Some men march to the beat of their own drum. Ariel and Ben Chamis follow each other.
The twin brothers from the North Hills have been called musical “prodigies” and “gifted.” They recently celebrated their joint bar mitzvah at Temple Sinai, and playing to their predilections, music marked the occasion.
“They premiered two pieces written especially for their bar mitzvah service,” said Flavio Chamis, the boys’ father. “Cantor Laura Berman sang, and they accompanied her on piano and guitar.”
Both in the months leading up to the August ceremony and since then, the Chamis boys have performed before numerous senior audiences, mostly in nursing homes or assisted living spaces.
“It’s great for the residents and for them,” said Flavio.
“Residents have thoroughly enjoyed the music and the interaction with the teens,” noted Helene Kessler Burke, program coordinator at Riverview Towers.
“You could see how excited the residents were. It was really young kids playing well,” added Flavio.
The performances, which last for roughly one hour, often feature “a lot of back and forth” between the residents and the boys, and the opportunity for Ariel and Ben to publically speak is an added benefit of the enterprise, said their father.
The many musical engagements have been rewarding, said the boys.
“I think what we’ve gotten out of the experience is more having the elderly enjoying our playing, and what we gained is what they gained,” said Ariel, the older by a nose of the two brothers.
“We have what we need to do to do it, we have the musical skills as we’ve been told,” added Ben.
The boys are really “great musicians,” said Burke, and “their dad has also brought his expertise.”
Apart from serving as the boys’ manager, Flavio is a composer, curator, producer and conductor. His CD, “Especiaria,” was nominated for a 2007 Latin Grammy. And for those keeping score, the boys received more than just a patrilineal heaping of musical inheritance. Their mother, Tatjana, has been associate principal viola of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra since 2003.
“Music is part of their life,” said Flavio.
But just because the Chamis twins play together, don’t assume their musical interests match.
Ben, a piano player, plays classical, jazz and Brazilian music. Ariel, a guitar player, plays Brazilian, classical and rock.
Ben called André Mehmari, a Brazilian pianist, arranger and composer, his musical influence.
“He really has a different kind of way of playing things, different chords and dissonances,” Ben said of Mehmari. “He’s really different kind of and he’s special to me and my family. I had a lesson with him and it was special to be able to learn one of his pieces from the composer himself.”
“For me, since I am more into rock, I would say Eddie Van Halen,” countered Ariel. “He’s more a technical kind of rock guy. When he was growing up he didn’t have all the pedals and so he had to learn how to make effects without them. … I think it would be interesting to see how he does it because I don’t usually play like that.”
Apart from influence, there is also some discord among the duo when discussing listening preferences.
“What I listen to on a normal basis is pop and rap,” said Ben, who cited Drake and Big Sean as his current likes.
“Music-wise I like listening to rock and pop,” noted Ariel, whose favorites include Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and, predictably, Van Halen.
Berman, the cantor at Temple Sinai, marveled at the boys’ accomplishments.
“They have really different styles but they’re a really great team,” she said. At their bar mitzvah, “they really complemented each other on the bima.”
Those who missed the Chamis duo at their summer ceremony have another chance. On Friday, Dec. 16, the boys will join Berman and other musicians at Temple Sinai for a Shabbat evening service. During the prayers, Ariel and Ben will partner with Berman once again on “Hashkivaenu,” one of three pieces that their father composed for the bar mitzvah.
“I think it’s great that the piece is being performed again,” said Flavio. “It’s another opportunity for them to do it again. For them, it’s cool.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.