Finding my "Voice"

So now you know what I was doing doing during part of my vacation in June and July.  I was in sequestration in a hotel in Los Angeles near the Universal studios for almost three weeks. To get there I had to pass two major auditions in Los Angeles, in a process that auditioned talent  all over the country.  And after 45,000  people auditioned 103 of us found ourselves living together in what we called “music camp!”  Every step of the process was secret, for that is the nature of “reality” television.  I told my wife Kelley that it was like going to an Ivy League school — you might be a star in your own town, but once you get there, every one is a genius.  That’s the way it was. And it truly inspired me.  You know the article in the Jewish Journal which was very accurate except for my wife’s name (does anyone have a spare couch? LOL) quoted me as saying that I always thought of myself as a musician who sings.  Well guess what? That changed in the three weeks that I prepared for the show.  We had wonderful coaches and producers who worked with us—and every moment of every day people were singing in the lobby, around the pool, in the parking lot, in the restaurant—that is the sign of a true singer—you don’t stop—ever!  I was that way with my musical instruments.  I always joke that you have to have a fanatical stage—and I did.  I am surprised that my musician sons still have hearing-I practiced for hours and hours when they were very young sitting in front of me.  So what did I sing when I was sequestered?  Yes I sang with my peeps around the pool, etc., but in my hotel room I sang songs from our tradition. I had an anthology for the High Holy Days, I had Yiddish songs that I was working on and just plain traditional Hazzanut.  Why? Because I knew that working on that music would be fulfilling and force me to work on my craft, which is being a Hazzan, first and foremost. 

I don’t know if you noticed a change, but I did on the Yamim Nora’im.  I sang with confidence and with purpose, not just the words and the prayerful content in my heart and mind, but with the mindset of a singer whose desire to perform hiddur hamitzvah, beautifying the mitzvah was in my thoughts.  I thought of myself as a singer.  I had spent a good deal of time working on my craft and when it was time to step on to the stage of the television studio, kippah on my head and tzitzit underneath my shirt, I was the complete person.  I did not even notice that the judges had not turned around. I did what I always do—I got in to it and did the best job that my vocal instrument allowed me to do. 

 

So “Aizeh ashir?….Hasameach b’chelko?” (Ethics of our Fathers 4:1)  Who is rich?  One who is happy with his portion.  I went on the Voice because an agent called.  My family encouraged me to do it—and I am glad I did.  It felt good getting those two callbacks—like I felt when I was a kid auditioning for Broadway shows.  But when I was young I could not find substance in what I was doing—singing other people’s songs and devoting time to issues that were not important to me.  So I struggled and had great success as a writer of children’s music.  I loved to teach and singing that material had meaning and instilled a love for music and thirst for knowledge in so many young people.  Then I re-discovered my Judaism and became a cantor, singing the music that I grew up with and always heard in my head.  This created the opportunity to sing about values and ideas that are very very close to my heart.  I am so rich, so completely satisfied with what I do in the community, with the many opportunities to be close to people, to help, to counsel to teach and to inspire.  My ego was stroked by being on television, but my deep sense of worth is enhanced daily by my work in the Jewish community. And not to mention by the loving reaction of so many to my appearance on the show.  An overwhelming response of “they should have turned their chairs, but remember that we love you!” —from adults and children alike. What else is there to reach for?  Okay I wouldn’t mind a contract with Universal studios.  But for now, which holiday is next—OH YEAH— HANUKKAH and my friend Peter Yarrow!  Don’t miss it, December 14— LIGHT ONE CANDLE!

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