Last month, we congratulated GRS percussionist Elliot Beck who has accepted a position as Assistant Principal Timpanist and Section Percussionist with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. We spoke with him before he departs the United States to learn more about this exciting opportunity.
What compelled you to audition for a job in Israel?
The un-glamorous answer is that I was seeking a full time position, and the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra was holding auditions. But they are a world-class orchestra that performs with top conductors and guest artists and that is an amazing opportunity. They tour two to three months a year. The touring schedules are crazy with visits to different cities across the world every day. I figured that is a good thing to do while I'm young and before I want to settle down. Also, I'm Jewish and that is very important to me.
After working as a GRS percussionist, how will this position be different for you?
I auditioned on both timpani and percussion, as the position requires me to play both. David Hall holds a similar position at the GRS. This position was looking for someone to play all principal parts as well since the Israeli Philharmonic performs so often. I've been playing timpani in the West Michigan Symphony and percussion with the Lansing Symphony, so I've definitely been keeping it up on the side.
What was the audition process like?
The audition process was pretty similar to the Grand Rapids Symphony's. There were some American players and some Israeli players. It involved two rounds: once behind a screen where they ask you perform different passages and to change some things, and then without a screen with the conductor present. The final step was to play at a rehearsal with the orchestra. I was the only person to make it to the rehearsal. That was an amazing experience because I was able to perform all the best percussion parts and really gain a sense of performing with this particular orchestra.
What are you most excited or nervous about living and working in a different country?
I'm definitely looking forward to getting in touch with my Jewish heritage and roots, reconnecting and studying Hebrew again. I studied the language for eight years in school, and I'm excited to experience a different perspective outside of the United States. It's very easy in that part of the world to see Europe and the Mediterranean. I have a friend who plays with the Jordanian National Orchestra which is close.
As far as what I'm nervous about, I'd say adjusting to a different culture will be a challenge at first. But I have a cousin that lives in Israel, and I'm finding out about more and more distant relatives in Israel and even in the orchestra. One night when I was there wandering around and I ran into a friend from Pittsburgh! So, I won't be completely on my own.
What will you miss the most about the Grand Rapids Symphony and our city?
I will miss the orchestra and all the musicians. Even after only one year it really feels like a family. I remember after I got the job, I went to a committee meeting and (Principal Viola) Leslie Van Becker immediately said "welcome to the GRS!" It's sad to leave that so soon.
From my preliminary observations, I don't think Israel has the highly developed beer culture. I'll miss the landscape, although I'm excited to not experience the Michigan winters. Israel is not as well-equipped in the winter since the homes aren't insulated very well. But their winter only lasts about two weeks! My travel schedule with the Israeli Philharmonic will frequently bring me back to the United States; we are actually touring in Chicago this upcoming November.