And they’re lawyers and judges….. Maestro Gary S. Greene, Esq., founded the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic, its chorus, Legal Voices, and the Big Band of Barristers. Officially proclaimed “LA’s Only Legal Orchestra and Chorus,” they recently held their 7th Annual Concert Extraordinaire to a sold-out audience of more than 2,200 people at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. For more info, visit www.lalawyersphil.org.
For Law and Music
It’s 4:20 a.m. on a weekend. The alarm rings. While the city sleeps, Debra Greene is just waking up. She throws on some clothes, brushes her teeth and races out the door to make the 40-minute drive from Los Angeles to her work in Thousand Oaks. It’s pitch black outside. By 5:30 a.m. when she finally arrives at the KCLU Broadcast Center at California Lutheran University, the quiet dawn is breaking. But inside, it’s bright and loud. The lights are on and National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition is playing. She starts gathering stories to tell her listeners.
Greene, an award-winning broadcast journalist with Golden Mike, AP Mark Twain and Edward R. Murrow awards to her credit, works for NPR-affiliate KCLU. She is the weekend anchor/reporter for the public radio station that covers Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. She writes, conducts interviews, produces and voices hourly local newscasts and weathercasts for several hours in the morning. Then, she spends the rest of her shift in the field reporting on stories – everything from brush fires to community festivals. Those stories air during her weekend newscasts. Her other stories are heard on KCLU during Morning Edition on Mondays.
“What I love about radio is the challenge of telling stories with only sound. It requires great creativity and the ability to paint a picture with words,” said Greene.
But that’s just her weekend job. On Monday through Friday, she goes from journalist to manager of an orchestra, chorus and big band. Greene is executive director of the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic, which is comprised of an orchestra and its chorus, Legal Voices, and a big band, Gary Greene, Esq. and His Big Band of Barristers. She has produced dozens of concerts for the groups and gets capacity crowds to venues such as Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Shrine Auditorium and Saban Theatre.
“Just like telling meaningful stories through sound in radio, I enjoy the excitement of telling stories through music,” said Greene. “These musical groups bring the community together.”
Whether it’s “Debra Greene on the Scene” or in the wings, she’s a one-person dynamo who keeps on going, going and going and leading the way from one successful event to another. And she learned this from her dad, Maestro Gary S. Greene, Esq.
Hundreds of books line the north wall of his high-ceiling office, with file folders strewn on a large wooden desk. Gary Greene is busy at work. He has a constant stream of cases and deadlines to meet.
“I thrive on fascinating law cases,” said attorney Greene.
And when you ask him about some of his interesting cases, he has a long list, including back in 1994-95 representing a witness in the OJ Simpson criminal trial. He’s been practicing law for more than 40 years. In the beginning of his legal career, he specialized in family law and then lectured on this subject to attorneys throughout Southern California. Over the years, he changed the focus of his practice to handling personal injury cases, including representing clients in a catastrophic commercial airline crash. Today, he maintains his personal injury practice but spends much of his time in court handling real estate matters. In 2010, Gary Greene was named Person of the Year by the legal newspaper, Metropolitan-News Enterprise, and two years later, he received the prestigious Board of Governors’ Award from the Beverly Hills Bar Association.
What seems like a typical law office is anything but typical. Taking a closer look inside Gary Greene’s office, you’ll find along with law books and briefs, music scores and even some instruments. That is because this attorney is also an accomplished violinist and symphony conductor. He grew up in a musical family. His late uncle, Ernst Katz, was the founder-conductor of the acclaimed young people’s symphony, the Jr. Philharmonic Orchestra. Greene served as concertmaster of the Jr. Phil for many years and then became its conductor, leading the orchestra in its 75th Anniversary at Walt Disney Concert Hall. While Greene was practicing law, he was also practicing the violin and was on stage almost as often as he was in court.
“Music is a very important part of my life. It brings balance and refreshes me after a trying day in the law office,” said Greene. “Several years ago, it dawned on me that there must be other colleagues in the legal profession who are musicians with a passion for music.”
So, in 2009, he put the word out to the bar associations and legal newspapers that he was going to form an orchestra composed of lawyers, judges, law students and legal staff. The notices read “Wanted: Legal Musicians.” More than 100 legal musicians responded, and he selected 30 of them to form the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic.
With Greene as conductor, the fledgling group made its debut on January 30, 2009. It was a successful concert that led to performing 10 concerts in the first year. In the second year, the orchestra performed another 10 concerts including a Walt Disney Concert Hall debut. Then-Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council proclaimed the Lawyers Phil “LA’s Only Legal Orchestra.”
Many lawyers and judges urged Greene to form a chorus. In 2011, he debuted his chorus, Legal Voices, at Disney Hall with a triumphant performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. By 2012, the orchestra grew to 75 members and the chorus had more than 100, as they performed music from Mozart to Duke Ellington.
Gary Greene, Esq. and His Big Band of Barristers.
The orchestra was invited to return for its third performance at the Radio & Television News Association’s Golden Mike Awards in 2012, but there was only room for 18 musicians. So, Greene took this opportunity to form a new legal musical group, a big band like the Glenn Miller band of the 1930s and 40s. Greene again reached out to his colleagues and assembled 18 lawyers and judges with jazz and big band backgrounds including some who played with Stan Kenton and Les Brown, among other great bands. Gary Greene, Esq. and His Big Band of Barristers debuted at the Universal Hilton on January 21, 2012, and they were a hit.
Greene and his barristers were immediately booked for gigs. Within a month, they were invited to participate in a nationwide competition of lawyer bands sponsored by the American Bar Association. From several hundred bands, they were selected, along with four other bands, to compete in the final competition round in Chicago. On August 4, 2012, they performed in the prestigious Art Institute, where they took first place by a landslide vote from 2,000 people in attendance.
Now dubbed America’s #1 Legal Band, Greene and his barristers released their first CD, The Chicago Album, featuring some of the classic music from the Golden Era of Big Bands.
Meanwhile, the Lawyers Phil and Big Band dazzled the residents of Beverly Hills in 2014 at the Saban Theatre with a star-studded 100th Anniversary concert for the city.
As Greene wields his baton, the beat goes on with the Lawyers Phil, Legal Voices and Big Band of Barristers carrying on their mission of raising funds through performances for those who cannot afford legal services and other charities, and they continue to entertain thousands.