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Judith Holender Loeb: Elder law attorney, musician

Judith Holender Loeb is an elder law attorney in Penfield who spends much of her “spare time” dedicated to playing the violin in various capacities. Photo provided by Nora A. Jones

You may know her as the first attorney in greater Rochester to establish an elder law practice (1991) and the only attorney in Western New York who is certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation, as approved by the American Bar Association.

But there’s a good chance you don’t know her as an accomplished musician: Judith Holender Loeb has been a violinist for nearly 50 years.

Discipline and devotion

Loeb reveals just how much of her limited spare time is dedicated to music. In the past 10 years, she has taken many “working vacations” — devoting an entire week to playing her violin at amateur chamber music camps and workshops.

Earlier this year, Loeb auditioned and was accepted to the Manhattan School of Music’s Inaugural Amateur Chamber Musicians Festival. Participants were selected from video auditions and spent at least six hours a day playing their instruments during the weeklong program.

“There were 26 of us, mostly professionals in diverse disciplines — a college professor, several doctors, writers, an engineer,” Loeb shared. “I was one of four lawyers — all women.

“The festival offered an unusual opportunity to take master classes with some of the finest conservatory teachers and professional musicians, and to play alongside serious, talented amateurs who shared similar skills and interests,” she added.

Loeb previously attended workshops at the Meadowmount School of Music in Westport, Summer String-In at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J., and Wyoda Musical Party House in Newbury, Vt.

“I love playing chamber music,” Loeb said. “It offers a different challenge from playing in an orchestra, because you are both a soloist and a team player.”

Community connections

Loeb’s local activities include volunteering as an usher for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra; and playing violin with the Penfield Symphony Orchestra and the Rochester Medical Orchestra.

Loeb plays with the Penfield Symphony Orchestra, pictured here.

The PSO annually performs four symphony concerts at Penfield High School and a free “Picnic Pops’ concert sponsored by the Town of Penfield.

The PSO was founded in 1955, and operates as an independent nonprofit organization with a mission to culturally enrich the community through live performances and educational outreach. Dr. David Harman, professor of music and director of orchestral activities at the University of Rochester, is the musical director of the PSO, in addition to several other local orchestras.

Upcoming PSO concerts include an Oct. 24 program “Hurray for the Horn!” and a Dec. 5 performance “Spice Up the Holidays.” More information is available at the PSO website, www.penfieldsymphony.org.

The 54-member Rochester Medical Orchestra was founded by Dr. Stephen Lurie as a vehicle for musically-inclined physicians, scientists and medical staff. The mission of the organization is to support local health-related nonprofit organizations by raising awareness and funds.

The orchestra performs twice a year. The fall 2011 concert is scheduled for Nov. 22 at the Flaum Atrium of the University of Rochester School of Medicine to benefit the Arc of Monroe County.

Despite all that Rochester has to offer music lovers, Loeb sees a missing link.

“There is no program available that would enable collaboration among serious amateur adult chamber musicians who don’t make a career of it,” Loeb said. “We need a place to meet, play and perform.”

In the beginning

Growing up outside of Buffalo, Loeb started playing violin at age seven. She began teaching private violin students at 16.

Loeb majored in music at Smith College, a liberal arts institution in Massachusetts.

“Smith was not a music conservatory, but it offered many performance opportunities,” Loeb said.

She studied violin and choral conducting in addition to music history, theory and composition. Her extracurricular activities included orchestra, chamber ensembles, choirs, Glee Club and Chamber Singers. She taught conducting to her peers. During the summers, she taught strings at the Amherst Central School District.

But after graduating, Loeb had trouble making ends meet as a music teacher in the public schools.

“As you know, music is the first program the public schools cut when funding is in short supply,” she lamented.

In 1980, after three years of teaching, Loeb decided to change careers.

“I was told I was the first music major to be accepted at the University at Buffalo School of Law,” she acknowledged. “They weren’t sure what to do with me. What they didn’t realize is just how much of my musical training was transferrable to the law.

“I’d spent years listening, analyzing, researching, writing and finding common threads. As a conductor, I had to convince my peers of my interpretation of the music,” Loeb said. “The discipline of studying, practicing, conducting and public speaking provided invaluable training for law school and the legal profession.”

Legal career

Loeb received her J.D., cum laude, from Buffalo Law School in 1983. She moved to Rochester to start her legal career at Nixon, Hargrave, Devans & Doyle.

“I was fortunate to have been offered an associate’s position after my summer clerkship in 1982,” she said. “The firm offered new associates opportunities to rotate through up to four departments. I chose to practice tax law, but ended up in health care law, thanks to three mentors — all women attorneys: Sue Stewart, Susan Robfogel and Judith Norman. It was an exciting time. The nonprofit health care industry was restructuring and there were many tax, corporate and reimbursement issues that required legal counsel.”

The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys was created in 1986 and Loeb became a member in 1987. Opting for a smaller firm, she took a position at ChamberlainD’Amanda in 1988, focusing on health insurance and HMO law as well as corporate and pension matters.

“I represented providers and insurers — but no one was paying attention to the legal needs of the ultimate consumer of health care services,” she added. “I decided to round out my experience by representing the consumer.”

In October 1991, she decided to open her own firm, concentrating on elder law, special needs planning, trusts and estates. Shortly after, Loeb became a charter member of the New York State Bar Association’s Elder Law Section, and has been a frequent speaker in NYSBA legal education seminars.

As a member of the Monroe County Bar Association, Loeb chaired the Trusts & Estates Section (1997-1998) and the Elder Law Committee (2004-2006). She is also a member of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys.

In the community, she is a member of the Board of Directors of the Arc of Monroe County, and chairs its Guardianship Committee.

This year Loeb is celebrating her 20th anniversary as an elder law attorney.

“Elder law was in its infancy in 1991,” she notes. “It is now a mature legal practice. I got in on the ground floor — and never looked back. It has been a very satisfying career.”

Loeb’s office is located at 290 Linden Oaks in Penfield.