The Haifa Symphony Orchestra’s principal clarinetist Jeff Howard was born and raised in Huntsville. After serving as band director at Cedar Ridge Middle School in Decatur and playing in the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra and Huntsville Opera Orchestra, Howard immigrated Jerusalem about 10 years ago. He first performed with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, then HSO. The freelance musician is also conductor of the Haifa Big Band Jazz Band (an adjunct of the HSO) and teaches saxophone and clarinet in three conservatories in northern Israel.
“Jeff has succeeded in reaching two of his lifelong goals,” said his mother, Rosalind Howard. “He wanted to live in Israel where his religious beliefs are rooted, and to work as a performing musician. He has attained both.”
Striving to work with a prestigious orchestra like the Israeli Philharmonic was aiming high, Rosalind admitted, “but he was determined.” Jeff’s determination paid off when the Israeli Philharmonic invited him to perform in a four-concert series as assistant principal clarinetist. By the end of the orchestra’s season, he was promoted to principal.
As a freelance musician, Jeff has performed with almost every Israeli orchestra, including recording five Jewish music albums with the Ruvi Banet Orchestra.
Rosalind recalls moments of her son’s elation.
“He told me that when he looked out from the stage in Tel Aviv with the Israeli Philharmonic to the seat in the hall where he sat in as a tourist, he could hardly believe he had fulfilled his dream,” she shared. “Mind you, Jeff is usually full of conversation, but he was at a loss for words that night.”
Responding by email, Jeff described life in Israel as not so different from his life in America.
“On a professional level I would say that I work much harder than I did in the United States, but I make less money,” he wrote. “This is a sacrifice I make as a Jew to live in the Holy Land.”
When Jeff first moved there, he found the culture in social and political interactions quite different, but soon adjusted. “There are fewer barriers on that level, and that’s good,” as are the spiritual rewards of living there, he explained.
A negative aspect is dealing with the fear of war.
“When thinking of Israel, or the Middle East, one thinks of war,” Jeff said. “I have dealt with the reality of missile attacks and bombings. Running through a field with your baby daughter while raid sirens wail is an Israeli experience that most Americans can’t relate to. But this is not a daily occurrence.”
Jeff and his wife, Dafna, whom he met in Israel, are raising three children. On Sunday, the day after the Anniston concert, he will be in Daytona Beach, Fla., on tour and she will be in Haifa as they celebrate their 11th anniversary.
Rosalind and her husband Dale seldom see him now, but stay closely in touch. Their extended family and friends will be at the concert Saturday in full force to make up for lost time.
“I love both Israel and Alabama,” said Jeff. “I feel very blessed to be a product of both.”
Calling all Anniston filmmakers
The city of Anniston is looking for another expression of talent from citizens, be they individuals or teams — the production of short videos that heighten the image of our city.
Anyone interested in The City of Storytellers film competition, which has been extended to April 30, is invited to attend the Calhoun County Historical Society Jan. 21 at 5 p.m. at the Public Library of Anniston-Calhoun County for a presentation by Annie Brunson. Brunson is president of the Yellowhammer Filmmakers of Northeast Alabama.
The competition, which aligns with Anniston’s “One City, One Vision” initiative, includes an adult and student division with a total of $4,000 in prizes.
Cast announced for next CAST show
CAST’s next production has been cast with five actors from northeast Alabama, artistic director/producer Kim Dobbs announced Monday. “The 39 Steps” starring Mike Crosby, Glenn Davenport, Hayley Long, David Rice and Keith Owens will run at Foothills Theater at Buckner Center Feb. 6-16.
Dobbs needs the loan of 1930s European police hats and uniforms and a haze machine to produce a thin vapor of fog. The CAST office can be reached at 256-820-2278.