Jake Landau: The Next Leonard Bernstein?

After you’ve composed a piece for the New York Philharmonic, what’s left in life?

How about writing writing choral music for the Conservative Synagogue?

That’s Jake Landau’s latest feat.

Of course, much more lies ahead. Jake is only a Staples High School junior.

Jake Landau

A multi-talented junior, that’s for sure. A student at the Juilliard School pre-college program, a member of the New York Youth Symphony and a national PTA “Reflections” award winner, he’s been playing piano — and composing — almost all his young life.

Classical music is his favorite. But Jake is equally comfortable writing opera, musical theater, soundtracks — and now, a piece for his synagogue.

His work will be performed tomorrow (Sunday, June 3, 7 p.m.) as part of the “On a Chai Note: A Musical Celebration of Israel” concert. Accompanying Jake on piano are 2 other nationally recognized young musicians (and temple members): cellist Danielle Merlis and violinist Sam Weiser.

Amazingly, this is Jake’s 2nd world premiere this spring. Last month, the New York Philharmonic performed a piece he wrote for their School Day concert. That one, he says, was “adventurous, aggressive and knotty.” Tomorrow’s piece is “simpler.” A synagogue is not a concert hall.

Working from a text, Jake composed this work for the “up-in-the-stratosphere soprano” cantor.

Jake Landau, rehearsing at the synagogue’s piano. (Photo/Marcy Juran)

He calls the process “very rewarding. It’s not just that it will be performed by my choir. Most of my pieces are done in high-pressure concert halls, and everyone is rushed for time. This is a much more personal environment.”

Conservative Synagogue Chorale member Marcy Juran is “blown away” by Jake’s talent.

“He understands how to create a beautiful piece of music,” she says. “But the way he explains his work to the choir — how it’s constructed, how he envisions it to sound, how his music matches the liturgical text — is unparalleled.

“It reminds me of hearing Leonard Bernstein explain music — but Jake is only 16! It is a joy to listen to play his piece on the piano, direct us, and understand from him what this is all about.

Still a teenager, Jake understands the long tradition he’s part of. “Music is a craft that’s existed almost as long as man,” he notes. “Music is practical, emotive and evocative. Music is everywhere. I’m proud to help continue that legacy.”

Danielle Merlis and Sam Weiser will also perform at the Conservative Synagogue tomorrow. (Photo/Marcy Juran)

Though Jake also studies piano at Juilliard, his playing is secondary to  composing. In fact, he says, “some of the pieces I write are too difficult for me to play. Someone plays my stuff for me.”

He hopes to make a career in music — writing film scores, operas, commercial soundtracks, “whatever.”

So — after spending the past 2 summers at Interlochen and Tanglewood — this year Jake will stay home. He’ll write orchestral and chamber pieces for his conservatory and music school applications.

Oh, yeah. His college essay, too.

(“On a Chai Note: A Musical Celebration of Israel” free concert takes place Sunday, June 3, 7 p.m. at The Conservative Synagogue, 30 Hillspoint Rd. The program also includes The Western Wind, a renowned a cappella sextet, and Jewish choral singers from throughout Fairfield County. For more information, click here.)

2 responses to “Jake Landau: The Next Leonard Bernstein?

  1. Great piece on the Maestro, who deserves a standing ovation.

  2. adam.mirkine

    Awesome! Congrats Jake! You’ll do great things