Mr. Ruben Orchestrates a Dual Career


Nina Illipronti, staff writer

Mr. Ruben-Schnirman, also known as Mr. Ruben, is an orchestra teacher at New Providence High School.  Apart from teaching group lessons and conducting the orchestra, he also plays the bass outside of school. 

Mr. Ruben grew up in West Orange. The first musical instrument that he was exposed to was the clarinet, which he played in the school’s band. One day, in sixth grade, he picked up the electric bass on the side, started fooling around with it, and ended up enjoying it. He joined the school’s orchestra and started taking lessons with the well-known bass teacher, Harvie S., who would be his bass teacher through the rest of high school and college. 

Before becoming a teacher, he went to Manhattan School of Music for jazz double bass performance. At this point, he became a freelance musician and traveled with many different bands throughout college.

The Johnny O’Neal Trio band had the biggest effect on his career. He participated in it from about May 2016 to June 2018. Mr. Ruben traveled all around the world with this band, to Italy, France, China, Russia, Israel, Germany, and Belgium.

Being in a group affected how Mr. Ruben viewed music: “That gave me a certain perspective on being a member of a group, working with other people on playing music; not just in an isolated classroom, but for a listening audience.” 

Mr. Ruben started working at New Providence School District in the fall of 2019. He was originally called in to replace Mrs. Briceno as she was going on maternity leave. Eventually, he ended up being able to work at the school permanently. 

His past experiences with orchestra and playing with the Johnny O’Neal Trio have helped him with teaching in many ways: “I’m more aware of the factors that are needed for a successful performance professionally and can aim to encourage those understandings here at New Providence Middle School/High School.” 

There are a lot of connections between Mr. Ruben’s school life and his personal and professional life as a musician.  Because of his commitments at school,  the time that he currently spends playing music outside of school varies from week to week.  What stays constant is his ability to apply the lessons that he learns playing outside of school to the teaching of his students.

For example, sometimes knowing how to improvise is exactly what he needs to do as a teacher:  “If [something] is not working for me, I’m gonna try to change it to make it better in [the classroom].”