February 22, 2020

Noah Daniel: Perpetual motion suits him

AGE: 18
HIGH SCHOOL: Milken Community Schools
GOING TO: Princeton University

Noah Daniel doesn’t care much for down time.

“I just get bored when I have too much free time,” said the recent Milken Community Schools graduate who lives in Encino. “I find myself functioning at my best when I am really busy. In a weird way, I enjoy being under that much pressure.”

There has been little risk of boredom these past few years. In addition to a full load of classes, many of them honors and advanced placement, and volunteering at Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys, Daniel, 18, spent part of his junior and senior years at USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute, assisting a graduate student with his research as well as working on his own research related to music and the brain.

“There are known correlations between personality traits and music,” he said. “I wanted to know why that is.”

Daniel is a musician who plays several instruments, but guitar is the principal one. He first picked up a guitar at age 9 when his older brother started taking guitar lessons. Daniel tagged along. “After two lessons, he gave it up, and I kept going,” he said of his brother, Aaron. “That was a happy coincidence.”

Indeed, music is a huge part of his life.

“As cliché as it is, it’s a great way to express myself. I feel like I’m not always the best with words,” he said. “But musically, I can get across ideas I would not be able to through dialogue. To me making music is a way to give people insight into how I feel more viscerally and emotionally than if I were to tell them.”

In addition to being part of the jazz bands at both Milken and the Colburn School, a performing arts school in downtown Los Angeles, Daniel wrote a piece called “Tracks,” inspired by Holocaust survivor Armin Goldstein, whom he met through The Righteous Conversations Project, an organization that pairs high school students with Holocaust survivors. The piece was performed at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust in conjunction with a photography exhibition, and again in Washington, D.C., when the exhibition traveled there.

Last year, Daniel was one of a dozen Los Angeles-area high school students accepted into the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Associate Composer Program. Students attend a series of master classes, and each works closely with a mentor on a composition. On May 20, Daniel’s composition “feel” was performed by five members of the philharmonic.

“I was really amazed at how broad composition is and how free it is,” Daniel said. “It showed me a whole new world that I hadn’t really explored. I think I am going to minor in composition because of it.”

This coming school year, Daniel hopes to do service work in Bolivia through Princeton University’s Bridge Year Program. While he already has been admitted to the university, he will learn soon whether he has been selected for this nine-month adventure.

“I am Latino but I have never really explored that side of myself,” said Daniel, whose mother’s family is from Spain. “I am so connected to my Jewish identity. I want to have the same experience with my Latino roots.”

Beyond that, Daniel imagines becoming a science researcher but is open to other possibilities.

“I want to imbue my research with music as many ways as I can,” he said. “Not just to do it, but in ways so I can help people … to make a lasting impact.”