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Jewish American music festival gives voice to different influences within the genre

Daniel Raijman, a composer and producer along with Scott Senior, a fourth-year theater student, will perform in “UCLA American Jewish Music Festival: Music Crossing Boundaries” on Sunday at Schoenberg Music Building, Royce Hall and Dickson Plaza. Senior said his experience as a cantorial soloist ingrained in him a sense of community and faith which allows him to further connect with his music. (Bernard Mendez/Daily Bruin)

"UCLA American Jewish Music Festival: Music Crossing Boundaries"

Sunday

UCLA Schoenberg Music Building and Royce Hall

$10 for students

By Talia Brown

Feb. 28, 2020 12:56 a.m.

The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music seeks to explore the Jewish American experience through a festival featuring music from Broadway to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The event, titled “UCLA American Jewish Music Festival: Music Crossing Boundaries,” is presented by the Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music. Taking place Sunday at the Schoenberg Music Building, Royce Hall and Dickson Court, the festival will feature performances, talks and workshops by performers from Los Angeles and beyond. Lorry Black, the artistic director of the festival and associate director of the Lowell Milken Fund, said he put together the event to tell the often-untold story of Judaism in America and display the many global and stylistic nuances of Jewish music.

“When all these Jews, from all over the world, settled in the United States, … the incredible diversity and rich new culture that arises from that is really what I think this festival is all about,” Black said. “The idea of how Jewish culture can intersect with different cultures and different places, … that’s what we’re really trying to highlight.”

[Related: Jewish folk band to host workshop at music school to illuminate klezmer music]

Black said to recruit the festival’s performers he pulled from his network in the Jewish music community – many of whom are UCLA students. Scott Senior, a fourth-year theater student, will be performing a series of musical numbers by Jewish composers in a concert titled “A Place for Us: The Influence of Jewish Culture & Composers on Broadway.” Senior will sing in the duet “All the Wasted Time” from the Broadway musical “Parade” – a song which serves as a somber reminder that deep love can exist between members of different religions, he said.

“I think it’s important that … the collective world recognizes that (Jewish people) have put this beautiful music into the world,” Senior said. “There’s something in every (song) that either tells the story of something Jewish or tells you about a value of Judaism … that every Jew can connect with and use it to connect with everyone around them.”

(Bernard Mendez/Daily Bruin)
Raijman, a composer and producer, said he will discuss his influences and personal music style in his upcoming workshop. Raijman said the event is built on cultural connections to traditionally Jewish music with styles such as tango and bluegrass. (Bernard Mendez/Daily Bruin)

Senior said in musical theater, performers are expected to bring personal authenticity to their performances. As a cantorial soloist for his temple, he said he has developed a deeply ingrained sense of community and faith, which allows him to intrinsically connect with the music. Especially in the face of anti-Semitism, he said his music helps him feel proud of his Jewish heritage, and this translates into his performances.

The festival is built on such cultural connections as it incorporates music in many different styles, such as tango, klezmer and bluegrass, said Daniel Raijman, a composer, producer and one of the festival performers. He will be discussing his influences and personal music style in his workshop titled “From Buenos Aires to Los Angeles: The Music of Home.”

[Related: Festival showcases klezmer to restore interest in Yiddish culture]

Raijman said his music is a blend of Argentinian tango and folk music, which have historically been heavily influenced by Jewish klezmer music brought to Argentina by immigrants. Each performer brings sounds and styles unique to their own experiences, but they are connected through being Jewish or having Jewish influences, he said.

“I’m a Jewish immigrant who brought with me all these styles and music,” Raijman said. “Every time that I work on a project … I’m bringing my sounds and my knowledge and my experience with me.”

Since Jewish music has traditionally evolved to fit in with different styles, Raijman said the festival will inform people that the style exists beyond klezmer, as it can also expand to fall under genres such as bluegrass and tango. Jewish American Music talks at the festival will allow artists to discuss the connections between their music and Judaism so that audiences can fully understand and interact with the music, Black said.

“Everything (in the festival) is connected, because, in some way, it’s a mirror of the Jewish American experience,” Black said. “The one big connection that holds us all together is telling the story of how cultures have intersected in the United States to create something new, beautiful and vibrant.”

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