Spotlight on Alumni – Showtime!

Here at Israel Outdoors we love to hear about our alumni’s talents. Benjamin T. participated in a Taglit-Birthright trip with Israel Outdoors one year ago in December of 2013. Ben is an accomplished clarinetist who is studying music and business.


Benjamin & Nick at Banias National Park


Where are you from?
Katonah, New York, which is a suburb north of New York City.

Where do you live currently?
Evanston, Illinois, which is a suburb north of Chicago.

What do you do now for a living?
I’m currently a full-time student at Northwestern University, studying clarinet performance and arts administration. My goal is to work in operations, development, education, or management with a symphony orchestra. I want to change the experience of a Classical Music concert for the better, so that no one is turned off by the snobbish environment of a Classical concert hall. I want to show people that Classical Music’s not dead–it’s more alive than ever.

How long have you been playing the clarinet?
I’ve been doing this for over 10 years now. Oy vey.

What is your favorite part about playing the clarinet?
I owe so much to the clarinet. That might sound strange, but my instrument has allowed me to study at one of the world’s top research universities and has given me a close network of friends who share my passion for music. Studying clarinet can be frustrating at times, but nothing in life brings me more joy. Plus, it gives me an excuse to wear my tuxedo more often, so it can’t be all bad.

What is your favorite music related story?
A few summers ago, I was performing with the Young Artists Orchestra at Tanglewood. I was on stage warming up in Ozawa Hall about 10 minutes before the concert was about to start. My twin brother, Nick, was sitting in the audience. He’s an oboist studying at the New England Conservatory, and we traveled on Birthright together. Now, I’ll admit that my brother and I look pretty similar. This became a problem when Nick caught the eye of my teacher from the other side of the balcony, whose eyes filled with terror as she cried, “Benjamin! Why are you not on stage?!” Luckily, Nick was able to calmly explain to her that I was indeed where I needed to be and he was, in fact, my twin brother.

Why did you decide to go on an Israel Outdoors trip?
My brother and my two best friends all go to different schools after growing up in the same hometown. Since we’re so far apart nowadays, we wanted to do something together, and what better than a Taglit-Birthright trip? Scheduling four people on one trip was not easy, but thanks to my friend Joie’s nagging reminders, we were all able to get our applications in to Israel Outdoors. Spending 10 days together was really special for the four of us.

What was your favorite part of your Israel Outdoors Trip?
I was enjoying a beautiful night in Ein Gedi with my brother, Nick, when I thought I heard the sound of a clarinet coming from just beyond our youth hostel. We went to investigate, and found a group of Israelis from the nearby Kibbutz hanging out, passing a clarinet around in a circle. I tried to explain to the guy holding the instrument that I played as well. “Show me,” he said. And so I did—I played clarinet for a bunch of strangers in a foreign country. Quite the interesting experience, and definitely not on the itinerary!