On December 17, 1942, Austrian artist and educator, Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, was deported to Terezin “model ghetto” where she helped to organize secret art classes for the children in the ghetto. She was deported to Auschwitz in September, 1944...but not before collecting 4,500 children’s drawing and poems into 2 suitcases and entrusting them to the chief tutor of the Girls Home, L-410. After the war, the artwork and poetry contained within the suitcases was brought to the Jewish Community in Prague and is displayed in the Jewish Museum in Prague. A selection of the poems and artwork was later published in the collection entitled I Never Saw Another Butterfly. A Holocaust survivor and member of her art class remembers Mrs. Brandeis as "a tender, highly intelligent woman, who managed-for some hours every week-to create a fairy world for us in Terezin...a world that made us forget all the surrounding hardships, which were not spared despite our early age.”
During my time at New England Conservatory, I developed a strong interest in setting poetry to music. I recalled a book that my mother brought back for me after visiting Terezin Concentration Camp-I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a collection of children’s artwork and poetry from Terezin. I was immediately drawn to these children’s poems and felt compelled to set these poems to music, thereby giving the children another medium for their voices to be heard and remembered. I did not, however, end up working on this project during my time at NEC.
Now almost 15 years later, at a recent crossroads, one of the first things I did was pick up this book and I knew...I knew that it was meant to be for this moment, at a time where I would be composing this music through the lens of motherhood, at a time when Holocaust survivors able to share their stories are dwindling in number and at a time when, sadly, parallels today are all too present.
The composition itself is a song-cycle comprised of 9 musical settings, highlighting 3 poets, Pavel Friedmann (1921-44), Franta Bass (1930-44), Alena Synkova-Munkova (1926-2008) and 2 additional unknown poets who were all young prisoners in Terezín Concentration Camp.
The album, I Never Saw Another Butterfly will be released on Yom HaShoah, April 21, 2020, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Concentration Camps.
Dana Sandler, a native of Miami, FL, began studying music at the age of 4 and composed her first piece on the piano at the age of 9. Building upon her foundation in classical piano and voice, Sandler began to focus her vocal studies on musical theatre and jazz repertoire. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Jazz Vocal Performance from the University of Miami School of Music in 2003, where she studied with Kate Reid, Lisanne Lyons, Jeremy Fox, Tim Brent, Larry Lapin and Rachel Lebon. During this time she was also contracted by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines to lead a jazz quartet- performing 6 nights a week in their on-board jazz club, allowing her to hone her skills as an artist and leader.
In 2003, Dana relocated to Boston to pursue a Master’s Degree in Jazz Vocal Performance at the New England Conservatory of Music. While there, she studied with Dominique Eade, Allan Chase, Frank Carlberg, John McNeil, and Danilo Perez. Also while at NEC, Sandler developed a new interest in Klezmer music, initially through Hankus Netsky’s Jewish Music Ensemble. She became the lead singer of Khevre, one of internationally renowned Klezmer clarinetist Michael Winograd’s first projects and is featured on Khevre's recording, “Oyfn Sheydvig” (At the Crossroads). Sandler can also be heard on acclaimed jazz pianist, Carmen Staaf’s, 2008 recording, “Reflection.”
After teaching and performing for several years, Sandler’s career path went in a different direction as she pursued a deep-rooted interest in medicine. She had a formative and rewarding career as a physician assistant, most recently practicing in the pediatric rheumatology department at Boston Children’s Hospital.
In January, 2019, Sandler followed her heart to pursue music again full-time, embarking on her most meaningful and ambitious musical endeavor to date, setting selected poetry from the collection of children’s artwork and poetry from Terezin Concentration Camp (1942-1944), I Never Saw Another Butterfly.
In August, 2019, Sandler recorded the entire work and will be releasing the album in early 2020, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps during the Holocaust. Joined by world-class musicians including Carmen Staaf, Jorge Roeder, Austin McMahon, Peter Kenagy, Rick Stone and Michael Winograd, I Never Saw Another Butterfly marks Sandler’s debut album as a composer and leader.
In addition to composing, Sandler teaches voice in her home studio and is currently in the piano technology program at North Bennet Street School, Boston, MA