Much more than just learning an instrument
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Much more than just learning an instrument

Present at the creation

There were two terrific reasons why Sandra O. Gold got the idea of establishing a music school at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades lo these many years ago.

For one thing, she had to drive from Englewood to New York City once a week to schlep her kids to the Manhattan School of Music. First one kid, then another, then another. For 17 years. Why wasn’t there an excellent community music school right here in New Jersey?

The other reason was: The leading New York City music schools had classes for very young students only on Saturdays. So Gold had to drive in on Shabbat. And daughter Amelia expressed the wish at age 11 that she would become observant when she was an adult and would never drag her own future kids to Manhattan for music lessons on Saturdays. (Amelia went on to Juilliard and is now a violin teacher and music director of the Summer String Festival at the Elisabeth Morrow School in Englewood. Amelia Gold’s own children now attend the Thurnauer school.)

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Sandra Gold is celebrated as the founder of the Thurnauer School of Music. File photo

Her daughter’s comment “really turned the tide,” says Gold, who proceeded to create what is now the Thurnauer School at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades – and every year, she is honored at a Founders Day concert. (She and her physician husband, Dr. Arnold Gold, also founded the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, which fosters humanitarian medicine.)

The school grew from 25 students in 1984 more than 400 today, and its founding director, Dorothy Kaplan Roffman, boasts that “Our students have performed with Whoopi Goldberg and Bob McGrath on ‘Sesame Street’ and have appeared at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, and the John Harms Theater (now BergenPAC).”

Was it hard to create a music school? Yes, Gold acknowledges, there were obstacles, but she quotes Pogo Possum, the onetime comic-strip character, as referring to “insurmountable opportunities.” She credits the success of the undertaking in large part to the “cast”: people like Roffman and the late Lowell Zimmer, who was the school’s director of cultural arts.

A notable event at the Thurnauer School is the regular Gift of Music concert, at which celebrated musicians have performed with the students – this year, with the New York Philharmonic’s conductor, Alan Gilbert.

Pinchas Zukerman, the violinist, was the honored guest in 1996. Gold heard an 8-year-old cellist performing at the same concert, with Amelia conducting, and later went over to praise him. “You were wonderful, so professional,” she told him.

The boy replied that Amelia had told all of the musicians, “Don’t be stinky for Pinky.”

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