Jeffrey BrodyJeffrey Brody: multitalented

Jeffrey Brody, music director and organist at Park Avenue Congregational Church in Arlington Heights, shares his expressive keyboard skills with the community when he performs in PACC’s concert series. Many may not be aware, however, that he is also active as conductor and vocal coach, and that he is the composer of more than 80 pieces including two operas.

As music director of Longwood Opera, Brody supports talented young singers in gaining performance experience, while keeping costs down for the audience. He conducts auditions, works with the singers at rehearsals, and then performs piano reductions of full orchestral scores at the company’s performances in Needham.

He explained that creating his two operas involved a multistep process:

"Many do not realize that composing an opera amounts to setting music to an existing text. Once I have the text, I work almost every day for many months. Changes and improvements, big and small, are all possible.

"These changes are made with feedback from the performers as well as further self-criticism. Assisting singers to learn and perform other composer’s music is what I normally do, so it’s a true delight to not only prepare, but also perform my own composition for a change."

Brody’s interest in opera, and especially Wagnerian opera, began early. He remembers listening to the radio at the age of 12, and his profound reaction upon his first exposure to Wagner when he heard Arthur Fiedler conducting "Siegfried’s Rhine Journey" in a Boston Pops performance. Because of his deep love for opera, Brody sought out opportunities to accompany voice students when he majored in organ at Boston University.

In Seattle, Boston

Appointed to the musical staff of Seattle Opera in 1986, he has served as assistant conductor and prompter for that company’s acclaimed summer production of Wagner’s "Ring." He has also done musical preparation for the Opera Company of Boston and Boston Lyric Opera. As music adviser of the Boston Wagner Society, he selects repertoire and artists for their concerts and is a frequent contributor to their quarterly, Wagneriana.

He made his orchestral conducting debut with the Richmond Festival Orchestra in a 1995 program of original works and frequently guest conducts the Harvard Musical Association Orchestra, among others.

His compositions, published exclusively by Ashbrook Music, include works for orchestra, chorus, chamber music and organ. They have been performed in the most prestigious venues on three continents, including Boston’s Symphony Hall, Washington’s National Cathedral, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Vienna Konzerthaus, the Venetian festival “la città, la musica e il sacro,” the Temple of the Shinji Kai in Shiga, Japan, and on National Public Radio.

Recent major commissions include "Beowulf, a Musical Legend," for soloists, chorus and orchestra, written for performance in the Vienna Musikvereinsaal, as well as his second opera, The Picture of Dorian Gray, which opened Longwood Opera’s 25th anniversary gala season in June 2011 with critical acclaim from the Boston Musical Intelligencer.

Relationship with Salem

Brody enjoys a most distinctive artistic relationship with the Salem Philharmonic Orchestra, which has presented 20 of his original works and arrangements since 1999. Recent seasons brought performances under his baton of his Violin Concerto written for maestro Alan Hawryluk, Two Essays for Orchestra and a highly acclaimed Concerto for Flute and Orchestra.

The 2009-10 season included performances with the Arlington-Belmont Chamber Choir, the Parkway Concert Orchestra and the Harvard Summer Orchestra. The 2011-2012 season brought the premiere of Rhapsody on Armenian Themes for Piano and Orchestra. The 2012-2013 season brought the premieres of the Symphonic Suite from Dorian Gray with the Salem Philharmonic and the Paul Madore Chorale as well as a newly commissioned work, Symphony in Three Movements, for the Seattle Chamber Orchestra conducted by maestro Johan Louwersheimer.

A finalist in the 1999 European International Composers Competition, he has also received numerous ASCAP awards. Several of his commissioned choral and organ works are available on AFKA and SPC compact discs.

Brody is a member of the International Siegfried Wagner Society; the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; the National Association of Teachers of Singing; the American Guild of Organists; and the Boston Singers Resource, for which he has served as audition adjudicator.

In honor of the many years of his artistic collaboration with Berj Zamkochian, the late Boston Symphony Orchestra organist, the Gomidas Organ Fund presented Brody with the baton used by Charles Munch, music director and conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1949-1962.

This profile was published Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014.