What We Do
Since 1982, creating new opportunities for the performance of Jewish music, encouraging and educating composers to write new Jewish music, and bringing Jewish music to new audiences. Over the years, The Jewish Music Commission of Los Angeles (JMCLA) has developed an extensive slate of programs, scholarships, and events to nurture Judaism through music. Our mission focuses on three important tenets:
Education JMCLA offers classes, workshops and scholarship programs for musicians and composers to study music, composition and performance, in both the traditional and secular media. Enrichment JMCLA works to explore Jewish identity through music and to introduce new Jewish artists and compositions to synagogues and communities throughout the world, thereby creating forums of discussion and creativity that bring us closer together with other cultures and religions. Entertainment Providing an exciting variety of concerts and events, JMCLA programs feature world-renowned artists performing their finest works for diverse audiences. Collaboration JMCLA works together with other organizations whose goals are consonant with ours in presenting performances of Jewish music from diverse cultures and styles and bringing them to a wide spectrum of the community, Jewish and others. Grants JMCLA awards grants to performance groups for specific events deemed vital to the life of Jewish music in our community.
- To create new opportunities for the performance of Jewish music
- To encourage the composition of Jewish music for the synagogue and for the community at large
- To bring Jewish music to new audiences, both religious and secular
- To provide education opportunities for composers who wish to write authentic new Jewish music
In addition to organizing and supporting a host of musical events, workshops and seminars, funding scholarships and grants, and awarding composition and performance commissions, JMCLA works with other organizations to provide funding and support for musical performance. We dedicated major funding for the Jewish Creative Arts Festival, Bezalel, at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in 2002 and 2003, and helped underwrite Hallelu presented by Synagogue 2000 at the Universal Amphitheatre. The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, (Dr. Noreen Green, artistic director) has received support from JMCLA, as has the Jewish Music Foundation, (Neal Brostoff, director) for its 2002 series Beyond Bim-Bom. We have also given grants to the UCLA Foundation for Jewish Studies and to the California Traditional Music Society for the work in concertizing new Jewish folk music.
Throughout our history, JMCLA has received numerous honors and accolades from other organizations. From 1984 through 1986, JMCLA was the recipient of a three-year grant for the Council on Synagogue Life of the Jewish Federation Council of Los Angeles. In 1987, we received the coveted Solomon Schechter Award for Music at the National convention of the United Synagogue of America. In 1988, the Silver Angel Award was presented to JMCLA for its recording of the winning composition A Test of Faith, by Lawrence Goldberg and Marcia Hain. We are proud recipients of the 1995 Cultural Arts Award of the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles for creating and presenting a cultural project that benefits the community.
From 1992 until 2000 the JMCLA recognized the best in contemporary Jewish music with the annual American Jewish Song Festival. Produced and directed by Sam Glaser, this song competition attracted several hundred entries each year, vying for thousands of dollars in prize money and the chance to be part of the live concert at VBS. The judges for the competition were recruited from the most respected and qualified composers in Southern California, all of whom served pro bono. A soundtrack album was released annually, featuring the top stars in the Jewish world singing the entries of the fifteen finalists.These and our other competitions have served as stepping stones for numerous composers on their way to important careers, i.e., a composer who won first prize in 1998 is now professor of music and head of the department in a Canadian university.
JMCLA has also worked to record and preserve Jewish music and education. We released our first recording in 1990, a cassette featuring Hallel and Torah Service, major works for chorus and orchestra composed by Aminadav Aloni. In 1993, Mr. Aloni was commissioned to write thirteen works for a cappella mixed chorus, S′fatai Tiftach, which has been published, recorded and released. In memory of Ami Aloni, who passed away in August 1999, JMCLA released a CD of these compositions, the proceeds from which support the Aminadav Aloni Music Foundation. In 1998, we released a ten-cassette program, Ten Lessons in Composing Jewish Music, the audio version of the seminar given for advanced composers at the University of Judaism by Dr. Michael Isaacson. We provided funding for the release in 2010 of Dr. Isaacson's Audiobook, "Jewish Music as Midrash.
Since 2002, we have sponsored annual interfaith symposia and concerts highlighting sacred texts shared by the Jewish and Christian communities. Topics have included Creation, Revelation, the Psalms and other major elements of writings shared by the two faiths. Speakers for the symposia have included the most prominent clergy, academics and artists in the Los Angeles area. Following the symposia, a concert of music is performed by leading choral and instrumental groups, comprised of works composed throughout the centuries relating to the symposium’s topic of the day.
Establishing the Max Helfman Institute for Jewish Music in 2010 has been an important initiative to create new music for the synagogue.