Growing up, composer Noah Horowitz would sit at the piano in his family’s South Euclid home and write music to go along with his picture books.

Now a 22-year-old senior in the music composition program at New York University in New York City, Horowitz’ most recent project, “40 Nickels,” is making the rounds at film festivals around the world, including a run at the Austin Jewish Film Festival in the shorts program last month. The Yiddish short film was released March 19, 2021, and has been screened at the Boca Raton Jewish Film Fest and the San Diego International Jewish Film Festival, and nominated for “best cinematographer” through the Annual Cophenhagen Film Festival.

“40 Nickels” runs 29 minutes and was directed by Yasmin Gorenberg, a graduate of the NYU film program. It tells the story of an immigrant boy in the Depression who aims to soar above his family’s tragedies by fulfilling his dream of flying in an airplane. It stars Grayson Taylor, Carole Foreman, Te’ena Klein, Leo Grinberg and Catherine Ashmore Bradley.

“I scored this film during the summer of 2019,” Horowitz, son of Lisa Bernd and Ed Horowitz of Cleveland Heights, told the Cleveland Jewish News. “The director, Yasmin, and I were both students at NYU and she was working on this short as sort of her final project. We got connected through NYU, but we clicked because of our shared Jewish background. I was able to immediately communicate and connect to things she wanted.”

Horowitz attended elementary and middle school at The Agnon School in Beachwood, which is now Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School, and graduated from the now-defunct Montessori High School in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood in 2016.

While in high school, Horowitz was part of The Temple-Tifereth Israel Klezmer Band, which is where he drew inspiration from for “40 Nickels.” He also trained on piano at The Music Settlement, and applied “on a whim” for the Marvin Hamlisch Film Scoring Contest, receiving second runner up. That’s how he ultimately ended up at NYU, he added.

“And even if that wasn’t what she (Gorenberg) specifically wanted, that knowledge and experiences helped me put that music together in terms of having training in how that music was supposed to sound,” said Horowitz, who is a member of B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike.

As “40 Nickels” makes its way through the festival circuit, Horowitz said it is “really thrilling” especially after COVID-19 kept many festivals from going ahead as planned.

“The idea of a standard film festival seeing every piece in person in a theater is not the only option anymore,” he said. “I am so glad this film was able to be part of the global community of filmmakers and movie-goers. The director, Yasmin, is Israeli. One of the producers is from Turkey. So, it already had that global reach in terms of who is working on it – and that ties it all together. It was a wonderful experience.”

Calling his success in film scoring “kind of miraculous,” Horowitz said he let those feelings of wonder guide him through the scoring process of “40 Nickels.”

“When I first saw this movie, there are these dark themes that inherently exist within Jewish history,” he said. “But then there is this aspect of a little kid – and that is what I thought the music should focus on, giving more of that sense of a childlike feeling of what is.”

As he continues through his senior year at NYU, Horowitz still has a lot on his plate – most recently being accepted into the Society of Composers and Lyricists NYC mentorship program. His cohort had their first meeting in November. In addition to working on films, which included interning for Henry Jackman on “Jumanji: The Next Level,” he is the creator and developer of The Alpine Project, the largest free orchestral sample library, and has presented film music research papers at the international Music and Moving Image Conference.

“In my experience as a student at NYU and seeing other filmmakers, what is special about ‘40 Nickels’ particularly, is creating films on specific Jewish themes and making it authentic,” he said. “It’s an interesting direction. Many young directors are working on taking Jewish culture in a more serious light in their stories, and that has been cool to be part of.”

For more information, visit 40nickels.com.

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