When Nancy and Bill Israel moved to the Conejo Valley in 1993 to retire, they had their sights set on a quiet life golf and gardening. Then they took a hardhat tour of Thousand Oaks’ new civic arts plaza complex under construction, and Nancy said “I was so excited after that walk through, right there I immediately signed up to join the Alliance for the Arts and volunteered to volunteer!”
Music blossomed in the Israels’ lives when they moved to Thousand Oaks. They immediately became season subscribers to the Conejo Valley Symphony; they could not bear making the long drive to downtown LA for the Philharmonic. Bill, who was always musical and could play any instrument that he picked up, had learned everything by ear. They were very popular at parties when Bill would sit down at the piano and keep the fun going with sing-alongs until the wee hours of the morning. But at age 82, Bill became serious about studying piano. His first piano teacher initially turned him down because she taught only children, but Bill ended up becoming her prize student. She called Nancy one day, “I’m calling you because you’re kind of like Bill’s mother in my studio. Can I ask him to participate in my student recital? The oldest student is 16.” Nancy answered, “Absolutely, Bill would adore it!” A star was born; Bill was a big hit at the recital.
Edward told Bill, “You have a gift. You should give recitals to raise money for New West Symphony.” That first year they raised $22,000, including a challenge from Miriam Wille, who said “I’ll match everything you raise, up to $10,000.” And there launched the Symphony’s most successful fundraising events for 15 years, raising over $3 million altogether.
Nancy was on the first League board, taking over as president the second year. To this day she has been an active member of the League and the New West Symphony Board of Directors, and the Symphony’s #1 Fan. We are lucky she is still joined by other founding League and Board members, Miriam Wille and Hope Rosenfeld. The New West Symphony wouldn’t be where we are today without Nancy’s dedication, passion, heart, tenacity, and generosity. Nancy Israel, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts!