The Newsletter of the Guild of Temple Musicians

Summer 2016 / 5776 Kayitz

In This Issue:

Convention is just a few days away! 
Check out the
convention website to download materials and music, review workshop choices, view the schedule and read about presenters and scholars.
Rachel Gottlieb Kalmowitz and Laurie Akers
Our newest Featured Member is Rachel Gottlieb Kalmowitz who proudly serves as Cantor at Temple Beth El of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Rachel grew up in Grand Rapids, but both of her parents grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, so moving to Metro Detroit in 2004 to become Cantorial Soloist at Beth El truly felt like a coming home. Rachel has just graduated from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in the first cohort of their Cantorial Certification Program, and her path to becoming a fully credentialed Cantor has been a long and interesting one.

At the age of 7, Rachel started singing solos in the Junior Choir at Temple Emanuel in Grand Rapids, which was led by her rebbitzin, who was the first to note that hers was not the voice of an average child. She was also in a group called Rachel and the Rascals, which included her father playing bass and a local jazz pianist. Around the same time, she became known as a freelance talent in Grand Rapids, doing theatre and commercials. She went to Interlochen Arts Academy for all of high school, majoring in voice and minoring in dance, and then headed off as an undergraduate voice major to Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.

While there, Rachel began looking for a Jewish outlet. She had a church job, as did many of her friends, and she went to Dr. Samuel Adler, then head of the composition department at Eastman, and asked whether there was such a thing as a Temple job. Although Rachel had grown up attending Sunday school and celebrating the Jewish holidays, and had become a Bat Mitzvah, her congregation in Grand Rapids was a small one, without a Cantor, and she truly didn't know that such a profession existed. Sam told her that yes, there was such a thing, and as a matter of fact, his Cantor, Barbara Ostfeld, was leaving his congregation (Temple B'rith Kodesh), and they were looking for an interim Cantorial Soloist. Rachel was awarded this position in 1990, which she maintained for 3 years until her graduation. She credits this experience, and the incredible support she received from Sam Adler and Rabbi Judea Miller z"l, with moving her toward her ultimate career in the cantorate.

In subsequent years, while she was getting her Master's degree in voice from the University of Michigan and then living in Chicago and in New York, she continued as a part-time cantorial soloist, even working with such influential cantors as Jeff Klepper, while pursuing a career in opera and musical theatre. She performed many roles and was a District winner of the Metropolitan National Council Auditions. She sang with great conductors and in unforgettable venues. However, although she enjoyed her life in New York, she felt somewhat isolated and always had a sense that she had not found her true path.

This changed in 2004, when Rabbi Daniel B. Syme brought her home to Michigan to become the Cantorial Soloist and Music Director of Temple Beth El. Having a central role in such a warm and wonderful community, creating relationships across generations, and using her talents to create sacred moments in the lives of her congregants has been a most fulfilling experience. She attended Mifgash Musicale for many years, exploring new repertoire, deepening her liturgical knowledge, and forging valuable relationships. She also loves working with cantorial colleagues, and, as such, was the GTM chair of the 2011 Boston Convention and is Financial Vice President of the Michigan Board of Cantors. However, she always wanted to be a Cantor - not just to function as one, but to fully inhabit the role.

Now, after having spent the last four years filling in holes in her education through the Cantorial Certification Program, gently and ably led by Cantor Ellen Dreskin, and, just as importantly, realizing the ways that she wants to continue to grow, she is now a Cantor. Rachel looks forward to continuing her work with Rabbi Mark Miller, a truly remarkable clergy partner, and to working with Rabbi Megan Brudney, who joins the Beth El team in July 2016. She also tries to remain fully present in her other roles, as wife to Carey and mother to Ilana. Rachel is a proud member of the American Conference of Cantors and the Guild of Temple Musicians.

Laurie Akers proudly serves as the cantorial soloist at Temple Sholom of Chicago. Laurie was born and raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Laurie's passion for music developed at a very early age. At age 2, Laurie developed a daily habit of spending countless hours bumping her head against her bedroom wall, producing rhythmic patterns to accompany her voice. In an effort to remedy the increasingly large cracks on the wall, while still providing a musical outlet for their toddler, Laurie's parents purchased both a padded headboard and a piano that same year.  

Laurie's professional career began at age 12, when she was cast in the Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of Tosca. Laurie continued to study voice, piano and dance, and followed her love of musical theatre into her collegiate years. Laurie attended The Cincinatti College-Conservatory of Music's musical theatre program, and continued by earning a degree in Musical Theatre from The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. While in college, Laurie was an active member U of M's Hillel and spent many of her alumni years as a member of Chai Society. After college, Laurie spent a year performing in Brazil, followed by a move to New York City. Laurie spent almost a decade performing in regional and Broadway national touring productions. 

In 2002, Laurie was given the honor of becoming Miss USO, in which she spent a year traveling extensively throughout the world to provide entertainment and support for US troops and veterans. During her year as Miss USO, Laurie engaged in performances ranging from entertaining thousands of troops on military bases to singing bedside to small groups of wounded veterans. Following her year with the USO, Laurie took off an additional year from her musical theatre career to create and implement musical programming for New York City's Young Adult Institute, an organization that provides recreational opportunities for men and women with developmental disabilities.  

In 2009, Laurie moved back to Chicago to be closer to her family. She became very active as a volunteer and a performer at fundraising events for Bright Pink, a non-profit organization that provides Breast and Ovarian cancer awareness and support for young women. Upon Laurie's move back to Chicago, she met her husband, Brad Akers, who introduced Laurie to his community at Temple Sholom of Chicago. The president of the congregation knew of Laurie's career, and introduced her to the cantor of the synagogue, with hopes of future collaboration. Laurie began by singing pieces during the high holidays, and her work soon turned into the leading of services and serving as a substitute for the cantor on a regular basis. With each experience, Laurie's passion for Jewish music as well as for her role grew significantly. As Laurie had spent most of her adult life balancing a musical theatre career with community service and non-profit work, she finally found the world that embodied the profound connection that she felt between her love of music, people, and the Jewish community. 
Last July, Laurie was given the tremendous honor of becoming the interim cantorial soloist for Temple Sholom of Chicago. She works alongside an incredible clergy team of 3 rabbis, who she is fortunate to call both colleagues and friends. Laurie loves helping others find their connections to Judaism through music, and she feels so much pride participating in life cycle events within her community. Laurie is committed to the study of Jewish music and Torah, and in addition to a personal mentorship with a Chicago-based cantor, Laurie recently began taking classes through the Aleph program. 

When not at Temple Sholom, Laurie and Brad moonlight as singers of family favorites, You are My Sunshine, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and a multitude of Ellen Allard tunes to an audience of three boys, Isaac, Levi and Ashton. In addition, Laurie is a fitness fanatic and spends much of her time running while learning new music! She is honored to be a member of the Guild of Temple Musicians. 
2017 ACC-GTM Convention in Las Vegas
Co-Chairs Jenna Sagan & Rabbi Zev Sonnenstein
Dates: June 25-29, 2017

Jenna Sagan

Zev Sonnenstein

2018 ACC-GTM Convention in Dallas
Chair Marla Aviva Bentley
Dates: June 24-28, 2018

Marla Aviva Bentley

Above: Dr. Alan Mason accompanying the HaZamir International Choir at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Left: Dr. Alan Mason and Cantor Alberto Mizrahi in concert at the 2016 Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina.

Below: Dr. Alan Mason performing a recital of Jewish Music at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.  

Rebecca, Abby, and Lindi at the JCWMRL

The Joint Commission on Worship, Music, and Religious Living conferred on June 14, and discussed "Every Day Spirituality" with guest speaker Rabbi Jonathan Slater from the Institute for Jewish Spirituality (IJS). Topics and literature discussed were: Mindful Jewish Living, Restoring the Aleph: Judaism for the Contemporary Seeker, and To Live Torah Today. Representing the GTM on the WMRL committee are Rebecca Wolpert Schwartz, Abby Bernstein Gostein and Lindi Rivers.

Klei Shir
is published by the Guild of Temple Musicians, an Affiliate of the American Conference of Cantors.  For comments or questions, contact Editor Marla Aviva Bentley, GTM Vice President of Communications and Publicity. 

Alan Mason to be Honored During Concert

by Sergio Carmona

Alan Mason has directed sacred Jewish music and accompanied cantors and soloists at Temple Israel of Greater Miami's Shabbat and High Holiday services throughout his 25 years serving there. 

For his 25 years of service to Jewish music at the synagogue, South Florida and around the world, Temple Israel and the Winter Jewish Music Concert will present a concert in Mason's honor on May 7 at 8 p.m. The concert takes place at the synagogue's Bertha Abess Sanctuary, 137 NE 19th St. in Miami. Mason will accompany the concert's singers, many of whom come from across South Florida, while playing piano.

Mason has served as Temple Israel's music director for a quarter century and also serves many other local synagogues. He is also the program director of the annual Winter Jewish Music Concert, one of the nation's leading concerts of Jewish music that has presented more than 100 performers since it began in 2009. Mason has also performed Jewish music across the country and around the world, including at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., a White House Hanukkah party and Carnegie Hall in New York.

When asked about this upcoming concert, Mason responded: "I'm looking at it as an opportunity for me to share with the people closest to me and have them share with me a lovely evening of first rate music."

"It's a kind of causal evening with a little bit of creativity, a little bit of theater and a lot of back and forth sharing with people who are going to be on the program," Mason said.

Mason describes his experience serving the synagogue as music director as a "wonderful" one.

"I would say for what I am there to do there's been little to no change," Mason said. "My weekly routine still revolves around Friday night Shabbat services and the thought and preparation and readiness required of me to make it a successful evening. I still take pride in organizing the music in such a way that it's to people's liking for the most part."

Among the numerous performers for this upcoming concert include the Second Avenue Jewish Chorale, a local choir that performs at various venues throughout South Florida.

"What an honor to be invited! Alan Mason has performed with the best of the best in Jewish music and the cantorial arts during his 25-year tenure at Temple Israel and as director of the Jewish Music Concert," noted Coreen Duffy, artistic director of the Second Avenue Jewish Chorale, in an email. "That he wanted to feature the Second Avenue Jewish Chorale on this special night, honoring his service to the temple and to the Jewish community, is a privilege for our ensemble."

Another performer is Cantor Rachelle Nelson of Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest. Mason noted that it was Nelson who introduced him to Temple Israel in the fall of 1990 while she was employed as a cantor there and he was studying at the University of Miami Frost School of Music for his Doctor of Music Arts degree.

"She embraced me as someone who could contribute to the local sacred Jewish community," Mason said of Nelson.

Mason is grateful for Nelson's guidance while she praised his impact over the synagogue's Jewish music the past 25 years.

"Alan's impact has been enormous in his vision for programming and for the pulpit," she noted. "Alan has brought great cantors, composers, and instrumentalists who have delighted his congregation year after year."

Nelson said, regarding her upcoming performance during the concert: "It will be an incredible experience, as it has always been, to sing on the bima, where I was blessed to serve as cantor for the first 10 years of my cantorate."

The upcoming concert culminates with the world premiere of a special work of Jewish music commissioned in honor of Mason and composed by Michael Ochs.

This article was published on May 2, 2016 and written by Sergio Carmona of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

July 24-28, 2016
Mifgash Musicale is an annual educational program for all members of the GTM - soloists; choir directors and singers; keyboardists, organists, and other instrumentalists. The practical focus is on expanding your familiarity with Jewish liturgy and its musical repertory. Our programming each year is tailored to both first-timers and returnees.

This year's focus will be on both Shabbat liturgical repertoire (in a variety of settings, scorings, and styles) and basic life-cycle liturgical settings (Yizkor, funerals, weddings). There have been many requests for life-cycle material, and we're doing it. Also, along with Friday night and Saturday morning, we'll be looking at enhancements for Shabbat afternoon services, as many congregations hold minchah or havdallah B'nei Mitzvah services.

View the 2016 Mifgash Schedule here.

Highlights of this year's Mifgash Musicale:

For more information about Mifgash visit:


by Julie Zimmerman, Chair
Ben Steinberg, GTM President 2002-3, and co-president (with John Planer) 2003-4, was born in Winnipeg, Canada in 1930, the son of the late Cantor Alexander Steinberg. He learned the modes for Sabbath and festival services by age 5. At age 8 he sang his first solo at a Selichot service, and was con ducting his father's choir by age 11.

Ben studied music at the Royal Conservatory of Music, earning his degree at the University of Toronto where he studied composition with John Weinzweig and Samuel Dolin. Since then Ben has had a long and fruitful career as a composer, educator, Music Director, and conductor/lecturer around the world. Ben has been honored by many music organizations (both Jewish and non-Jewish) in Canada, the US, and Israel.

Ben Steinberg has been an incredibly proficient composer. In addition to the wonderful SATB + cantor compositions (for example Oseh Shalom and Shalom Rav/B'sefer Chayim), his works, published in U.S., Canada, and Israel, include six Sabbath Services, a Memorial Service, thirteen cantatas for chorus and orchestra, numerous choral settings, instrumental chamber works and solo songs. Many of his works have been included on recordings by artists in Europe and across the United States.

Ben was a volunteer in many roles within the GTM before he became President, including proposing and directing the GTM's Young Composer's Award competition. His goal was always the encouragement of quality Jewish music through knowledge, understanding and love of tradition. Ben's advice to those who would like to become more active/proficient in synagogue music is: "first become a musician, then specialize in Jewish music through choral involvement and reading."

Ben Steinberg is now happily retired in Toronto with the title of Composer in Residence at Toronto's Temple Sinai.

by Alan Mason, President
Notes from Day 1:

The GTM Board, joined by Rachel Roth, Chief Operating Officer of the American Conference of Cantors, enjoyed our first day of retreat in Miami.  Marla Aviva Bentley led us in Nisim B'chol Yom. Aryell Cohen delivered a moving memorial to Kathy Storfer, beloved GTM member who passed away last November. After my President's report, Aryell Cohen presented the Chair's report on Mifgash Musicale. David Shukiar presented a report on the Ben Steinberg Young Composers Award, the Shomeir Shirah Award, and the Generation to Generation Award. Mark Saltzman provided a financial report, which clearly demonstrated growth, development, progress, and much increased interest in the GTM. Rachel Roth introduced the slate of incoming ACC officers to us and reported on the ACC. Sarah Bollt reported on the website, Marla Aviva Bentley reported on Communications and Publicity.  Liz Herman took Minutes, and Paula Baruch served as Member-at-Large.    

Notes from Day 2:

The GTM Board concluded our two day retreat in Miami, and we have made great strides in growth and development.  The morning began with David Shukiar leading Nisim B'chol Yom, accompanied by beautiful and meaningful teachings on what it means for us, an an organization, awakening to a new era. Rachel Roth led us in a lengthy discussion of leadership development.  Beth Pennamacoor presented a Membership report, and a lengthy discussion was devoted to the GTM By-Laws and Const itution, with consideration given to revising the document.  An examination of our Ethics policy will be conducted, and in the next several months a Nominating Committee will be appointed to determine the next slate of GTM officers. Paula Baruch graciously accepted a new appointment as Vice President for Convention and Education, vacating her present appointment as Member-at-Large.  It was decided to increase the number of Member-at-Large appointments, with consideration given to members who may serve in future leadership roles. Rachel Roth led us in a discussion of ACC-GTM relations, and we approved a motion to adapt the same Social Media Policy as the ACC.  Also at the retreat were Aryell Cohen, Immediate Past President, Liz Herman, Secretary, Sarah Bollt, Website, Marla Aviva Bentley, VP Communications, and Mark Saltzman, VP Finance.

There is still time to apply for the 2017 Ben Steinberg Young Composer's Award.  Applications are due Friday, July 29, 2016.  For complete rules and a guideline of submissions visit:

Our Musical Past.

Our Musical Future.

The Guild of Temple Musicians
an Affiliate of the American Conference of Cantors

1375 Remmington Road, Suite M, Schamburg, Illinois 60173