As 2nd year students at HUC, we have the opportunity to take optional pulpit jobs to add experience to our resumes and money to our bank accounts. There are a plethora of opportunities to choose from: weekly pulpits (either 10 or 15 hours a week, including Shabbat and High Holy Days), bi-weekly pulpits, monthly pulpits, only High Holiday pulpits, sporadic pulpits (where you only go whenever they arrange for you to go) and more. There's also the option of being a chazzan sheini, or a "2nd-cantor", where we work alongside a cantor as a 2nd-in-command, shadow and/or assistant. The pulpit choices are all over the country, though mostly concentrated in the Northeast (close to NYC) and all have different demands and expectations from their student cantors.
As you can probably guess, it's a challenge to decide what kind of pulpits we are looking for to work next year. My ideal pulpit would be a bi-weekly sheini position, where I would have the opportunity to work regularly with another cantor who would (hopefully) serve as mentor. The bi-weekly part is more for finances than anything else, but I like the idea of having a job every other week and the chance to really get to know a congregation and allow them to get to know me.
Sadly, bi-weekly positions are few and far between, so I am applying to all kinds of different positions. I've applied to several monthly positions, one in South Bend, Indiana, and several in NY state, and a couple of bi-weekly jobs, along with one weekly position (simply because they requested to talk to me...I probably won't end up taking that job.)
The process of applying for these jobs is rather complicated. Here's how it works: First, the Year-in-Israel cantorial class makes a DVD of each of us singing 1 soloistic piece and 1 congregational piece in early February, which is sent out to all of the congregations on the HUC list. From there, we have to fix and send our resumes to Josee Wolff, Director of Student Placement. Starting in mid-March, we begin to receive listings of congregations looking for student cantors from Josee. We tell Josee which congregations we like, and she sends those congregations our resume, and they, in turn, contact us to set up a phone interview (or Skype video interview, if you're lucky.) Then, they call and you have a chat about their congregation, what you can bring to their congregation, etc, all the norms of a phone interview. The congregations list their top candidates, the students list our top congregations, and we are matched up accordingly. Finally, Josee sends us an email in mid-April telling us our assignments and sending contracts from the congregations. I told you it was a complicated process!
It is complicated, but most of the time (from what I have heard) it really works. Steph is going through a similar process right now looking for pulpit positions, and she gets very little say in which congregation she is placed in--I guess I'm lucky that at least I have some say in the matter! The more of these interviews that I give, the more excited I am about working in a congregation next year. It will be a LOT of work, not only organizing services, but organizing classes (that I will be responsible for teaching), choir rehearsals, life-cycle events, etc, but I am so excited and so ready to learn. As I told one congregation earlier tonight, I am very open-minded to the idea of stepping outside my comfort zone and trying as many new things as I can. It's scares the hell out of me, but in the long run will be so beneficial to my career and my confidence as a cantor. I just hope I can find the right balance between work, school, social life, and living in New York City.
So, I will keep you posted on what happens for next year. Keep your fingers crossed that a congregation will like me--I'm positive that I will get a job, but I still need all the help and luck I can get!
Love you and miss you--7 weeks until I'm back in the States for good.