by Steve Kohn
Marilyn Ziering is a giant.
Not the kind you find climbing up a beanstalk. She is rather petite in stature. Not the kind who plays baseball, although she admits to being a fan of that team, despite the fact that they deserted her hometown of New York. But, in the interest of fair play, Marilyn also roots for the Red Sox because one of her sons has a connection to that team.
Marilyn Ziering is a giant because of her attitude towards life and the contributions she has made to her business, her family and to the many social and philanthropic causes that she supports.
Born and raised in New York, Marilyn fondly remembers her father, an amateur tenor, who studied with the same teacher as Jan Peerce. She has a picture of her father, Peerce and the music teacher together. She can sing the famous aria from La Juive by Fromental Halévy, which she remembers her father singing. Interestingly, she learned it in English.
Her home was filled with classical music, which has always been a love of hers. “Music brings light into my life. Everything is better when I hear music. I forget my problems. Music warms my heart.”
Marilyn’s husband of blessed memory, Sigi, met her at a resort in the Catskill Mountains in New York. They fell in love, married and had a magical journey for 47 years. They both went to Syracuse University. Sigi eventually earned a Ph.D in physics and Marilyn earned a Master’s Degree in audiology.
In the early 1960s the young couple moved to Los Angeles and later had four children (two boys, two girls).
The Zierings founded Diagnostic Products Corporation, a company that manufactured more than 400 kinds of immunodiagnostic kits used to diagnose various illnesses. Marilyn proudly recalls that she was the company’s first sales person. She “pitched” over the phone and when the company had a booth at a medical conference, Marilyn would invite young chemists to introduce them to the “newest and best” immunodiagnostics test products at the convention.
The company grew into a multi-million dollar corporation with more than 3,000 domestic and international employees. Marilyn became Vice President of Marketing and Sigi was Chairman of the Board. In 2006 the company was purchased by Siemens Corporation, giving Marilyn the opportunity to devote full-time to her family and to charitable work.
The Ziering children all grew into fine adults, going on to careers of their own. They were taught early in life that they must be aware of their background, and, as adults, they have become active in causes that support the environment, reflect their Jewish heritage and foster social responsibility.
Marilyn remains the catalyst for many efforts of her own. She and Sigi were long time leaders of many philanthropic causes in Los Angeles and in Israel. The impetus for that activity stems from their modest beginnings and family’s history. Her support of LA Opera’s “Recovered Voices” project is one of those philanthropic causes.
Marilyn met James Conlon eight years ago for lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel. He spoke about the music composed by artists during the Nazi regime that was deemed “degenerate” and therefore banned from being performed. Some of the composers murdered in the Nazi concentration camps never experienced the joy of hearing their music performed. Some were more fortunate and were able to flee to Israel or the United States.
When James finished speaking, Marilyn could barely breathe. She thought she knew all about the Holocaust. Her late husband was a survivor and through his silence, she experienced the horrors that he witnessed. Maestro Conlon had a dream to right a great injustice and to bring back the music of these composers. She shared his mission. Her thought was that in bringing back the music that was lost, we would in a way keep the memory of those composers alive and, in doing so, undo the inhuman wrong of the Nazi Third Reich.
We all benefit from Marilyn’s generosity and it is thanks to her and James Conlon that we are all able to hear and see some of this great music as LA Opera continues to produce new stagings of these works.
When asked what her favorite operas and composers are, Marilyn pauses. She certainly loves La Juive, because of her remembrance of her father. She loves Mozart, particularly our recent Magic Flute. Marilyn also loves Verdi, Britten and of course, Puccini and many others.
Asked about her connection to the Opera League, Marilyn quickly comments that she appreciates all that is done by us for LA Opera. In her words, the work done by the Opera League is “phenomenal.”
Marilyn is surrounded by her family in Southern California. Her four children, her nine grandchildren and great friends fill her life with joy. We are grateful that we are the beneficiaries of her warmth, her charm and her great philanthropy.
She truly is a giant, in so many ways.
We invite you to join us in honoring Marilyn at the 2015 Peter Hemmings Award Dinner on Sunday, March 1, at the California Club. Maestro James Conlon will present the award to Marilyn. Fund-raising efforts will benefit LA Opera’s Opera Camp, a two-week summer day camp for children. Please contact the Opera League to request an invitation: 213.972.7220 OR firstname.lastname@example.org.