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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | Thousand Oaks

Fund-Raiser More Fun Than Formal

May 04, 2000|CHRIS G. DENINA

Bill Israel knows he isn't the best pianist around. But that doesn't mean he doesn't take pride in his skills.

"I'd like to think I'm among the best of that large group of octogenarian pianists in Ventura County who are wearing pacemakers and have been playing piano for two years," he said.

Despite his arthritis and memorization problems, the 83-year-old grandfather of five will show off his stuff Sunday in a fund-raising recital for the New West Symphony in Thousand Oaks, of which he and his wife, Nancy, are members of the board of directors. He hopes to double last year's take of $20,000.

Israel took lessons when he was 8. Over the years, he has dabbled in piano, playing by ear. But it wasn't until 1998, when he retired from his law firm in Beverly Hills, that he took formal music lessons.

"What really moved me was his wife told me he drove her crazy with the hours of practice per day," said Israel's piano teacher, Edward Francis, who is half his student's age.

"That was music to my ears. I work with a lot of fine students, but most of them aren't as disciplined."

J.C. Hodgdon, the marketing director for New West Symphony, said she knows a lot of people will be interested in the recital--as much for the enthusiasm Israel puts into his music as for his admittedly limited technical mastery.

"It's almost a tongue-in-cheek kind of event," Hodgdon said. "It's not a symphonic production. It's Bill playing the piano. He's good, but, like he says, he's an 83-year-old piano player with a pacemaker."

Maybe that's the draw, she said.

Israel will perform Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at 1304 Marian St., Thousand Oaks. Tickets are $100. For more information, call (805) 499-5256.

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