On Aug. 21, my dear friend Sean Nova, a beloved member of the Pico-Robertson and greater Los Angeles Jewish communities, passed away in a freak accident while repairing electronic equipment in his studio. Sean was only 30 years old.
I first met Sean in 1996, several years after he moved here from Israel. Born Chen Novakovitch, he finally changed his name to Sean because people thought "Chen" sounded Chinese, and "Hen" sounded too much like poultry. Sean was one of the first people to attend my Friday night program, Aaron's Tent, and was well known to many in the young Israeli Community as well as Sinai Temple's Friday Night Live.
Sean had black hair and striking green eyes. He worked briefly as a model in Israel and was often mistaken for actor Peter Gallagher. He was a prodigy who won scholarships for his musical achievements. At a very young age, his success in conducting, composing, trumpet performance and sound engineering led him to brief careers as both a session player and a sound engineer in Israel. He worked with some of the country's top producers, including one of Bruce Springsteen's early engineers, Louis Lahav. While he was in Israel, he quickly ascended to top post-production positions on television shows and motion pictures for the Walt Disney Company, Fox Studios and Saban Entertainment.
Sean's love of music and recording brought him first to New York, where he worked in various studios, and ultimately to Los Angeles, where he worked for several record companies. Within his first year in California, he founded Sonic Mastering Studios, which eventually became one of the leading mastering facilities in its bracket. Sean's clients included some of the biggest acts and labels in the industry, including Elton John, Madonna, Paul Simon, Sony Music, RCA and Warner Bros.
Sean was also an inventor, creating a technology called Equalizer Harmonics (Weiss Engineering Ltd.) and co-developing another called Sonic CD Protection. He had most recently fulfilled a personal dream by founding his own record label, America Records. I believe that the name sprang from his love of America and all of the promise that it held for him.
Despite his success, Sean never lost touch with his friends, and would often take time out from his lucrative studio work to help people do menial things like install software or repair computers. He was incredibly kind and generous. At Jewish events, he'd volunteer to drive a stranger home, no matter how far out of his way the trip would take him.
Although Sean was religious as a young boy, on the road to music he left the path of observance. He would always tell me how "one day" he hoped to become observant again.
In the last six months of his life, at the height of his commercial success, Sean began doing teshuvah and returning to his religious roots, at a very fast pace. I would regularly see him davening at Aish HaTorah, an Orthodox shul in the Pico-Robertson area. He became fastidious in his observance of Shabbat, walking home four miles every Friday night from shul, and then walking back another four the next morning. At the end of the Saturday night services, he would always be the last person to leave the shul, remaining to daven with a focus and intensity that implied: "I have so much more to say."
I saw him less than a month ago at shul as Shabbat ended. He had one of the firmest handshakes I had ever felt in my life; it came from his study of Krav Maga.
"Do you need a ride home?" he asked me. Those were the last words he spoke to me. I can still feel the grip of his handshake, and his voice still rattles around in my head.
Sadly, now his voice can exist only in my head. His parents have returned his body to Israel for burial and I know now that ironically, he has gone on his final "ride home."
May his memory be a blessing to all of those who knew him.
Sean Nova is survived by his father, Elan Novakovitch; mother, Yaara Wein; and sisters, Sella and Hilla Novakovitch. A memorial service will be held Sunday, Sept. 21 at 5 p.m. at the Aish HaTorah Center, 9100 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles.
Aaron Shohet Kemp is a theatrical representative for SAG and founder of Aaron's Tent Jewish Singles Program.
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