If you know me even a little bit, you know that music is at the core of who I am and all that I do. It is not my only passion – Judaism, Jewish Education, Technology. and Jewish Music are among the other passions of my life, and there are others – reading, crossword puzzles, and so many more. There is still no denying that,although music is only one of my passions, it is a central one, and influences all that I do, and even influences how I engage in my other passions.
I demonstrated my musicality early, and by age 5 I was already a student at the pre-College division of the prestigious Juilliard School. This means I have been playing, creating, and studying music for 53 years. Yet I did not set out, initially, to be a career musician. Somehow, however, music continues to out itself in and through me.
It was music, oddly, that eventually led me to the other career paths I have pursued. I attended a specialized math and science oriented high school, Bronx Science. I was of course, active in the choir, and served as its accompanist. I even performed with the school orchestra. This eventually garnered me an invitation to be in the mini-pit-band of the school musical. Now we shift locales for a bit. At the same time I started high school, I also started as a student as the Manhattan School of Music’s Preparatory Division. (When Juilliard moved down the Lincoln Center, Manhattan School of Music –MSM - took over the old Juilliard building. In their move to Lincoln Center, Juilliard contracted a bit, and many students and teachers opted instead to stay in the old building and becoming part of MSM’s program. There was some politics favoritism involved, but we’ll choose to overlook that ugliness for now.)
MSM’s Preparatory Division (and in my humble opinion, all of MSM’s programs) was broader in scope the Juilliard’s, and geared more to vocational learning as opposed to a conservatory approach. Each year, they staged an opera involving every student in some way. (An almost impossible task deftly managed by director Cynthia Auerbach, z”l, who died much too young.) I’ll never be exactly sure why, but instead of choosing to be a chorus member (there was no use for me as a pianist) I opted instead to be on the stage crew. Simultaneously, while working in the ban for the musical at Bronx Science, I developed a similar interest and joined their stage crew.
By this time, you must be wondering what all this has to do with the weekly parasha. Don’t worry, I’ll get there. Eventually.
Both at Bronx Science and at MSM I became actively engaged working on the technical and stage management side of production. At MSM, I even got hired to work on many college productions. I found some side work. I did the lighting for a small showcase show that eventually become the Tony-Award-winning Broadway musical “Bubbling Brown Sugar.”
So when the time came to choose a career path and a college, technical theater was my choice. Throughout college, music continued to be part of what I did. I accompanied students and choirs, filled in for rehearsal pianists for shows, provided entertainment at cast parties, and more. Summers at college I worked at theme parks, though more often I was doing music for live shows rather than tech. (One summer I even started out stage managing and eventually wound up as the pianist in the pit.)
When college ended, I hadn’t yet lined up a job (the first of many bad career decisions) and eventually accepted an offer to join a Dixieland band whose members I had befriended at one of the theme parks. After a few truly fun-filled years with this band playing in New Orleans and Florida, the party was over and it was time to find work again. The bass player in the band turned me on to an opportunity to be the technical person for a school system performing arts facility, and thus began that phase of my career. For the next 18 years I supervised and managed performing arts spaces, while all the time on the side doing music – accompanying students and ensembles, playing in pit orchestras, even conducting some musicals. Music was somewhat secondary, but it was there, in addition to the stage managing, producing, directing, lighting and set design, technical direction, etc. There were even some shows for which I was crazy enough to be both the set/lighting designer and the musical director.
Also on the side, I had started working as a synagogue musician and religious school teacher. Then I became the director of the religious school. My passion for Judaism soon began to overtake my other interests, and I decided to work full-time as a Jewish professional. I went back to school (supporting myself by doing synagogue music and teaching.) I became a synagogue school administrator by trade, but continued, as always, doing music, both as part of my work as a principal, and independently for other synagogues and organizations.
Now my work has shifted. I have been “between jobs” as they say, in terms of being a religious school administrator for some time now. So I have been working as a songleader, music specialist, day school music teacher, synagogue musician and bar/bat mitzvah tutor. Lately, I’ve added doing Jewish early childhood music to the mix. Once again, music has come to the fore.
I don’t know what’s next. It may be that music will, in the end, be the work that sees me into the last decades of my career. I do know, that whatever I am doing, music will still be playing an important role.
What was it that caused me to reflect upon all this? It was readin through the haftarah for parashat Eikev, the second haftarah of consolation read between Tish B’Av and Rosh Hashanah, from Isaiah, 49:14-15:3. In particular, it’s the very end.
These words help me to understand why it is that music is what keeps coming to the front in my life. They help me to feel good about that. I am living in the best of all possible worlds, for music is of the highest calling, especially music in service to G”d and Judaism. Just how high has place does music have in the hierarchy of things. Consider where Isaiah’s words place it:
כִּֽי־נִחַם יְהֹוָה צִיּוֹן נִחַם כָּל־חָרְבֹתֶיהָ וַיָּשֶׂם מִדְבָּרָהּ כְּעֵדֶן וְעַרְבָתָהּ כְּגַן־יְהֹוָה שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה יִמָּצֵא בָהּ תּוֹדָה וְקוֹל זִמְרָֽה:
Truly the Lord has comforted Zion,
Comforted all her ruins;
He has made her wilderness like Eden,
Her desert like the Garden of the Lord.
Gladness and joy shall abide there,
Thanksgiving and the sound of music.
Yes, the hills are alive with the sound of music. The hills of fair Jerusalem. There one shall find thanksgiving and music, as one will find in the Garden of Ad”nai. Music is my connection to this holiest of places, and to G”d. May it always be so.
©2013 by Adrian A. Durlester
Other musings on this parasha:
Eikev 5772 - Is El Al Really Doing the Right Thing?
Eikev 5771-Lining Up Alphabetically By Height
Ekev 5770 - For the Good Planet
Ekev 5769-Not Like Egypt
Ekev 5766 - Kod'khei Eish-Kindlers of Fire
Eikev 5765-Are We Forgotten?
Ekev 5764-KaYom HaZeh
Ekev 5760 (from 5759)-Not Holier Than Thou