Young pianist is first recipient of scholarship named for WO woman

Photo Courtesy of NJPAC
Robin Hode Jacobs Scholarship winner Ori Chen stands with Roger Jacobs.

NEWARK, NJ — Ori Chen, a 23-year-old student pianist from Mitzpe Ramon, Israel, became the first young artist to receive the Robin Hodes Jacobs Scholarship, an award granted by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Department of Arts Education and the Jacobs family of West Orange.

The scholarship was created earlier this year in tribute to the late Robin Hodes Jacobs, and commemorates her lifelong love of music and arts in education. She died in 2018 and is survived by her husband, Roger, and their children, Rachel and Joshua.

“She loved Gershwin and Broadway shows, and she could play all of those,” Roger Jacobs said of his wife, recalling that he gave her a baby grand piano for her 30th birthday and she subsequently played it daily. Although she never performed professionally, music was a way for her to relax and to connect with family.

The scholarship is dedicated to assisting young people in the study of music. Chen, who will enter the New School and Conservatory of Tel Aviv’s joint BFA program in jazz this fall to pursue her career as a jazz pianist and composer, was granted a scholarship that allowed her to attend NJPAC’s All-Female Jazz Residency in Newark this summer. There, she studied with acclaimed performers, including pianist Ellen Rowe and jazz violinist and MacArthur Foundation “Genius” fellow Regina Carter, the program’s artistic director.

“This program was a huge step forward in my musical abilities and skills,” said Chen, who spent the residency living on the campus of Rutgers University-Newark with a dozen other aspiring musicians. “I feel like I’ve gotten the most precious gift by this scholarship. The future of a young artist can be completely changed when someone decides to help them fulfill their dreams. I know this scholarship did that for me.”

After seeing Chen perform at the residency’s final showcase, Roger Jacobs spearheaded a new effort to raise an additional $50,000 for the Robin Hodes Jacobs Scholarship. The first $5,000 donated to the scholarship fund will be matched by Roger Jacobs. Those who wish to make a contribution may call 973-353-7566.