Presenting Partners

Stanford Live

San Francisco Jewish Community Center

The Magnes Collection
at UC Berkeley

Harvard University

Yale University

Oshman Family JCC

Contemporary Jewish Museum

University of Chicago

American Modern Opera Company (AMOC)

Dartmouth College

Recent Jews & Music Events

Wednesday, March 15, 2023 | 8:00 P.M.
Thursday, March 16, 2023 | 8:00 P.M.
Taube Atrium Theater, Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera, San Francisco
Friday, March 17, 2023 | 7:30 PM
Bing Concert Hall, Stanford

DIASPORA: Jewish Music of Longing & Celebration

GRAMMY-winning conductor Jeannette Sorrell returns to PBO as part of the organization’s acclaimed Jews & Music program—bringing together members from her ensemble Apollo’s Fire alongside the Philharmonia Chamber Players and singers from the Philharmonia Chorale in this unique collaboration between two of the country’s most vital historical performance ensembles. In this new program, Sorrell draws on her previous work in acclaimed recordings of Jewish music—and her own Jewish roots—to create an exploration of Sephardic, Romani, and Ashkenazy musical traditions. From a soulful prayer of longing for Jerusalem, to a ballad of a lover betrayed, to a joyful wedding dance and neighborhood party, the sounds of plucked instruments, wooden flutes, and exotic percussion blend with the rhythms of daily life—love, singing, dancing and prayer. The company of performers, including musicians of Palestinian, Yiddish, and Sephardic traditions, join in a program of solidarity and celebration. PBO Jews & Music Scholar in Residence Francesco Spagnolo will join Jeanette in conversations as they explore roots, music, and more.

Jeannette Sorrell, conductor & harpsichord
Francesco Spagnolo, Scholar in Residence
Polina Skovoroda Shepherd, soprano
Haitham Haidar, tenor
Jeffrey Strauss, baritone
Alan Choo, violin
Emi Tanabe, violin
Daphna Mor, recorder, ney & voice
Merlin Shepherd, klezmer clarinet
Apollo’s Singers
Philharmonia Chorale Quintet
Philharmonia Chamber Players

Jeannette Sorrell, conductor

Francesco Spagnolo, Scholar in Residence


As part of PBO/VIRTUAL, we’re featuring past and future JAMOnline (Jews & Music Online) events with Jews & Music Scholar-in-Residence Francesco Spagnolo, featuring insightful dialogue and music from PBO musicians and special guests.

*Then, scroll down to the JAMOnline section.*