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I auditioned for The Voice Season 7. Watch the premiere on Sept. 22 to see how I did!

Welcome

Michael Stein is a world renowned performer, composer, producer, and recording artist. A Grammy Award winner (cELLAbration) and nominee (Dreamosaurus), his songs have been recorded by the late Patsy Montana and have been in movies such as "The Little Traitor." He has recorded fiddle for artists such as Mary Chapin Carpenter and Tom Paxton. His songs have been published by Warner Chappell (We Are With You) and have played on thousands of radio stations world wide. In addition to producing cutting-edge music and concerts, he also serves as the cantor at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, California. He is the father of three sons who are accomplished musicians of their own. Together with his wife, Kelley, they perform nationally with their group, the Rolling Steins. Thanks for vising my site and be sure to join my mailing list.

Finding my "Voice" 

So now you know what I was doing doing during part of my vacation in June and July.  I was in sequestration in a hotel in Los Angeles near the Universal studios for almost three weeks. To get there I had to pass two major auditions in Los Angeles, in a process that auditioned talent  all over the country.  And after 45,000  people auditioned 103 of us found ourselves living together in what we called “music camp!”  Every step of the process was secret, for that is the nature of “reality” television.  I told my wife Kelley that it was like going to an Ivy League school — you might be a star in your own town, but once you get there, every one is a genius.  That’s the way it was. And it truly inspired me.  You know the article in the Jewish Journal which was very accurate except for my wife’s name (does anyone have a spare couch? LOL) quoted me as saying that I always thought of myself as a musician who sings.  Well guess what? That changed in the three weeks that I prepared for the show.  We had wonderful coaches and producers who worked with us—and every moment of every day people were singing in the lobby, around the pool, in the parking lot, in the restaurant—that is the sign of a true singer—you don’t stop—ever!  I was that way with my musical instruments.  I always joke that you have to have a fanatical stage—and I did.  I am surprised that my musician sons still have hearing-I practiced for hours and hours when they were very young sitting in front of me.  So what did I sing when I was sequestered?  Yes I sang with my peeps around the pool, etc., but in my hotel room I sang songs from our tradition. I had an anthology for the High Holy Days, I had Yiddish songs that I was working on and just plain traditional Hazzanut.  Why? Because I knew that working on that music would be fulfilling and force me to work on my craft, which is being a Hazzan, first and foremost. 

I don’t know if you noticed a change, but I did on the Yamim Nora’im.  I sang with confidence and with purpose, not just the words and the prayerful content in my heart and mind, but with the mindset of a singer whose desire to perform hiddur hamitzvah, beautifying the mitzvah was in my thoughts.  I thought of myself as a singer.  I had spent a good deal of time working on my craft and when it was time to step on to the stage of the television studio, kippah on my head and tzitzit underneath my shirt, I was the complete person.  I did not even notice that the judges had not turned around. I did what I always do—I got in to it and did the best job that my vocal instrument allowed me to do. 

 

So “Aizeh ashir?….Hasameach b’chelko?” (Ethics of our Fathers 4:1)  Who is rich?  One who is happy with his portion.  I went on the Voice because an agent called.  My family encouraged me to do it—and I am glad I did.  It felt good getting those two callbacks—like I felt when I was a kid auditioning for Broadway shows.  But when I was young I could not find substance in what I was doing—singing other people’s songs and devoting time to issues that were not important to me.  So I struggled and had great success as a writer of children’s music.  I loved to teach and singing that material had meaning and instilled a love for music and thirst for knowledge in so many young people.  Then I re-discovered my Judaism and became a cantor, singing the music that I grew up with and always heard in my head.  This created the opportunity to sing about values and ideas that are very very close to my heart.  I am so rich, so completely satisfied with what I do in the community, with the many opportunities to be close to people, to help, to counsel to teach and to inspire.  My ego was stroked by being on television, but my deep sense of worth is enhanced daily by my work in the Jewish community. And not to mention by the loving reaction of so many to my appearance on the show.  An overwhelming response of “they should have turned their chairs, but remember that we love you!” —from adults and children alike. What else is there to reach for?  Okay I wouldn’t mind a contract with Universal studios.  But for now, which holiday is next—OH YEAH— HANUKKAH and my friend Peter Yarrow!  Don’t miss it, December 14— LIGHT ONE CANDLE!

Voices of Hope 

It is sometimes hard for me to get started on my articles or, for that matter to write any kind of piece.  It has to kind of rumble around in my head, like a song—until it comes out in some kind of form that is ready to be shared. People who know me, know that I really don’t like to talk much, and I will often say before I begin to speak I public the following-- “I would much rather be singing.”  But then there are times when something hits you so hard, makes such an impact that there is no question that a stream of thought will quite quickly become a river of ideas and form itself into a piece of work.  That happened to me during one of my Sunday rehearsals with Kolot Tikvah, Voices of Hope choir.  I am always touched by the experience of working with this group of young people—no, more correctly, I am inspired.  I am definitely emotionally attached to the work of singing with young people with what I term “extraordinary abilities.” One of the reasons is that my mother Florence Stein z’’l taught me the value of music as a tool to reach people. She was kindergarten teacher in NYC, who played piano in the classroom and every summer she would volunteer during most of her summer off to work for the newly created “Headstart” program in a rural school where we spent our summers. She insisted that I bring my guitar and play and sing for the children. No questions asked, this was my duty.  We lived near an institution in Queens, Creedmore Hospital (where my hero, Woody Guthrie was hospitalized), and my mother insisted that I go with my high school music buddies to the hospital and play for the patients. 

 

So on Sunday afternoons, when we rehearse, I am so tired as it is the end of a what is typically a long weekend of Shabbat services and teaching on Sunday mornings—our students are tired as well, but music is the cure all for that ailment.  We start with a Hello song –

(Group) Hello _____  shalom shalom tell me how are you ha’yom?

(____) I’m fine thanks, todah rabbah 

(Group) we welcome you Baruch Habbah. 

Then we move on to vocal exercises, making sure that we use our hands as well as our voices to show the progression up or down of the musical notes—music theory 101. “Mamma made me mash my M&M’s” is a popular lyric for that exercise.  Then on to the real work – we will do a song that we know as a good warm up and then on to music that we need to learn for our next performance, whether an outright show, or a worship service in the synagogue. Oh yes and the drums—drums are a very effective tool in helping the brain connect to music.  Sometimes hitting a drum for every syllable helps the non-verbal person actually say the words.  I don’t know the science but I know the almost miraculous effect.  Speaking of miracles, we were rehearsing for Hanukka and doing a Debbie Friedman song, “Miracles Aren’t Just Magic.” The words continue  “…..they need people to help them along.”  We talked about the miracles of Hannukah, not just the oil but the defeat of Israel’s enemies. I stated that we couldn’t just stand there and expect God to help us win the battle, and one of the students said “We have to be partners with God and do our part!” We later sung another beautiful song by Rabbi Menachem Creditor, “Olam Chesed Yibane,”  “ We shall build this world with kindness.”  We made up our own words as we continued “I shall build this world with SONG…PEACE.” The words of the song represent a progression—“I shall….you shall…if we…THEN GOD will build this world with peace.”  I asked how this was like the miracle song, and one of our members said “it is the same thing—if we don’t work to make it happen and be partners with God then it doesn’t work…we have to do our share!”

I enter our Kolot Tikvah rehearsal tired every Sunday afternoon, but leave refreshed, inspired and filled with awe and love.  Working with this choir and my other childrens choirs remains the most fulfilling work that I do.  This last rehearsal I was a little bit in tears—I realized that m’dor l’dor, from generation to generation, the values that my mother taught me continue well in to the later years of my life.  I have worked to instill those values in my children, and yes my grandchildren as well.  

The Kolot Tikvah choir, as well as Shir Aliyah and other choirs will be participating in a service on January 16th called “Voices of Freedom—Dr. King, the Legacy Lives On!” The focus of the service is Interfaith worship with representatives and choirs of different faith groups in our community coming together to make Dr. King’s reality of all peoples living together in freedom. 

 
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Voices of Freedom: Dr. King's Legacy Lives On!

Temple Aliyah , 6025 Valley Circle Blvd, Woodland Hills, CA 91367

 

We have a dream at Temple Aliyah--to bring together all religions, pray for peace, sing and walk together hand in hand. Join Life Choir under direction of HB Barnum; St Bernardine's; Islamic Society of West Valley Voices of Hope Choir and others!

FREE and open to the public

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