Thursday, August 21, 2008


Orientation has continued all this week, slowly getting us more accustomed to HUC-New York and it's surrounding neighborhood. It's been an exhausting week of lectures, music learning, people meeting, scheduling, re-scheduling, and running around the building trying to make sure all the little logistical things get done. We're all pooped, and I am no exception.

The past two days have begun with a morning of music with Cantor Faith Steinsnyder. She's been giving us an overview of High Holy Day (HHD) music, complete with a binder of tunes to prepare us for our first HHD jobs coming up in late September. There is SO MUCH MUSIC to learn, to master, to understand, that the job is overwhelming to say the least. I'm glad that I already know many of the big pieces (Avinu Malkenu, Sh'ma Koleinu, Unetaneh Tokef, and more) but the idea of standing before a congregation in a MONTH as their one and only Cantor is scary and frightening and totally surreal. It's an exciting challenge to try to master, but with everything we have going on right now, I'm terrified I won't be able to learn all the music in time.

Today, 4 of us decided to buy our books for the semester. As cantorial students, it is traditional to buy the majority of your music books at the beginning of the second year of school. Therefore, my locker at school is filled to the brim with collection after collection of music, from modern composers, old-school composers, and out-of-print and hard to find collections. I also will have a bill that is comparable to that of a piece of good jewelery, which is a frightening thought. Thankfully, my wonderful Cantor and friend, Linda, helped me out tremendously by giving me some music and sending me some more in coming weeks...thanks Linda, you're the best! Having all of this music is just another reminder of everything there is to learn, everything we'll have to do in the next four years. Once again, it's overwhelming to say the least.

I've also spent the week meeting all of the older students, both in the SSM and in the rabbinic and education programs. Many people are very nice, though most are intense and incredibly intelligent. I am trying to remember everyone's names, which I'm hoping will come with time. The 3rd year class of cantorial students seems VERY nice, as does the 4th year class. I don't know the 5th years all that well yet (they don't spend much time on campus--much of it is spent working on their thesis papers and recitals.) Everyone has been helpful, giving us reassurance and welcoming us, helping us open our lockers and find the right people to talk to and get on the right subway. It's nice to have them here, and I hope I can be as helpful to people next year.

Did I mention that NYC is a HUGE city? My burrow of Queens, in and of itself, is huge. There is so much to learn, to figure out, that it's daunting and scary at times. I just know eventually I will wind up somewhere in New Jersey or Connecticut because I took the wrong train, or get completely lost and find myself wandering into the not-so-nice areas of NYC. At least I'll be learning what NOT to do for the future, and maybe spotting some good eateries or shops along the way. Again, thinking positive...

I should add that the area around HUC, Greenwich Village, is incredibly beautiful and fun. There are fantastic restaurants (so I've heard) and cute stores and shops (and a Kmart and Walgreens and Bank of America!) within walking distance. NYU is a really great campus, full of greenery and beautiful buildings. I'm happy that school is in this area, and that I'll have the next 4 years to explore it. I'll take pics sometime and blog about it, I'm sure.

So, the name of the game, at least for now, is OVERWHELM. Eventually it will all get straightened out, I'm sure, but it's going to take time. There's lots to process and lots to do and lots to look out for--but like everyone's been saying, no one in the program has died of overwhelm. At least not yet...

Did I mention that I begin in my pulpit in South Bend NEXT WEEK? Kinda snuck up on me, so guess what I'll be planning in the coming week, once we get back from Kallah???

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