Life on Jupiter


Part 1: Life on Jupiter  |  Part 2: A Coda for Jupiter

Maverick conductor Jens Nygaard was a legendary presence in the New York music world and his influence echoes to this day. His journey from child prodigy in rural Arkansas to New York’s Carnegie Hall is chronicled in Life on Jupiter, an intimate portrait of the man and his missions: striving to create the perfect orchestra, reviving forgotten music, performing for the homeless, staging concerts in disaster zones. Though seemingly quixotic, Nygaard sustained the respect, admiration, even awe of his students, performers, critics, and supporters. Life on Jupiter documents several of his performances, intercut with heartfelt interviews including those with the highly accomplished musicians Ruth Laredo, William Wolfram, and Joel Krosnick of the Juilliard String Quartet.

A Coda for Jupiter continues the Jens Nygaard Legacy, depicting the ongoing impact of the musician’s creative force. After his death in 2001, the Jupiter Symphony Orchestra continued as a world class chamber group known as The Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players. With performance excerpts and interviews, A Coda for Jupiter reflects on Nygaard’s influence on the musicianship and careers of his students and the JSCP current players.

Independent documentary filmmaker, Martin Spinelli, made the Jens Nygaard Legacy video program to bring the Jupiter Symphony’s hard won success story to wider audiences. The tale of this unique conductor, his magnificent orchestra and the ongoing Chamber Group is now ready for sale on VIMEO and DVD for educational and home viewer distribution. 

Awards and Festivals


The premiere screening of LIFE ON JUPITER: The Story of Jens Nygaard was a great success! At 6:15 pm on April 9, 2001, the doors of the Good Shepherd Church were opened to dozens of people pressing to enter the church which had been turned into a large screen video theater flanked with high-end stereo speakers. A standing room only crowd gathered within a few minutes, and they were treated first to a piano solo performance by Jung Lin who merited every moment of the enthusiastic applause. Martin Spinelli then introduced the documentary and Jens Nygaard, the great conductor and musician whose life is shown in this program. LIFE ON JUPITER is also a musical journey that highlights many performances by Jens and his Jupiter Symphony.

In the opening line of the documentary, Jens says, "I think if Zeus came to life right now, this would be Beethoven. Big, and muscular and crude. Uncivilized and wondrous and idealistic and with mud on his boots." And Zeus responded on that premiere night by sending thunder and lightning bolts just as Jens began rehearsing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. The stained glass windows of the church lit up with the brilliant flashes of light, and the audience felt the full force of the Fifth as torrential rains and thunderclaps pounded just outside.

At the end of the film, Jens performs his much-loved interpretation of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," followed by the rousing "High School Cadets March" by John Philip Sousa. The audience stood up for the credits and did not stop clapping and stomping their feet even after the last frame of credits faded to black.

This passionate musical documentary has already earned:

  • 2002 Emmy Award for Programming about the Arts
  • Best Documentary Film Award at the 22nd Annual Breckenridge Festival of Film
  • Directors Guild of America's Nomination for Outstanding Achievement Award
  • Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival Opening Night Presentation
  • Chris Statuette Award at the Columbus International Film & Video Festival.
  • Thunderbird International Film Festival Best Picture, Best Sound/Music, and Lisa Palattella, Editor, won the Karl Malden Award for excellence, ingenuity, and dedication to the project.
  • Best Musical Film Award—Tiburon International Film Festival
  • The BAC 36th International Film and Video Festival screening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in Manhattan.
  • The International Film Festival of Fine Arts screening in Szolnok, Hungary
  • Empire State Film Festival & Rhode Island International Film Festival & Sedona International Film Festival screenings.
Jupiter Orchestra banner 2.jpg

A Coda for Jupiter — Credits

Directed And Produced
Martin Spinelli

Edited By
Michael Grenadier

Michael Grenadier
Patrick Miller

Patrick Miller
Harry Munz

Editorial  Assistance
Jodie Yeakel

Maurycy Banaszek, Viola
Barry Crawford, Flute
Elizabeth Fayette, Violin
Zlatomir Fung, Cello
Dana Kelley, Viola
Karl Kramer, Horn
Vadim Lando, Clarinet
Stefan Milenkovich, Violin
Timur Mustakimov, Piano
Cynthia Phelps, Viola
Roman Rabinovich, Piano
David Requiro, Cello
Lisa Shihoten, Violin
Hyunah Yu, Soprano

Special Thanks To:
Mei Ying Nygaard, Manager
Michael Volpert, Music Director
Steve Ross, Cabaret Performer
Brian Crowley
Kathleen Kemp
Phyllis Mole
Damon Shaqiri
Brian Simpson
Madelon Spier
Lilliane Redl

Life on Jupiter — Credits

Producer and Director

Martin Spinelli has been a producer, director, and writer of documentary and communications programs since 1967. He began his career making television public affairs programs at Philadelphia's ABC-TV affiliate, where his documentaries won an Emmy, First Prize at the San Francisco Film Festival, the Ohio State Award, and several other awards. He also worked with NBC/WRC, in Washington, D.C. His previous documentaries reflect his interest in outstanding individuals.

Spinelli's experience includes video, film, and the new multimedia presentation formats, and his work has won many corporate communications awards: New York Film & TV Festival, Chicago Film Festival, CINE, and the AT&T Arthur W. Page Awards. He formed Interaction Media, in 1984, when interactive multimedia was a gleam in the eye of the Bell Laboratories' engineers for whom he developed programs to convey the future of communications. He has produced demonstration presentations for IBM and AT&T, and touchscreen programs that describe telecommunications software.

Spinelli is a director-member of the Directors Guild of America.


Lisa Palattella is a film and video editor whose exceptional artistry with long-form and music documentaries is sought by the industry's best-known producers. She is also an excellent musician; her experience in both making and cutting music proved  invaluable in the creation of "Life on Jupiter." Palattella’s substantial credits include "John Gardner: Pinstripe Radical," a PBS Special; "Plagues: The Invisible Fire," for National Geographic Television; A&E's "Biography of the Millennium"; "Promised Land: Jewish American Journeys" for the National Museum of American Jewish History; "The Politics of Quiet (a musical oratorio)" produced by Meredith Monk and The House Foundation; and "Hate on Trial," a Bill Moyers Special, for PBS.

Programs that Lisa Palattella has edited have won many awards including an Emmy and Peabody for "Going, Going, Almost Gone! Animals in Danger" and the Golden Gate Award for Best Children's Program at the San Francisco International Film Festival for "Where the Toys Come From" produced for the Disney Studio.

Produced and Directed by
Martin Spinelli

Edited by
Lisa Palattella

Paul Dokuchitz
Brian Kellman

Rafael Agudelo
John McCormick
Jonathan Wentworth Associates, Ltd.

Gil McDowell

Still Animation
Ralph Petre
The Camera Stand

On-Line Editing
Scott Doniger
Full Circle Post

Sound Mixing
Dave Huber
HotWax Recording, Inc.


Mei Ying Nygaard, Orchestra Manager, Jupiter Symphony
Michael Volpert, Musical Director, Jupiter Symphony
Vadim Lando, Clarinet
David Requiro, Cello
Roman Rabinovich, Piano
Lisa Shihoten, Violin
Harold C. Schonberg, retired critic for the New York Times  
Martin Bookspan, critic and commentator
William Wolfram, Piano
Harvey Pittel, Saxophone
Karl Kramer, French horn
Chagit Glaser, Cello
Dmitri Berlinsky, Violin
Paul Rosenthal, Violin
Joel Krosnick, Cello
Julliard String Quartet
Ruth Laredo, Piano
Vadim Gluzman, Violin
Ariane Lallemand, Cello
Charles Kiger, Percussion
Lincoln Center
Good Shepherd Church, Manhattan NY