Musings on Being a Helfman Fellow

Image of Michael Gill

I grew up hearing stories about Max Helfman and enjoying his memorable melodies. My family still sings his candle blessing melody and beautiful Havdalah service. To be a part of a twenty-first century rededication to the creation of Jewish music, in Max Helfman’s memory, is a truly tremendous honor. Although I have enjoyed listening to, playing, and interpreting Jewish music my whole music career, I had never tried to compose Jewish music of my own and was humbled at the prospect. What did I have to say that has not been stated already by other composers? But working with Dr. Isaacson and the remarkable Helfman Fellows has taught me that just as the Torah is considered a living document, so too can new perspectives be given to traditional liturgy.

The bonus has been the opportunity to work with this group of musicians. The remarkable stylistic diversity of energetic, deep, and frequently sublime music composed by this group of stunningly talented, down-to-earth, bright, articulate, funny, supportive, creative people is eye-opening.

The pleasure of being surrounded by a group of musicians who are both completely supportive and technically critical, maintaining the highest standards of musical integrity, has opened up new creative landscapes for me that I intend to explore for the rest of my life.