Every musical genre has a community. The most visible segment consists of the players, followed by the fans. But then there are the instrument makers and purveyors, the publicists, the folks who sell the tickets, the venues and their staffs and last, and probably least, the critics. Last week, the classical-music world in Philadelphia lost someone who managed to play a number of these roles at different stages of her career, and some of them simultaneously.
I first met Jane Lenel when she was one of the main sources for string-instrument rentals for Philadelphia school students, when my then-8-year-old son needed a fiddle. A few years later, I noticed a curious publication in the magazine rack at Tower Records called Philadelphia Music Makers, edited by none other than Jane, and our paths crossed again. In short order, I became one of her scribes, and then an editor myself.
Music Makers was a wonderful source of stories about a wide swath of musical Philadelphia. Through her urging and imagination, I met and wrote about not only amazing young classical musicians such as then-Curtis student Yuja Wang, now a worldwide sensation, or her famous teacher, Gary Graffman, but also such characters as a man who built a wooden pipe organ by hand in his Germantown apartment (John Kaye Gottschall) and a walking, playing bagpipe encyclopedia by the name of Charlie Rutan.
As anyone struggling with print journalism these days knows all too well, putting out a magazine is increasingly difficult. Music Makers struggled even from the start, so Jane started sponsoring benefit concerts, and soon enough, we were in the live music business. Her connections led to exceptional events that were reasonably well attended, intimate chamber-music concerts in the truest sense. But it was not enough, and Jane’s bold experiment ended in 2009, almost a decade after it began.
This was but a chapter in a rich life. Jane was also a writer and a fine violinist. For those who knew her, it seems almost superfluous to add that she was a vibrant, generous, smart and warm-spirited human being. Her life was a model of how one person can engage the world of art in an all-encompassing way, and although her friends will miss her greatly, she remains an inspiration on so many fronts.