Tuesday, May 28, 2013

(written Monday, May 27, 2013)

I am on my way home from the 50th reunion of my a cappella group from college, the Tufts Beelzebubs.  It has been an amazing weekend, filled with lots of personal and collective history.  It's pretty impressive what returns to the mind after returning to a familiar place and a familiar group of friends, even after 20 years.  Music that I had not sung since graduation was once again in my mind and in the muscles of my throat.  I found myself remembering events and people from long ago.  It had a bittersweet feeling to it... mostly sweet, but it seems that all memories, even the happy ones, have a tinge of sadness for their absence.

It reminded me of a Jewish idea:  we read the same portions from the Torah each year (this is particularly apparent at the High Holidays when we hear the stories of Abraham and Isaac and Jonah and the whale),  but even though we read the same text each year, we change as people and so we hear the words anew.  I felt the same way returning to my alma mater this year.  The songs we sang were the same, the faces as well... perhaps a few more gray hairs (present company included).  But I have changed.  Since the last reunion, I have had a son who just turned two.  That in and of itself has forever changed my perspective on the world.  But it is also the mere fact of having spent more years on the earth, and having experienced joy, loss and growth.

I find these moments of returning to the familiar extremely useful, because I can use them as a yardstick to measure my progress and development.  How am I being in the world now that I am older and (hopefully) wiser?  How true can I be to myself even at this occasion where it would be so easy to simply follow old patterns of youthful arrogance and blindness?  It felt great to see old friends, to hear about their lives and the ways they have accomplished their own goals and dreams.  It was fun to reminisce about the good old days, but also deeply satisfying to know that I am no longer that college boy too clueless to really appreciate life and the gifts he has been given.

May we all embrace the changes in our lives, and give thanks for the old and the new.

In song,


Sunday, September 16, 2012

New Year, New Projects

Hello my friends, fans and colleagues,

First of all, I want to wish a very sweet New Year to the Jews on the list.  Rosh Hashanah begins this evening, and I know that many of us will be celebrating.

Secondly, I wanted to let you know about some exciting things that are going on here:

 Awakened World 2012 Conference - October 13-21, 2012

Next month, I will be traveling to Rome and Florence to spend a week in Italy at a revolutionary (and evolutionary) conference that will bring together religious and spiritual leaders from around the world in an effort to bring light and solutions to some of the most challenging issues facing our world today.  I am honored to be a part of the musical cohort that will be inspiring the conference and taking part in the panel discussions.

 Desert Gathering Arts and Culture Series

Some of you may be aware that for the past year, I have taken part in an entrepreneurial and leadership group called Start Me Up AZ, sponsored by Rabbi Darren Kleinberg and his organization, Valley Beit Midrash.  10 young Jewish leaders from around the Phoenix area gathered to share ideas for bringing meaning and accessibility to the Jewish tradition here in the Valley.  My project was selected by the committee to receive a $10,000 grant, which will allow me (with the help of other committee members) to launch a Jewish Music Festival right here in Phoenix in the Spring of 2013.  I will keep you posted on further developments as they arise.  I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to create this new avenue for engagement in the community.

 Songleader Boot Camp - November 10-11 at Temple Solel in Paradise Valley

This Veteran's Day weekend, Rick Recht and I will be co-leading a songleading conference at Temple Solel that is open to the whole community.  This is a regional version of the national conference that I have co-led with Rick in St. Louis for the past three years.  It is a powerful, intense weekend filled with hands-on experiences, new repertoire and useful techniques designed to infuse our community with a culture of Jewish music and songleading.  Playing an instrument is not required to participate.  If you have questions or would like to register for the event, please visit www.songleaderbootcamp.com.

 PJ Library CD Release

My CD, Everyday Blessings, was chosen by the PJ Library to be part of their annual holiday music distribution.  This December, the CD will go out to 7,500 homes around the country and enjoyed by 6 year-olds and their families.   For more information, you can visit their website HERE.

My wish for all of us this year is that we return to the things that make us happy and fulfilled while continuing to learn and grow and push our boundaries in the days to come.

L'shana Tova,

PS.  If you haven't already "liked" me on Facebook, please do so HERE.  Thank you as always for your support!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


As we celebrate this 4th of July, I have been thinking a lot about "independence" and what that actually means. The dictionary has several different meanings for the word "independent":
 1 free from outside control; not subject to another’s authority
2 not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence
3 capable of thinking or acting for oneself
4 not connected with another or with each other; separate

Here in the United States, we place a great deal of emphasis on our independence, our ability to chart our own course, to fend for ourselves and to navigate through the world "independently" of anyone else. But in the increasingly interconnected world in which we live, is there still such a thing as true indepence? When the New York Stock Exchange is affected by Greek debt and bailouts in Spain and Italy, when a large percentage of our electronics and consumer goods are made in China, when our national security is put into question because of events in Afghanistan and Iran, can we truly say that we are "independent" in the world?

 For me, two things come to mind. One is that we are quickly recognizing that the world has become woven together in a tapestry of cause and effect, where what I do impacts you and vice versa. This has both positive and negative consequences. On one hand, we are forced to see that we truly need one another. As the saying goes, "no man is an island." So, when we act in our own highest good, we create positive and far-reaching change in the world outside. So, when we conserve energy or plant some new trees in our yard, others benefit from our actions. On the other hand, when we act only in our own interests and neglect those around us, our actions can have unintended but still negative consequences... like illegally downloading music or videos and driving independent artists and record stores out of business.

 Where we do have true independence is in making those difficult choices that confront us each day. We can choose the path of integrity even when it may be a more difficult road and it may take us longer to reach our destination. Regardless of the external circumstances, we have the ability to decide independently of anyone or anything else how we will react. On this day of independence, I choose to express my gratitude to all of you for your support of me and my music. And I encourage all of us to exercise our independence in creating a brighter and more interdependent world.

Speaking of independence, I thought I'd share a recent photo of my son, Sander, who is expressing his independence by learning to walk... a couple of shaky steps at a time...

 Happy 4th of July to you all,

 PS. I am happy to announce that my CD, "Everyday Blessings" has been selected to be part of the PJ Library distribution for December. If you have a Jewish or interfaith family, please sign up for their list. This is a free service and provides a monthly children's book 11 months out of the year and a musical selection for 1 month of the year. You can visit them HERE.

PPS. And if you haven't already "liked" me on Facebook, please do so HERE.

Thank you as always for your support!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring Update

Hello everyone,

Just a quick note to let you know I haven't forgotten about you. I have been extremely busy working on a number of different projects. I will have more to share in the coming weeks, but I am working to bring into existence a Jewish music, arts and culture series to the Greater Phoenix Area. This is part of my work with the Start Me Up AZ Fellowship, created by Rabbi Darren Kleinberg. There are many worthwhile projects coming out of this group, so keep your eyes open for some exciting things in the future.

I have plans to travel to the East Coast later this year and next year. Please see the show schedule below, and let your friends and family in those parts of the country know that I'll be in their neighborhoods. I'm always happy to play "Jewish Geography."

I am also just getting back into writing and recording some new music, so I will keep you posted about possible new recording projects. As always, I appreciate your support and feedback. It always inspires me to want to create music that will move you. I wish you a very happy Passover and a joyous Easter.

I'll be in touch soon,

Saturday, February 11, 2012

What's Your White Noise?

I love going to bed with the humidifier running. Or in the summertime, the sound of the fan gently humming in the background lulls me to sleep as well. Maybe some of you have these "dream machines" or apps for your smart phone that create some kind of white noise to bring a restful night's sleep.

What is it about these kinds of sounds that puts us at ease? I'm sure science would say that it has something to do with the sound waves and the way our brain interacts with them that facilitates sleep. For me it's all about constancy. It's having a consistent sound that can fill in the holes of all the other activity around me, whether it's dogs barking or people talking or music playing. There's something nice about having a sound that I can count on to smooth out the other cacophony of life.

I started thinking about how that factors into other times in life. It seems to me that we all need a little white noise, a little consistency around us, especially when there are so many other unanswered questions. Are there people you can count on to be there no matter what else is going on in your life or theirs who can help to smoothe out those rough bumps in the road? Is it your friends, your family, your spiritual or religious community? Whoever or whatever it is, we all need something to carry us through those difficult moments. Ironically, their consistency usually causes them to fade into the background of our consciousness. Rather than taking these people or places for granted, every now and then it's nice to recognize them, to embrace them and to tell them how much of a difference they make in creating peace in a sometimes-chaotic world.

Here's wishing you all a little white noise in the days to come...

In wooosh,

PS. I am happy to announce that I will be returning to Songleader Boot Camp in St. Louis next week. I will be teaching alongside Rick Recht and Sheldon Low and mentoring over 85 songleaders from around the country.

PPS. In other news, I Just wanted to let you know that I was recently published as a guest contributor on the Jewish Music Voice blog at http://jewishrockradio.com/blog/jewish-music-old-wisdomnew-connections/#more-133 sponsored by Jewish Rock Radio - the first high-caliber, 24/7 internationalJewish rock internet radio station. Please check out my article, make comments, and share! You can also click here to “Like” Jewish Rock Radio on Facebook or follow JRR on Twitter @JewishRockRadio.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Peek-A-Boo: A Game for Adults?

Perhaps it's a symptom of spending too much time with babies recently, but I have become fascinated with the game of Peek-A-Boo. It's a fairly simple concept... you cover your face or turn the other direction, then turn back and PEEK-A-BOO! There you are! My son never seems to tire of this game, and I love hearing the sound of his laughter and seeing his smile. You might be tempted to think that this is just a game for infants, but as I thought more deeply about it, I realized that there is more to this game than meets the eye.

First of all, the reason why it's so interesting to infants is that they have yet to acquire the skill of "object permanence" (learned that one in my child study classes). This is the concept that even when we can't see something, it still exists in our world. Infants just don't have that ability. If it's out of sight, it's out of their world. So they really are seeing things at every moment as though they're seeing them for the very first time. What a wonderful thing to be able to experience life in such a vivid and present way. It seems difficult to me sometimes to refresh my images of familiar things, places, people, etc. and to see them again as they truly are without any preconceptions or outdated mental constructions.

Peek-A-Boo has also taken on another meaning to me. I realize that the way that I perceive the world is a direct reflection of my own mental state and how I am being in the world. There really is no such thing as separating the object from the person who is seeing the object. Some people look at a sunset or a baby or the ocean and say... oh yeah, I've seen that a million times before. But are they really seeing it? Or is their perception being clouded by past experience? I find that when I am most present, I see myself being reflected back at me regardless of where I look. In my son's eyes (Peek-A-Boo), in the mountains I hike through (Peek-A-Boo) in the music I create (Peek-A-Boo), it is all connected and all an indication at its deepest levels of God, or nature or life itself.

When I am not being present, that is also reflected back to me in the form of unhappiness, disconnection from family and loved ones and a lack of creativity and passion in my work. That is also a peek-a-boo moment... There I am! Now it's up to me to make the adjustments to bring myself back into the present. It's not always easy, but exercise, music, meditation and time out in nature usually work for me. I think if we all played peek-a-boo with ourselves and those closest to us more often, we might actually benefit a great deal. Sometimes the most worthwhile games are deceptively simple.

In song,

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Returning Again

Tonight is the beginning of the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. All throughout the month of Elul, we are asked to undergo a process of self-reflection, of asking forgiveness of those we may have harmed in the previous year, and returning to the true essence of who we are at our core.

Whether or not you are Jewish, I believe that a process like this is useful at least once a year. It is so easy to get sucked into what others around us want or expect from us... our jobs, our spouses, our children, our friends, our society. Every now and then it's helpful to go inside of ourselves - to recall that innate light that dwells in each one of us.

This is our birthright as human beings. In order to be able to fully share our light with the world around us, we need to find it again within ourselves. There is a saying in Judaism, "Or zarua latzadik ul’yishrei leiv simchah" which roughly translates to: Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.

My wish for all of us is for us to live in a way that brings light to our souls and joy to our hearts... may each of you (even if you're not celebrating Rosh Hashanah) have a sweet New Year and fulfilling days ahead.

L'shana tova,