By Deborah Vietor
Ruth Weber makes beautiful music with her daughter Emilia Lopez-Yañez and they rock! Performing throughout San Diego County at schools, libraries and concert venues, the duo provide education, inspiration and entertainment in a magical and whimsical way. Their humorous, kid friendly music features eccentric, engaging characters making the world a better place through music. Ruth and Emilia’s newest album, The Spaceship That Fell in My Backyard, was just named Best Children’s Album of the Year by the LA Music Critic Awards, among other prestigious honors, including 2018 Kids First Media Award Winner, 2018 Family Choice Award Winner, 2018 Hot Diggity Award, and The Grand Prize for Children’s Music in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition.
The family’s love for music doesn’t fall far from the family tree. Weber’s grandmother, Betty, came to the United States from Roseve, Russia, during the Bolshevik Revolution. Weber has begun working on transforming her grandmother’s poems into beautiful song.
“My grandma kept a book of poetry about her experiences in Russia, her travel to the U.S, and her marriage and life with my grandfather here. She read these poems to us, some in Yiddish and others in English,” Weber recalled.
Grandma Betty is no longer living, but Ruth is keeping her poems alive by setting them to music. She and her children are creating an album of this music called Songs of an Immigrant. Her son assists with the song arrangements, and her daughter sings and plays oboe on the album. It is a labor of love produced by four generations. We spoke with Weber about music, working with family, and her inspirations.
L’CHAIM Magazine: What inspired you to have a musical career, teaching, composing, conducting and performing?
Ruth Weber: Ever since I was little, music was what I loved and did best. My sister and I would sit on the piano bench with my mom, singing as she played. My parents did not allow us to buy holiday or birthday gifts for them so we made them instead. Initially, I wrote cards with poems. This developed into writing songs. Songwriting and making music was my release and since I was very shy, music was like a friend who was always there for me.
L’CHAIM: How did your family become involved in music?
Ruth Weber: When my kids were young, we played music games in the car. We sang rounds together and created elaborate harmonies. It made the trips pass quickly, and was something my kids really enjoyed and appeared to have talent for. I volunteered in my kid’s classrooms and was inspired to write songs about the subjects they were studying. It seemed to help them learn hard concepts like counting in Spanish or measurement. When my daughter was 3 and my son was 8, we sang and performed together as a family kids music trio, recording our first CD. Eventually my son, Enrico, thought singing kid’s music wasn’t very cool, so we produced other kinds of music projects. Enrico later attended UCLA and the University of Maryland, and is now Principal Pops Conductor of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. Emilia attended Chapman University and USC, and is currently a professional oboist and vocalist in the Los Angeles area, playing with several different orchestras and doing studio oboe and vocal work. My husband, John Weber, runs sound for our performances and designs my props and costumes as well. He is retired from the probations department, where he worked with troubled juveniles.
L’CHAIM: Describe your classical music training and where you perform. How would you define your role as conductor with the San Diego Jewish Men’s Choir.
Ruth Weber: I began studying piano when I was 5 and later studied guitar and voice as well. I enjoyed being involved in all aspects of music and had some conducting training while attending San Diego State University and Cal State University Northridge. I was really drawn to conducting. Performing as a solo pianist could be lonely at times, and I enjoyed being a part of an ensemble and making music as a team. It has been a joy directing the San Diego Jewish Men’s Choir for these last 7 years, like having a second family. We toured Nebraska, as guest artists with the Omaha Symphony and Phoenix this past year. It was a wonderful experience we hope to do more of.
L’CHAIM: I have listened to some of your songs about safety for children. Were these composed for all children, everywhere and are these songs performed at libraries, schools and additional venues?
Ruth Weber: Our current album, The Spaceship That Fell In My Backyard, is about an alien who lands in Emilia’s backyard on her quest to make the universe a better place. The alien, “URR,” doesn’t know about safety, or washing your hands, or many things kids are taught growing up. Emilia teaches URR those things through the songs on the album.
L’CHAIM: Please share regarding the production and release of the “One Little Finger” film, to be shown at the Cannes film Festival and how you became involved in music for children with ability in disability.
Ruth Weber: My kids and I wanted our album to benefit children and families, so we decided to donate one dollar from every CD sold to Ronald MacDonald House charities. Our show promotes acceptance of others, and we welcome the opportunity to perform for children with all abilities.
We began working with producer/director Rupam Sarmah several years ago, and contributed two tracks to his world peace album benefitting many non-profit world peace organizations. The album, Action Moves People United, reached number 5 on the World Music BILLBOARD charts. It was an honor to create and direct the choral arrangements that backed up actor Dan Aykroyd’s narration on one of the songs.
Rupam mentioned a feature film he was producing, One Little Finger, about ability in disability, and asked if I would create the choral arrangements and direct the choir for the soundtrack. I jumped at the opportunity! I worked on three of the songs on the soundtrack which features Julian Lennon, Quincy Jones, and Ketchi. Emilia does some solo vocal singing on the album as well. The film received the Best Film for Inspiration and Global Impact Award at the recent Riverside international Film Festival, and will be presented at the Cannes Film Festival this May in addition to other film festivals.
It will have its official premiere in Los Angeles on Friday, August 16 at the Santa Monica Theatre and is scheduled to premiere in San Diego at the Angelika Cinema in Carmel Mountain Ranch on Thursday, September 5. We hope to have a large attendance, as the producer and some of the actors will be at the event.
Ruth Weber and her family make beautiful music together. To follow their calendar of events, visit www.ruthandemelia.com/calendar-of-events.html.