oySongs - Love Jewish Music


Sam Glaser - News & Reviews
Rabbi Boruch Cohon in the L.A. Jewish Messenger
Twelve students of widely different backgrounds sit around a table in the Aish Hatorah library, fascinated. Piloting them on their journey through the Sedrah of the week and some laws of Shabat observance ­ and illustrating his lesson with occasional anecdotes from his own life ­ is Sam Glaser, the man that motion picture star Kirk Douglas described as "bringing new life to Jewish music,". He's a self-made star of the Jewish music world. He was turned on to rock and pop and jazz in his early youth, and is as enthusiastic about what he's teaching these dozen people as he is when he performs for huge audiences.

His upcoming concert at the Alex Theater, Glendale, on February 9th will be special indeed. Instead of his usual gig ­ solo or with his band ­ he will appear with the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony conducted by Dr. Noreen Green, including a 20-voice adult choir and a 100-voice children's chorus along with Sam and his band in an all-Glaser program. I, for one, am looking forward to it.

It was some 16 years ago that Sam Glaser came to join my High Holiday choir. Today he remembers every Yontif melody, even sang one for his students. He moved from working with his father in the garment industry to build his first studio in a vacant clothing warehouse, and proceeded to compose and record music for himself and other performers. He organized a band and played dates at clubs like At My Place in Santa Monica, while pouring more and more of his boundless energy into his studio. "I live to record," he says.

While building a career in commercial music, Sam was also discovering the power of Judaism in his own life. A scholarship to Aish Hatorah in Israel started him on the road to an observant lifestyle which he not only maintains but enhances continuously, with the support of his wife Shira and their children. It was my privilege to participate in their wedding, along with several other rabbis. And I could read the depth of emotion in the face of the tall young man standing under the canopy in his white kittle.

All this time, however, Sam didn't consider Jewish music a serious idiom for him. Then in 1991 Stu Wax engaged him to write a theme song for Operation Exodus, celebrating the liberation of Soviet Jews. The song he wrote, called Hineni, (Here I am), was an instant hit. Sam was invited to the Conference of CAJE (Conference of American Jewish Educators) at USC, and was thrilled to perform for an audience of 2,000 ­ all of whom already knew his lyrics! That outdid any nightclub experience. He began promoting a new career, doing Shabbatons and performing what one fan calls "edu-tainment."

From then on the Jewish albums flowed out of Glaser Musicworks - A Day in the Life, Kol Bamidbar (Voice in the Wilderness), and so many more. His new release is The Bridge, in cooperation with the Common Denominator organization in Israel. This year he will launch it with an international tour, ending in Australia. Sam is convinced that we Jews all have core values that we share, with much more to unite us than to divide us. He credits his family with inspiring his effort to include everyone in his message, just as he makes sure to include all of his audience in every performance.

Anticipating the concert at the Alex Theater, he says he's a nervous wreck. So different from what he's done before. How different? It will include more musicians, more singers, and hopefully a large audience to share his message and his infectious enthusiasm. More work for him, definitely. But we are lucky. All we need to do is show up and sing Hineni!

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