Supporting an orchestra would seem like a natural fit for an Oscar-winning composer like Hans Zimmer, but the history behind the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra creates a more personal connection to the music man.
The product of the joint vision of Fredric Mann and the organization’s current music director Zubin Mehta, who responded to the lack of Israeli government subsidy or endowment for the orchestra, the mission for American Friends was solidified in 1980.
The two created an endowment fund in the United States for the orchestra, founded in 1936, and the non-profit now operates with the goal of sustaining the orchestra’s financial future, supporting its educational programs and broadening its reach.
On July 16, the Friends will honor Zimmer with its first lifetime achievement award at the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.
The event will feature Mehta and members of the orchestra, who will play selections from some of Zimmer’s most memorable film scores. The concert will be its only West Coast performance until November 2015.
Zimmer’s longtime business partner Steven Kofsky proposed the idea to the composer. He says he was also drawn to the orchestra, founded by refugees, due to its roots and rich history.
“I brought them to see our studios here in Santa Monica. I knew that they had to raise money,” Kofsky says. “They’re an incredibly good orchestra. I’m Jewish as well, so I’m delighted to find a way to somehow support them.”
The Friends’ West Coast director Danielle Ames Spivak says she and Kofsky were connected by the Israeli consulate and the two first discussed the possibility of a Zimmer collaboration two years ago, after Kofsky saw a film about the orchestra.
“When we came to the United States, it was really important to us to be able to present a more contemporary, innovative program to our audience in Los Angeles and really connect with the Hollywood community,” she says.
“We were looking for somebody that really represented L.A. and really represented local Los Angeles life as well as being kind of a giant in the music world, and Hans is both.”
Spivak says that while Zimmer has long maintained a relationship with Mehta, this marks the beginning of his formal ties with the charity and the orchestra.
“Hans is from Germany — (he) grew up in Germany after World War II — and on a personal level, definitely the mission and the legacy and the history of the orchestra really resonates with him,” she says.
Invitations have not been sent out yet, but the event honoring Zimmer has already raised $800,000 and the organization is expecting that number to reach $1.5 million.
“We are the arm of the Israel Philharmonic in the United States,” says Spivak. “We create awareness and raise funds for the orchestra. It was very important for us to acknowledge somebody who’s obviously made significant contributions in the world of music, but also on a personal level has given back to his community and been very involved in humanitarian efforts.”
Going forward, Spivak says the non- profit hopes to continue its relationship with Zimmer, though no future collaborations are officially in the works as yet.
“Hans has done amazing work with orchestras around the world,” she says, “and the intention is that the relationship with the Israel Philharmonic will just continue to grow.”