Sunday, April 29, 2012

Wake Up Call

We're now in the times of Sefiras Ha'Omer; post-Pesach and pre-Shavuos. In the past, I've blogged about the always popular topic of "Sefirah Beards." This year I'm going to share a more personal revelation regarding another Sefirah related topic: Music.

Just to preface, I've been an A Capella-only during Sefirah guy for quite a few years now, ever since I learned about the customs of mourning observed during this time period. Recently, however, I had a literal wake up call that really got me thinking.

One morning, I lazily shut off the first of my several alarms required to get me on my feet to head to shul. I also snoozed the next two after that. The last one, which successfully had me up and going, kept repeating for a bit before I managed to find my cell phone and come to my senses.

Only then did I realize that my alarm was a snippet of a TV theme from a show that I happen to be a fan of. Flipping through my other pre-set alarms from earlier that morning, I noticed that they were also TV themes or songs I liked. In case you're already guessing, no, I'm not knocking watching TV (especially in moderation, as ASoG and I do online). What struck me was the fact that my morning alarm was MUSIC.

I remembered when I first returned from Israel, post Shana Aleph, and certainly during my years at YU following Shana Bet, how everything I used to do was very, for lack of a better term "b'kavanna." I used to think about my actions, even the most minute of them, and figure out how they related to my overall sense of religious identity and observance of Torah and mitzvos. I recalled how I specifically and very intentionally would change both my ring tone and my alarms/text sounds to non-musical selections during this time of year, as well as during the 3 Weeks. 

I'm ashamed to admit that I honestly can't recall what I did during the past 3 Weeks period from this past summer. However, since that recent morning,  I really "woke up" to how much my focus has changed since those times, freshly returned from Israel.

Don't get me wrong, I am not in any way advocating flip-out behaviors that many young men and women exhibit upon their return from the Holy Land. I am, as usual, pointing to certain grey areas that are worthwhile and beneficial. I don't advocate strictures or observances that impact negatively on others, but if there are little things that go the "extra mile" to remind you of what's really important, such as having a proper mindset during this time period of national mourning, then I think it's worth it. My wife will certainly not notice whether my alarms going on and off are musical or simply repeating beeps, alarm bells, or roosters crowing (she actually isn't such a fan of the last one, but it wakes me up). 

On a related note, it's about time I do something about needing multiple alarms to get me out of bed. I need to channel that inner lion in me to wake up with vigor and enthusiasm. 

A friend of mine once told me he heard Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl joke that he gets up every day like a lion... a tired lion is a lion, too!

Anyway, I'm sure we all have things we've become a little less conscious about, whether we went to Israel for one or two years - or not at all. In a time where we should be preparing to re-receive the Torah once again, it behooves all of us to do some self-examination and find these little (or not so little) things, become more aware of them, and live more conscious, thoughtful lives.

PS - School has been taking its toll of me as of late, hence the lack of regular postings. I can't promise that things will change, but I hope to be far less absent that I have been in recent weeks. Please bear with me, and I thank all the readers, both the new ones and the regulars, for continuing to visit during my absence.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Final Stretch - Support The Y-Studs!

As of this posting, the fund raising for the Y-Studs' first album, "Take Me Home" has 57 hours left to raise the necessary $2,000 to print physical CDs.

The exciting part is that they're almost there!

At present time, they've raised $1,812, and thus only need 19 people to buy the mp3 version at $10 a download. If you at all interested in these guys, attend/support Yeshiva University, enjoy Jewish Music or need a new and non-Maccabeat A Capella album for Sefira (sorry YBC), make a donation and make their CD happen!

Tell all your friends!

Click here for their Kickstarter fund-raising page.

For more info, see my previous post.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Help The Y-Studs Make Their Debut CD!

Did you know that Yeshiva University has more than one very talented A Capella group?

Cultivated on the YU's Wilf Campus, The Y-Studs are a group of singers (some friends/classmates of mine) who are growing in their popularity and fan base. Amidst all the hoopla surrounding The Maccabeats, people may have unfortunately not noticed these guys and their amazing vocal skills.

They've already performed at the YU Chanukah Concert, the Seforim Sale, Homecoming, and other YU events including YU's graduation.

Here they are performing some of their signature songs at the Seforim Sale:

"Bilvavi" "Milim Tafot" and "Lost"


Incidentally, they've also helped with a proposal in the Height's Lounge at YU.

Now they are working hard on producing their debut album "Take Me Home," which is set to be released on April 2nd. If they have a release date, you may ask, why did the tile of this post say that you, dear reader, can help the Y-Studs make their debut CD?

Simple, The Y-Studs are currently raising funds to cover the cost of the printing and distribution of physical CDs in a campaign called "Help Us Share Our Music With YOU!!!" Many of you might say, "who needs CDs in this digital age?" to which I'll reply that not everyone is as tech savvy as you, and some people - myself included - like to have a physical copy of the real thing, complete with jacket art and printed graphics on the CD. Call me old fashioned, call me an obsessive collector, but that's how I am.

So why shouldn't The Y-Studs not have the chance to see their album enjoyed by potential listeners out there who prefer CDs, for whatever reason? Although they do not have the star-studded millions of viewers on Youtube (yet), they deserve to have a physical album to sell at their concerts to fans (and grandparents of fans) to enjoy and be autographed by the group.

Even if you're not the type of person who buys CDs anymore, you can still donate $10 or more and receive a digital copy of the album in .mp3 format. So you'll get your fancy-pants digital album for your mp3-player of choice AND help The Y-Studs reach their $2000 fund-raising goal. Then, they can print their CDs, everyone can enjoy their music, and we all win!

As of the time of this posting, they have 49 backers, and have raised $990. Depending on the amount you donate, you will receive "rewards" from the group, potentially including a digital copy of the album, a physical CD, or several other fun and wacky (Jesse-time?) benefits.

The Y-Studs are utilizing the Kickstarter system, which means that if all $2000 are not raised by 8:33 PM on April 11th, all pledged funds will be returned to their owners. So if they don't get enough money to print the CDs you don't lose out either way.

I am a big fan of Jewish Music, as well as a fan of diversity in Jewish Music. As much as I like the Maccabeats, I don't think I could get through Sefira with just one A Cappella CD. I remember when Kol Zimra 2 and Lev Tahor 3 came out in the same Sefira-season - which allowed me to enjoy one album one day and the other the next, so that I had a greater amount of A Cappella to enjoy and didn't get sick of either CD by playing it over and over.

Plus, more Jewish Music groups in general is ALWAYS a good thing. Having more groups expands our public talent base and modern music culture.

Still need some convincing? Preview "Take Me Home" now on and prepare your ears for some soulful, energetic vocals. You can also check out their Youtube channel for a number of videos from their performances.

While you're at it, why not visit The Y-Studs' Facebook page as well?

So in short, pledge your support for the Y-Studs! Enjoy their album, and may we all see a continued rise in popularity of Jewish A Capella and music in general, now and in days to come.

PS - for those readers who never attended Yeshiva College or Stern, "Y-Stud" is short for "Yeshiva College Students" - and is email address for general announcements sent to the entire student body. Stern, in turn, has "S-Studs." So the name of this A Capella group is meant to be a clever double entendre. And now you know - and knowledge is power, or half the battle... or something.

PPS - Little known fact: The Maccabeats also considered the name The Y-Studs before settling on their formal moniker.