By Yair Shavrick, Opinion Editor
Music has always been an instrumental (sorry for the pun) part of my life. I grew up surrounded by musical talent and passion as the majority of my family either sang, played guitar, wrote music, or all of the above. This naturally enriched environment made it easy for me to not only grow in musical skill but to have a great appreciation for music in general.
Most people can attest that music is a powerful force that drives the world. Throughout history, we can observe the blatant presence of music via songwriting, concerts, mythology, instruments, and tradition. This is especially true within the history of the Jewish people, as we have figures in our ancestry who played instruments or wrote music such as King David and King Solomon. Even within the Torah, we can see various versions of Shira (singing songs), such as Az Yashir (a song customarily sung as part of the Jewish morning prayer service). When we daven (pray), we have multiple points in which the words are sung rather than read in a hushed voice. What is so important about music and song that we apply it to our most coveted times?
Kabbalistic teachings explain that music is written from the soul, and when one listens to or plays a specific song, there is a direct connection to the soul of the composer. Hassidic sects of Judaism are primarily known for keeping this alive, as they sing various niggunim (musical melody without words) written by holy rabbis. I don’t want to delve too far into esoteric realms, but it should be understood that connecting to Jewish music is looked upon highly due to its spiritual significance and deep-rooted connection to our ancestors who wrote it. I won’t even broach the topic of how tradition and historical preservation are integral to the existence of Judaism — that’s for a different article. This editorial has a different purpose.
There is a very apropos situation that does not receive enough spotlight. Over the years, Yeshiva College (YC) has neglected the musical side of their student body. The current funding for our musical department is non-existent, the classrooms have been abandoned, and the student body is being snubbed by the administration from expressing their musical talents. I am aware that not everyone has a desire to be a part of music-related activities, but there are a lot of people who do. The extent of extra-curricular activities involving music is the Jazz Club (which, to date, consists of four members), which is nice, but not for everyone.
A few decades ago, the music wing of YC consisted of many classes that were attended and sought after by many of the students. There were classes involving the teaching of piano, shofar (horn) blowing, cantorial training, and many other interesting topics. This all took place in the Schottenstein building behind Dunkin’ Donuts on 185th and Amsterdam Ave. The wing is currently abandoned, with eerie sights of empty classrooms, recital rooms, recording studios, untuned pianos, and outdated artwork.
Some may say, “Yair, we have musical outlets! There are classes on theory, and we have the Y-Studs and Maccabeats!” The problem with that is the environment does not foster creativity or recreation. Music is an incredible aspect of life, and the student body of YU is beaming with creativity and musical talent with no outlet. Equipment is understandably expensive, but it can also last for many years if taken care of properly. A few thousand dollars donated and dedicated to musical instruments and structure can affect the lives of students in the future. We spend so much time singing the songs of great composers and songwriters. Why can’t we have those composed within the YU student body? I hope you have gained an understanding of how important music is to society and our student body. Moving forward there should be a greater focus on funding and fostering musical activities in the coming semesters.