The Shulamit Conservatory (1910)
The beginning of professional musical education in Israel is in great measure the product of the efforts of Shulamit Ruppin, who acquired donations and established Israel’s first music conservatory.
This institution opened its doors in Jaffa in 1910, and counted among its faculty a number of professional musicians who were invited from Europe expressly to teach there. At the head of the institution (which changed its name to the Shulamit Conservatory after Shulamit Ruppin’s untimely death) was the violinist Moshe Hopenko, of Geneva. The first group of students numbered 75, 30 of whom had been sent from Europe by their parents especially to study at the institution. The conservatory enjoyed immense popularity in pre-state Israel, and student concerts, even the end-of-year playing evaluations, became major social and cultural attractions in Jaffa. The school’s concerts filled a void for the many immigrants who had been accustomed to attending classical music performances in Europe, and who had forgone this pleasure for the daily toil of living in a Mideastern port town. Before long, the conservatory moved to the new, adjacent, town of Tel Aviv that was being built on the sands, and became deeply entrenched in the life of the local community.
At that time, Tel Aviv had 1,800 residents, and 37% of its children studied music at the conservatory. This amazingly high percentage remained stable until the 1930’s, when the number of students increased along with the dramatic growth in the population of the city.
In 1925, at Moshe Hopenko’s invitation, the pianist Leopold Godovsky visited the conservatory. In 1926 Hopenko invited the violinist Yasha Hefetz, who also donated money for an auditorium in his name. In 1927 the pianist Arthur Rubinstein visited Shulamit. In 1930 Yariv Ezrachi performed for Prof. Albert Einstein and the British High Commissioner, Herbert Samuel, as a soloist with the Shulamit Orchestra.
Renowned graduates of the Conservatory include: violinists Itzhak Perlman , Ivri Gitlis, Yifrah Ne’eman, Shimon Mishori, Yehoshua Epstein, pianists Pnina Salzman , Varda Nishri, and flutist Yitzhak Buchman. Celebrated teachers included the composers Paul ben Chaim and Yoel Engel, violinist and composer Yosef Acharon, the cellist Thelma Yellin and violinist Yariv Ezrachi.
The Ron Conservatory (1938)
Opened in Tel Aviv by famed violinist Yariv Ezrachi, a graduate of Shulamit. In 1968 he changed the name to Ron Shulamit Conservatory, to honor Shulamit’s legacy after it closed. Among thConservatory’s famous students are violinist Shlomo Mintz, pianist Rami Bar Niv, and viola player Daniel Binyamini.
The Ron Shulamit Conservatory in Jerusalem (1972)
In the beginning of the 1970’s the gates of the Soviet Union began to open for the Jews, who joined the growing tide of immigration to Israel after the victory of the Six-Day War. This influx of population, and the reunification of Jerusalem, led to an unprecedented wave of construction in the capital, and entire new neighborhoods were built: Ramat Eshkol, Neve Yaakov, French Hill and others. Yet, while Jerusalem filled with ever more children, there was only one music school in the city.
In 1972 Ofra Broshi , Yariv Ezrachi’s daughter and a musician herself, founded two branches of the Ron-Shulamit Conservatory in Jerusalem. They were opened with the endorsement of Teddy Kollek, Jerusalem’s mayor at the time, and were housed in school buildings in Kiryat Moshe and Ramat Eshkol. Most of the teachers were new immigrants. Enrollment in the conservatory reached full capacity almost from the beginning, with students studying a myriad of musical instruments. In 1980 there were 800 students studying music in the Jerusalem branches of Ron-Shulamit.
In 1982 the Kiryat Moshe branch relocated to Beit Hakerem, where it operates to this day and in which 250 children and youth study music and dance.
The Ron-Shulamit Conservatory in Har Nof (1988)
The 1980’s saw the growth of new neighborhoods for Jerusalem’s ultra-orthodox community, that had until then lived in conditions of poverty and crowding in the city’s older areas. This community had never before had a professional school for music education. In 1988, the current Director of Ron-Shulamit, Arieh Chasid (himself an immigrant musician who came to Israel from Russia in 1973), established a branch of the conservatory in the neighborhood of Har Nof, that operates within the framework of the ultra-orthodox life-style.
The new branch brought with it many surprises: the talent uncovered in this community was astounding. The qualities of self-discipline, work ethic, humility and high motivation among the ultra-orthodox matched well with the demands of music study, and Ron-Shulamit rapidly became one of the most important music institutions in Jerusalem, and on a par with the best in Israel. Within a few years, the number of students reached over 500, and three orchestras were formed: Zmora, a professional women’s string orchestra, a student chamber music orchestra and Accordi-Ron, an accordion orchestra. In addition, the school has a complete ballet school and boasts music therapy as well as a mainstreaming program that integrates special needs children and youth into regular music classes. The latest achievement has been the opening of a Bachelor’s Degree program in music education in collaboration with the Levinsky Teacher’s College , one of whose founders was Mordechai Krishevsky-Ezrachi, the father of Yariv Ezrachi; and thus an esteemed connection of old has come full cycle and been renewed.
The effect of Ron-Shulamit upon the neighborhood of Har Nof has led to the acceptance of music education as an important element in girls’ education within the ultra-orthodox community. More and more families, who initially were far removed from classical music or dance, have been enrolling their children in Ron-Shulamit, and concert halls in which our students and teachers perform are filled to capacity. It has been a true “renaissance”.