Spotlight Musician: Yoni Arbel ’11

Noa Kattler Kupetz

Staff Writer

Inspired by a Santana music video and the toy guitar that had always been leaning in the corner of his room, Yoni Arbel ’11 began his musical journey at age ten. Arbel quickly started practicing the guitar seriously, taking private lessons and joining the Milken Jazz Ensemble and the Jazz Combo Band in ninth grade.

In tenth grade, Arbel decided to also learn how to play the saxophone, an instrument which has made him famous this year because of his victory as the YoutTube “Sexy Saxophone Man” in the Purim Costume Contest.

According to Arbel, mastering the saxophone was easier than learning how to play the guitar.

“I know music theory well from playing the guitar, so I understand the intellectual part of the instrument. When I practice the saxophone, it’s putting in what I already know and working on technical skills,” he said.

Yoni Arbel
Arbel performs during the Purim contest competition. Photo courtesy of Talia Myers.

Arbel now plays both instruments with skill and commitment, and claims to not favor one in particular.

“With guitar, I feel like I have more power over it, so I can do more. But sax I feel is more intimate. Like guitar is just your two hands, but saxophone is your two hands, plus your lungs, plus your tongue, plus your mouth, plus everything else,” he said. “It’s really soulful. It’s hard to decide which one I like more, it switches off.”

In and out of campus, Yoni is surrounded by his music, often jamming with classmates Jesse Paller ‘11, Jacob Schatz ’11, Asher Levy ‘12, Jonathan Kaye ‘11, and Josh Berger ‘11, in his free time. He claims that a couple times he and some buddies have even played at subway stations, just to earn some pocket cash.

Arbel devotes a large portion of his life towards passionately practicing his music, whether it is guitar, sax, or even writing pieces himself. He writes a wide variety of music on his own, from jazz, rock, pop, hip-hop, ethnic styles and all the in between. The Milken Jazz Band is currently learning a piece of Yoni’s, titled Dgaf, which they may even play at their spring concert.

“First and foremost, I’m inspired by Ken Lasaine. He’s taught me a lot about music, a lot about jazz, and even a lot about life. We’ve had a great four years together,” Arbel said of Milken’s Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combo instructor. Other Milken teachers who have helped Arbel grow as a musician include Dr. Steinberg and Mr. Shepherd, who have extended their musical knowledge to Arbel along the way.

Outside of Milken’s staff, Arbel draws inspiration from musical artists Avishai Cohen, John Coltrane, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Incubus, Led Zeppelin, Matisiyahu, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, and Wayne Shorter.

“Pretty much all music I hear inspires me, whether it’s subconsciously or consciously. So everything you hear, it sinks in,” he said.

Next year, Arbel plans to continue improving as a musician by attending the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in Tel Aviv, a sister school of Berklee. Pursuing a musical career is a definite possibility, something Arbel’s classmates and teachers look forward to hearing about in the future.

To hear some of Arbel’s music, click on the links below: