Even at the age of 16, Mitchell Dubin understood that the futility of words can be offset by music. On the evening of Oct. 27, Dubin, a junior at Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School, was set to conduct the CAPA orchestra for a special production of “Annie” by the Pittsburgh Musical Theater.
Given the day’s horrors, there was talk of canceling the Byham-based performance, but organizers proceeded. Hours before opening, Dubin prepared to lead 50 student musicians. He knew “Annie” would begin with a moment of silence, but decided to extend the gesture.
“I pulled together an arrangement of ‘Hativka’ for the orchestra to play,” he said. The orchestra was “for the most part not Jewish … and I know from speaking to a lot of them, and watching them, a lot of them were really moved by being able to do something.”
After the performance, a musician approached Dubin.
“I was wearing a Jewish star on my lapel pin and he told me that the whole night, he was looking up at me.”
Playing Israel’s national anthem, hours after 11 Jews were gruesomely murdered in their place of worship, was meaningful, explained Dubin.
Experiences like Oct. 27 demonstrate “the power of music,” said Dubin: “On such a challenging day for both the Jewish community and people who live in the city of Pittsburgh,” music helps “heal … and we’ve seen now in the past few months people turning to music for healing.”
For most of Dubin’s life, he has been interested in music. He began playing bassoon four years ago and piano eight years prior to that. Conducting, however, is a more recent pursuit — he started approximately three years ago.
In moments unconsumed by music or musical theater, Dubin focuses on sharing his love of Israel. As a StandWithUs intern, Dubin is one of nearly 90 high school students nationwide who receive education and training from the Los Angeles-based nonprofit.
StandWithUS is “rooted in helping everybody find their own truth and working within boundaries of facts and education, to move toward good speech and progress and, hopefully, understanding about issues in the region,” said Dubin.
Dubin recently shared knowledge of Israel with CAPA classmates.
“I did a program last month, or two months ago, about LGBTQ rights in Israel, and that was something that the audience was interested in, you know, more so than politics or, you know, science.”
Interest notwithstanding, when it comes to Israel education, Pittsburgh has its share of unschooled constituents, said Dubin.
“In general, there is a good group here but we’re also seeing a lot of kind of issues based off of ignorance. A lot of people, especially in a public school community, don’t know anything and are really succumbing to misinformation, and I think that there’s an important mission that we need to make sure we fulfill outside of, you know, just the Jewish community.”
When seeking understanding about the Jewish state, music can be an incredible vehicle, he explained.
Experiences such as conducting Temple Sinai’s annual Thanksgiving interfaith service, which includes Christian and Muslim musicians, have provided “circumstances where I can see what music can bring to people.”
Music, Dubin added, is a “whole other language. It’s the only language that everybody in the world speaks.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com.