Milken Archive of Jewish Music:
1990–Present

Since its founding in 1990 the Milken Archive has become one of the most ambitious Jewish music projects of its time.
This timeline highlights some of the key events and developments in the project's history.

1990

Milken Archive is Founded

After several discussions and experiences commissioning new works for the synagogue, Lowell Milken establishes the Milken Family Archive of 20th Century American Jewish Music. Composer Michael Isaacson serves as artistic director and begins organizing recording sessions. The name is later changed to the Milken Archive of Jewish Music.

OCTOBER, 1990

First Recording Sessions

By October of 1990, Isaacson leads the first recording sessions, which included several liturigical pieces by Jack Gottlieb.

Isaacson Gottlieb
From left: Composers Michael Isaacson and Jack Gottlieb

1992

Editorial Board is Established

The Milken Family Foundation establishes an Advisory Board together with an Editorial Committee, headed by music historian, conductor and Jewish Theological Seminary music professor, Neil W. Levin, as artistic director.

NOVEMBER, 1994

Oral History Project Launches

Late in 1994 the Milken Archive records its first oral history with Cantor Max Wohlberg. Weeks later the oral history project begins in earnest with sessions recorded with Seymour Rechtzeit and Miriam Kressyn (Yiddish theater performers), Moshe Ganchoff (cantor), Hugo Weisgall (composer), and Henry Rosenblatt (opera singer, son of cantor Yossele Rosenblatt). 30 years later, the oral history project contains more than 180 interviews with some of the 20th century's leading composers, cantors, and artists.


Seymour Rechtzeit and Miriam Kressyn, two legends of the American Yiddish theater, discuss rare performances and their courtship.

JULY, 1998

European Recording Begins

After much planning, an ambitious recording agenda commences. Forgotten masterpieces by Joseph Achron and Stephan Wolpe are recorded in Berlin, along with symphonic works by Samuel Adler and Leon Stein. Achron's violin concerto, the first concerto to utilize cantillation motifs as thematic material, had not been performed since the composer premiered it himself in 1927.


Joseph Achron's Violin Concerto no.1, featuring violinist Elmar Oliveira, was recorded at the Jesus Christus Kirche in Berlin, Germany.

OCTOBER, 2000

A Jewish Music Festival in Prague

In Prague, the complete Sacred Service by Darius Milhaud, one of the undisputed masterpieces of Jewish liturgical music, receives its first complete recording by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of Gerard Schwarz.


Short documentary feature on the Milken Archive's recording of Darius Milhaud's masterpiece of Jewish liturgical music, Service Sacre, in Prague.

NOVEMBER, 2001

The Eternal Road

The Milken Archive commences its largest and most complex project to date: the first recording of The Eternal Road, an extravagant oratorio juxtaposing modern history and biblical lore in a metaphor for Jewish redemption, with music by Kurt Weill.


Short documentary feature on Kurt Weill's The Eternal Road, an extravagant oratorio that juxtaposes modern history and biblical lore in a metaphor for Jewish redemption.

SEPTEMBER, 2003

The Collection Debuts

After several years of recording and post-production work, the Archive debuts its first CD recordings on the Naxos American Classics label. The initial releases include music by Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Weill, Darius Milhaud, and Abraham Ellstein. The debut is announced in the New York Times, which covered many of the Archive's releases and concerts.

NOVEMBER, 2003

Only in America: Jewish Music in a Land of Freedom

In partnership with the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Milken Archive produces an international conference-festival heralding the 350th anniversary of American Jewry and celebrating the Archive's debut. The five-day event includes workshops, panels, world premieres, and concerts featuring repertoire included in the Archive. Venues included Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Jewish Theological Seminary.

NOVEMBER, 2003

Lowell Milken Receives Recognition in Conference

Ishmar Schorsh, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, presents Lowell Milken with a special award honoring his commitment to the preservation of Jewish culture. The ceremony takes place on the 65th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

2004

Nineteen Albums Released

2004 proves the busiest year for album releases. Highlights included the historic recording of the Genesis Suite, the Vienna Boys Choir singing in Hebrew for the first time, and a new recording of Dave Brubeck's civil rights cantata, The Gates of Justice.

SEPTEMBER, 2004

Leonard Nimoy Hosts Milken Archive Radio Program

Produced in conjunction with the WFMT network and broadcast on radio stations throughout the U.S., the 13-part series of two-hour programs, American Jewish Music from the Milken Archive with Leonard Nimoy, brought the Archive's work to millions of listeners. It remains one of the Archive's most popular creations.

DECEMBER, 2004

Deems Taylor Award

Artistic Director Neil W. Levin receives the Deems Taylor Award from the ASCAP Foundation. The award recognizes books, articles, and liner notes for their excellence. Levin received the award for his liner notes accompanying the Joseph Achron CD.

FEBRUARY, 2005

David Frost Wins Producer of the Year Grammy Award

Producer David Frost wins the Grammy award for Producer of the Year, Classical, for his work on five Milken Archive albums: Dave Brubeck, Bruce Adolphe, Genesis Suite, Jewish Operas Volume 1 and Yehudi Wyner.

2006

The Complete Collection

With the release of nine more albums, the Archive's 50 CD "preview" collection is complete. The final spate of releases includes Volume 2 of the Scenes from Jewish Operas series, an album of string quartets, and music from Joseph Rumshinsky's Yiddish theater productions.

November, 2006

One People, Many Voices

The Archive's achievement is celebrated with a concert and gala at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Leonard Nimoy emcees the event, which featured Gerard Schwarz conducting Members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and a host of soloists performing selections from the Archive's repertoire.

2007

To Download or Not to Download?

Although CDs still account for 90% of sales, the music industry continues to shift away from physical media. Encouraged by the increased access offered by downloadable music, Archive leadership commits to releasing the remaining recordings in digital-only formats.

2009

A Virtual Museum

The Milken Archive embraces the potential of the Internet as a platform for distribution and access. Planning for a "virtual museum" begins and ethnomusicologist Jeff Janeczko, Ph.D., is hired as Curator.


From left: Composer Bruce Adolphe and Curator Jeff Janeczko at a Milken Archive
oral history interview session.

SEPTEMBER, 2011

A New Website + Recording Releases Resume

After a hiatus, the Archive resumes plans to release its complete 20-volume recording collection. The virtual museum website is launched, featuring six volumes (24 albums) of music, accompanied by videos, photographs, and oral histories. The initiative becomes known as the Milken Archive of Jewish Music: The American Experience.

APRIL, 2012

Not So Still Life, With Music

The Milken Archive presents paintings by Ralph Gilbert at a world premiere exhibition opening April 9-24, 2012, in conjunction with the premiere of the Violins of Hope at the UNC Charlotte Center City Building in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Archive commissioned Gilbert to create artwork for each of its 20 themed volumes.

2015

Recording Releases Completed

In November of 2015 the Archive released the last of its original recordings. The long awaited "mussaf" service for Rosh Hashanah comprises two full-length albums and represents a broad spectrum of composers and musical practices of the Conservative movement of the mid-20th century. The Archive now comprises 50 CDs and nearly 140 digital albums.

APRIL, 2017

Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music is Established at UCLA

After several years of discussion, the Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music is established at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. The fund's mission is to build on the Archive's work through performance, education, and community outreach. Professor Mark Kligman is appointed Director.


From left: Lowell Milken (Founder, Milken Archive), Judith Smith (Founding Dean of the Herb Alpert School of Music at UCLA), and Mark Kligman (Mickey Katz Chair in Jewish Music at UCLA)

NOVEMBER, 2017

American Culture and the Jewish Experience Through Music

A three-day conference and performance series hosted at UCLA serves to innaugurate the Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music. Events include the premiere of David's Quilt, a collobaratively composed oratorio by 15 Los Angeles composers telling the biblical story of King David, and a recreation of a special 1945 Jewish music concert featuring prominent European composers exiled in Los Angeles.

OCTOBER, 2018

Stories of Music

Work begins on a turnkey adult education curriculum. A project of the Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music at UCLA, the "Stories of Music" curriculum was developed in partnership with the Cantors Assembly and the American Conference of Cantors, and the Milken Archive of Jewish Music.

MARCH, 2020

UCLA American Jewish Music Festival

The Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music at UCLA hosts Music Crossing Boundaries, a two-day festival featuring more than 20 events on campus and off. The culminating concert, “Titans of Jewish Music,” features works by Arnold Schoenberg, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Erich Zeisl, and Gustav Mahler’s monumental Symphony No. 1 in D Major. Preceding the main event were concerts featuring klezmer, Persian fusion, bluegrass, a world premiere piano cycle by Ljova (Lev Zhurbin), and talks by artists and scholars.

TODAY

The Mission Continues

The Milken Archive continues to preserve, disseminate, and educate the public about the rich history of Jewish music throughout the American experience. Current efforts focus heavily on the creation of web features, unique documentary videos, and expanding the oral history collection. Additionally, through its collaboration with the Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music at UCLA, it has helped launch a new adult education curriculum, an oral history research tool, and several research projects that will shape the field of American Jewish music for years to come.