Born in 1924, Dr. Sam Zebba immigrated to Palestine from Latvia with his parents when he was 9. He served in the Haganah and in the British Army during WW2. A literary scholar and occasional writer, he was known primarily as a symphony conductor both in Israel and abroad. He held a B.A. and an M.A. in Theater Arts from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in Theater Arts from Tel-Aviv University, where he also lectured. For his Master’s Thesis he made the prize-winning documentary Uirapuru, shot in the Brazilian jungles to music by Heitor Villa-Lobos. In Nigeria he wrote, produced, and directed Fincho, a documentary feature to which Harry Belafonte contributed an introduction. He was Second Unit Director for Mervyn LeRoy in Hawaii and for Fred Zinneman in the Belgian Congo. In Israel he directed the Warner Bros documentary Israel, written by Leon Uris, and featuring Edward G. Robinson. Zebba has written for many publications, among them The Jewish Quarterly, the Hollywood Quarterly, the University Film Association Journal, India Perspectives, and Esra Magazine. Founder and first President of the Israel Writers’ Guild, he also served as Vice President of the International Writers’ Guild. For his doctoral dissertation, it was the Sonata Form in music that led to his perceiving comparable foundations in dramatic literature. A popular version of his structural theory was published in the USA in 2004, titled The 39 Steps of Self-Division. An avid music lover and amateur pianist since boyhood, Zebba studied conducting at Tel-Aviv University, and trained abroad under the guidance of eminent conductors, among them Sergiu Celibidache, Aldo Ceccato, Leonard Bernstein, and Zubin Mehta. Early in his conducting studies he founded, initially at Tel-Aviv University, the Campus Orchestra, and became its conductor and music director, a post he held for over 20 years. As guest conductor he appeared in Germany, Russia, Latvia, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, El Salvador, India, and Korea. With newly arrived immigrant musicians from the Soviet countries, he founded the WIZO Symphony Orchestra, the David’s Harp Chamber Orchestra, and the Rehovot Classica Ensemble. More recently, with a view to creating a platform for highly qualified musicians - retired members of top orchestras and senior music pedagogues - he founded the Emeritus Chamber Orchestra, which he directed. Zebba was a dedicated photographer and a seasoned yachtsman. He lived in Tel-Aviv.
Sam Zebba passed away in Israel on February 27, 2016.