Performance workshops, masterclasses, and guest lectures are led by bandleader and ethnomusicologist Dr. Samuel Torjman Thomas. Programming encompasses a wide range of topics, including Jewish musical traditions, Sephardi-Mizrahi history, Middle Eastern musical traditions, Jazz history and practice, religious studies, and ethnography. Residencies range from a weekend retreat or Shabbaton to shorter lectures and masterclasses.
All programming is customized to your community’s interests and budget.
These workshops are focused on the rich and varied traditions of writing and performing piyyutim (semi-sacred poetry) in the Sephardi-Mizrahi world. This robust realm of spiritual expression serves as the backbone of the quasi-classical musical traditions of several Sephardi-Mizrahi groups from around the world. Beginning in Medieval al-Andalus (southern Spain) and continuing in theÝfive centuries since the expulsion from Spain in 1492, poets and musicians have been using these piyyutim to express unique conceptions of the relationship between humanity and the Divine.
One-hour Workshop: This workshop is designed to give an introduction to the piyyutim traditions of the Sephardi-Mizrahi world. This workshop includes a short historical contextualization of the field, including highlighting significant composers and poetic methods. Two piyyutim from different times and places are then performed together, learned from rote. Interweaved in this learning process is some textual and musical analysis.
Three-session Workshop: This multisession workshop is designed to expand upon the one-hour workshop model, to allow for a deeper exploration into the subject. Different approaches in piyyutim composition, from literary themes to poetic methods, are explored in the context of several works by prominent composers. Included in this workshop is the learning of a variety of piyyutim for the purpose of incorporating musical piyyutim performance into your community. Thus, the piyyutim emphasized are part of life-cycle events, Shabbat and festivals, and possible additions to liturgy.
JAMs offers many different educational programming formats to choose from, including lecture-performances, masterclasses, and multimedia presentations. What makes JAMs so unique is the exploration of Jewish history and culture through the lens of Jewish music. Please take a moment to look through the different formats below.
Programming Titles: Worldwind tour of Jewish history, Temple times, Jewish migrations, Zionism, Rebbeim, assimilation, daily life in host countries (including co-existence and class issues), observances and customs, theological movements (Hasidism, Reform movement, etc.), the dawning of the true “American Jew”.
**JAMs Programming is for all age groups and non-Jewish communities seeking to deepen awareness and understanding of Jewish history and culture.
By combining a multimedia presentation with live musical examples, you get a snappy, fast-paced, and exciting experience! While images flash on the screen accompanied by music both live and recorded, the audience is fully engaged in the subject matter. There is also emphasis on interactivity which is great for teen and college audiences.
The “Makin’ Jewish Music” workshop is an Interactive program featuring different songs from around the Jewish world. This is especially engaging for youth audiences. Participants will sing and play percussion instruments along with Mizrahi, Sephardic, and Ashkenazi Jewish melodies. By contributing to makin’ Jewish music, participants experience a direct link to our history. The Neshama (soul) comes alive!
This workshop is suitable for the more astute musical audience. The “Makin Jewish Music” clinic focuses on analyses of Jewish folk and liturgical musics. Areas of exploration include: Nusach, rhythmic and harmonic elements, music of Temple times, Israeli folk, and contemporary music incorporating “Jewish” influence. Though musical background is helpful, it is not required.
When Shlomo Carlebach met Bob Dylan: This program focuses on comparing and contrasting these two Jewish singer/songwriters, exploring Jewish identity through listening and exegesis of musical examples in an interactive discussion with students.
Worldwind tour of Jewish history through music: Starting from the Temple, we will take a wild ride through the vast geographic landscape of world Jewry, looking at various instruments and talking about various references to music in Judaism.
The Sephardic Table: Many mealtime songs come from the great poets of Medieval Spain. This workshop explores the Hebrew text of a few select favorites, contextualizing the poet and the poetry, while also learning to perform a popular Sephardic melodies. Everyone wants to sing a song at the Shabbat table!
Covenant: Wedding music and traditions from the Jewish world. Understand how music is a key component in elevating our spiritual level at any simcha (joyous event). Explore how Jews have been getting married since the time of Yakov up until now in places like Poland, Casablanca, Baghdad, and how Jews are getting married in Israel today.
Music and Torah: An in-depth exploration of music references in Kabbalah, Midrash, Tanakh, and from various Rebbeim. We can understand the spiritual side of Judaism through its music. Learn why almost 10% of the population of Ancient Israel were employed as professional musicians. In fact, more musicians were employed by the state than Kohanim (priests)!
Sounds of Shabbat: This program is a delightful journey through the Jewish Sabbath cycle. Utilzing music programmatically, a plethora of Jewish musical traditions is tapped as the soundscape for the “Sounds of Shabbat.” Starting with the onset of the evening, carrying forth to the daytime and family meal songs, this program concludes with an in-depth look at the havdala ritual, separating the holiness of the Shabbat from the mundane quality of the week. This is a favorite program for interfaith activity and co-sponsorship between communities!
Niggunim: This program explores the Hasidic tradition of wordless melodies. Where do they come from? What do they mean? How are they used in spiritual practice? And while we’re at it, let’s sing a few!!
JAMs programming includes this option for communities seeking the intensive Shabbat experience. Melodies, tropes, and stories from around the world, as well as a spirited guest lecture on Jewish musical traditions come together in the synagogue setting.
Hillel at University of Wisconsin: A Shabbat dinner was shared with new arrivals to the Hillel house, including stories and niggunim around the dinner table. Musical Torah thoughts filled the room. Lively discussions ensued. We ended with a mighty dessert and songs to fill our dreams.
For more information on Shabbaton packages, please click here
I enjoyed Sam Thomas’s inspirational performance. I learned the different types of jewish music from Spain, Morocco, Israel, and many other countries. I really liked the different styles of music that i have never heard before. They were stuck in my head all day and it was such a wounderful experiece that i will definitly share to my congregation next time i lead services! Thank you Sam for the great time i had listening and participating in your performance!
The Jewish Museum engaged Sam Thomas to discuss and present Moroccan Jewish music styles for its one-day seminar, Travel U: The Jews of Morocco. Prior to the performance, Sam explained the history of Shirat Ala Music and provided thorough handouts – very helpful take aways.
I was especially impressed with his patience in answering questions from the group — he has great people skills! The performance was delightful and I highly recommend him for events to adults and children. My only regret…we wish we had made more time to a lot for his performance!
Samuel Torjman Thomas brought his skilled ensemble to PS 372, where he brought Arabic music to life for our grade 3 students studying Egypt. It was wonderful to see and hear, to experience, the rich musical traditions of the Egyptian people and to learn more about Egyptian culture.
Sam discussed with our students Jewish migration and immigration, all the while inserting musical interludes of klezmer, niggunim, or Ladino. The kids were entranced and forgot that in addition to being entertained they were also learning Jewish history!
Congregation Beth Shalom in Modesto, Ca just hired Sam to do an adult education program as well as a children’s program this past weekend. He was fantastic!!! The adult program was thought provocating, spiritual, meditative, entertaining & educational. The children’s program was filled with interactive music from around the world. The kids and their parents loved Sam’s style & knowledge of the musical Jewish world! Thank you Sam!
I am co-director of the religious school of Congregation B’nai Israel. Samuel came to our school to do a music program for our students in our Monday afternoon Hebrew school. His program was exciting and the enjoyed participating with him. He has a nice way with children; he is able to draw them in and spark their interest and curiosity.