By TRILBY BERESFORD | Reporter
Music and performance were always important to Barbara Gilbert. She began ballet at age 5, tap dancing at 7 and piano lessons at 9. Although she wasn’t always enthusiastic about the latter. “I would sometimes lock myself in the bathroom when the piano teacher came to our house,” Gilbert told the Palisadian-Post with a laugh. Yet the music prevailed: She decided to be a jazz singer.
Gilbert identified herself as a soprano and performed jazz sets at local coffee houses on the UC Berkley campus. Then she started learning classical opera and performing with musical theater groups. Among numerous roles, Gilbert starred in the Christmas play “The Littlest Angel” at Odyssey Theatre and performed as Winnie Winslow in “No No Nanette” at La Mirada Civic Light Opera. She also performed with the Beverly Hills Dance Company, securing an enviable reputation as a triple threat.
In 2012, she performed “I Got Rhythm” with the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic at Disney Hall. A member of the Legal Voices choir heard her and decided Gilbert’s voice needed to be widely enjoyed. This lead to the brilliant formation of Singers in Law: a group of four legal professionals who perform swing, jazz, be-bop, doo-wop and standards from “The Great American Songbook.”
Gilbert met the criteria for joining due to her background working as a deposition court reporter, specializing in medically oriented and technological cases. She appreciated that job, because it gave her a flexible schedule that allowed time for music rehearsals. Gilbert ceased her legal career in the early 1980s.
The three other members of Singers in Law—Ken Freundlich, John Blumberg and Linda Hurevitz—are attorneys. The whole group performs for the sheer enjoyment of the music, with most earnings going toward public counsel.
Singers in Law is truly a passion project for Gilbert. “Each member has a different presentation and personality, and we all just love it,” she said, adding that they feel like the best of friends. They regularly perform at jazz clubs, nonprofit fundraising events, galas and private parties. “This is what I wanted to do when I was 10,” Gilbert explained. And she’s doing it; living her dream.
Music is something that Gilbert shares fiercely with her husband Arthur, a Justice on the California Court of Appeal. In his spare time, he performs in the Big Band of Barristers, an 18-piece jazz band. Occasionally, Singers in Law and the Big Band perform together.
Now, if you’re thinking that these musical lawyers are starting to resemble the phenomenon in the medical field where doctors perform on the side with bands or chamber orchestras, you’re not alone. But Gilbert said the notion of musical side-gigs isn’t as widespread in the legal profession, though the reaction to both Singers in Law and the Big Band have been strong among their peers.
One of the most rewarding aspects of pursuing music for Gilbert is that she continues to learn and improve her craft. Via Skype, she receives lessons from vocal coach Robert Edwards. “I’m trying to get the bottom part of my range to blend into the top,” Gilbert explained. Music is primary in Gilbert’s life, but it also seems like a necessity. “I don’t think I could live without the music,” she disclosed.
Singers and Law and the Big Band of Barristers will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 8, at the Catalina Jazz Club. The evening will be a snazzy affair, complete with “all … that … Ja-yazz.” For reservations, visit catalinajazzclub.com or call 323-466-2210.