Cantor Tracey Scher is a 2003 graduate of DFSSM-HUC. She is the cantor at Larchmont Temple in Larchmont, New York.
In what capacity have you volunteered for the ACC?
I began volunteering in 2007 when I was asked to help hire a Development Director for Fundraising. I had had prior experience with fundraising at my synagogue in New Jersey. In 2008 Cantor Jen Frost asked me to chair the concert committee for the Chicago convention. We got to know each other well, and the following year, 2009, we co-chaired the Membership committee which we continue to do. I am also co-chairing the 2017 Las Vegas convention with Cantor David Rosen.
What’s the best part about being a Cantor?
I’d answer that in two parts. The first is relationship building: helping forge relationships with my congregants as well as helping them forge relationships with each other. Since I’ve been at Larchmont Temple, I’ve been involved in outreach programming. The Cultural Arts committee has grown from a small group to a cohort of about forty people who love the Arts and have since become more involved with Temple life as a result. Being a part of this Arts group has also helped build relationships between people and I’ve gotten to know people and make friends from reaching out in this way. I like to meet people outside the Temple walls. Sometimes I have people meet at my house. Sometimes we meet at a bar with live music to support our Temple musicians who also play in the community!
The second best part of being a Cantor is helping people to grow and deepen their spirituality through music and teaching. One of the ways we do this is through a Healing Circle which I lead once a month. I created this service when I first came. There has been a tremendous amount of loss in our community this past year and the Healing Circle has given people a safe space to seek comfort from others and also feel like they can express themselves in a caring community.
What is the most serious problem facing the cantorate presently and in the future?
I think that for Cantors who graduated a long time ago, or even in the past six or seven years the challenge is finding ways to keep up with current musical trends. In a world that has become so self-focused and where people have many outlets to find their own spirituality, people may come to synagogue for very different reasons than they did twenty or thirty years ago when there was more of a sense of obligation to be a part of a synagogue. There are many different styles of music and the styles that we choose need to help our congregants find that sense of deeper meaning and spirituality so that they feel like their Synagogue is their spiritual home. We have to be willing to meet them where they are. I think that this phenomenon is similar to the current trends in music in the rest of the world as well. I sometimes feel like Cantorial music is following the same gospel/folk/rock trends that many churches are following, as well. The question becomes,” How are our cantors who are currently not attending songleading workshops such as Hava Nashira, staying current on some of these newer musical trends?”
What influenced and/or motivated you to become a Cantor?
I was raised in Nova Scotia, Canada. There are not a lot of Jews there. I was raised culturally Jewish but did not receive much formal Jewish education. I was pursuing an Opera career and took a job at Park Avenue synagogue in New York. I was part of their High Holiday choir and then became part of their weekly Shabbat quartet. The music I heard every week just had such a visceral effect on me. I wanted to sing it and I wanted it to be a part of my everyday life. Cantor David Lefkowitz, along with my voice teacher at the time, who was also Jewish, told me I’d make a really great Cantor and that I should think about pursuing it. And so I did, albeit a bit blindly, with regard to the kind of work that a Cantor actually did! During my first year at HUC in Jerusalem I was like a sponge. I absorbed everything Jewish. I was skilled musically, so I could really focus on my Judaic studies. I learned so much. After that year I never looked back…. I knew I was where I wanted to be.
What is one thing you’d like to tell us about yourself, that we might not know about you?
I like to hike and cook.
Dudley Moore was a guest at my wedding and played piano for us at the reception.
I’m related by marriage to Abraham Lincoln.