It may have been the friendship with Irving Wadler, then first-violinist with the Houston Symphony, who lovingly tossed candies to her from the stage, creating an enchanting ambiance inside Jones Hall.
Or perhaps it was music legend Arthur Rubinstein’s words — “Young lady, learn to play piano. It will keep you young” — that inspired Kelli Cohen Fein's lifelong devotion to music.
Since she was a little girl, Fein has cultivated a relationship with the Houston Symphony, its musicians and the compositions they perform. “Indeed, music has always been an integral part of my personal and family life,” Fein says.
“I consider music to be my maternal language, as I learned music long before I spoke English. Jones Hall has always been my home away from home, evoking cherished memories of childhood, captured in the rhapsodic magic of music.”
Given her experience with music as a young girl, it is easy to understand why Fein gravitated to the Houston Symphony as an adult.
Today, Fein enjoys her beautiful family, including two young children with her husband, Martin, and his three adult children. She works as a pediatric radiologist and is an active volunteer supporting the symphony’s fundraising efforts by serving on the Board of Directors of the Houston Symphony Society and the Houston Symphony League. She rarely misses a concert, and the symphony staff, musicians and the audience feel her presence warmly.
“Music has taught me about the creative process,” Fein says. “It has fortified my global thinking in terms of finding solutions, opportunities and possibility. The same fluidity of movement and thought found in music hones an essential agility necessary to navigating life’s challenges and important personal relationships. My musical training has, ultimately, helped me compose a very meaningful life.”
Fein feels grateful for her musical training, learning piano through the Suzuki method and attending Interlochen Arts Academy in Mich. Jean Viney, one of her dedicated teachers, passed away from cancer when Fein was 12, shifting Fein’s journey to the health industry as she sought to help the sick.
Though some may think of music education as an unrelated and narrow field, the skills acquired through its impassioned and disciplined study aided Fein in preparing for professional medical practice.
“The rigor in learning to play the piano was the transformational factor,” Fein says. “This requisite discipline emboldened me throughout the arduous years of medical training, and I memorized the entire medical curriculum listening to music.”
Fein and her young children practice the piano every day before school. Her son brings out his dinosaur brigade when she interprets Edvard Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King. She teaches history to her daughter, telling the story of when Russia invaded Poland while learning Frédéric Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude.
“Life has it's own rhythm and tempo. With the children playing Brahms, Beethoven and Offenbach, music makes the living all the more vibrant,” Fein says.
In 2010, the Feins chaired the 2010 Symphony Ball, “What a Wonderful World,” helping to raise more than $900,000. With concert ticket prices only covering about 35 percent of expenses, the Symphony depends on private donations.
“The Houston Endowment has challenged the Houston Symphony to increase its donor base and increase the size of the annual fund this season,” Ron Fredman, Senior Director of Development, explains. “The Endowment will contribute $1 million if we achieve these benchmarks.”
Having just entered the fourth quarter of the non-profit’s fiscal year, the annual fund has exceeded $6.2 million and is closing in on the goal of $8 million. With a current donor base approaching 3,000, the Symphony also needs to reach 4,000 donors in addition to some operating criteria to satisfy the challenge.
“A donor is someone who wants to make a difference in the community, one who is willing to make an investment in its future and believes the Houston Symphony is an integral part of that future,” Fredman says. “Every gift is appreciated and valued, getting us that much closer to our goal. Even $1 makes a difference.”
Fredman and the Houston Symphony team have until May 31 to achieve the goals set by the Houston Endowment Challenge. Will you help?