Stories of Music with Hazzan Elizabeth Shammash: Western Art Music as Synagogue Sound

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Stories of Music with Hazzan Elizabeth Shammash: Western Art Music as Synagogue Sound



How does music reflect the American Jewish experience? What does Jewish music tell us about our identities and history? Join us to explore these questions and more through Stories of Music, an adult education project of the Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music at UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, where you will have the opportunity to learn with top faculty from UCLA and the Cantors Assembly.

This Unit: The Art of Prayer: Western Art Music as Synagogue Sound [Unit 2]

How has Western Art Music Influenced Synagogue Worship?

Since the Renaissance, Jews have risen to prominence in art music. This lesson explores the intersection of Western Art Music and Jewish music, and the influence it has had on the sound of synagogue worship. Through this class, the learner will understand that:

  • Music of the synagogue reflects the intersection where our Jewish identity and our experience as members of American society come together.
  • Jewish identity is fluid, reflecting an ongoing negotiation between the Jewish community and the surrounding host culture.
  • How we define ourselves both as Jews and as members of the host culture influences the “sound” of the synagogue.

Learners will be exposed to the music of Salomon Rossi, who brought the influence of Baroque music into the synagogue; Solomon Sulzer’s, whose compositions are reminiscent of the music of 19th century Vienna; and, the 20th century composers Ernest Bloch, Isidore Freed, and Charles Davidson who bring new and different musical sensibilities.

And they’ll explore questions such as these:

  • What are some of the common social/historical themes that are critical to moments of integration of art music into the synagogue?
  • What makes the art music of the surrounding culture feel appropriate for the synagogue?
  • How might synagogue music influence the development of one’s Jewish identity?


The Stories of Music curriculum is developed in partnership with the Cantors Assembly, the American Conference of Cantors, and our colleagues at the Milken Archive of Jewish Music. Our goal is to provide prepared lesson materials on a broad range of musically related topics to engage participants in adult education programs to think about the American Jewish experience through stories of the evolving nature of Jewish music.

This program is made possible by the Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.