Job experience: Cantorial soloist with Temple Beth Am, Margate; cantorial associate with Temple Beth El in Boca Raton; former soprano with Baltimore Opera Chorus, Cincinnati Opera, Sarasota Opera and other companies
Other community posts: Member, Women's Cantors network; member, Guild of Temple Musicians
Education: Degree in vocal performance, George Mason University, Fairfax, Va.; master's degree in voice, Boston University; performer's certificate, Indiana University, Bloomington
Personal: Age 35. Born in Chicago.
Family: Married to Yaniv, a wholesale company owner. One daughter.
You had a career in opera; why did you start singing in a temple?
I came to Florida to sing for the High Holy Days, and someone introduced me to the man who would eventually become my husband. Then I didn't want to travel as much. I sang in a Reform synagogue in Palm Beach for four years. I met Rabbi (Paul) Plotkin (of Beth Am) after he heard a CD of liturgical music I made.
Is the job the way you'd expected?
So far it's been wonderful. For me, singing is inherently spiritual. It brings spiritual freedom. I'm able to express myself in a better way than when I speak.
Is it hard to do liturgical music for Conservative and Reform temples?
I have to get into a different mindset for each. It's almost like different ways of praying. One is more traditional. The other has instruments and brings out different parts of the service.
Composing. Being creative relaxes me. There's a music competition, Shalshelet. This year, they're featuring several new Jewish composers. I'll be featured as one of them.
Favorite vacation spot?
Lake Tahoe. It's a nice combination of water and mountains. I went there with my husband for our honeymoon.
Favorite music? Favorite performer(s)?
"Phantom of the Opera." I started singing because of that. It was all about a guy who was different, who loved music. I'd studied piano in a small private school, and I was one of the only ones who loved classical music.
Do you have a hero?
My husband (laughs). I'm laughing because we joke about that all the time. I'm very emotional and temperamental, but he's very loving and calm and takes things very well.
What person in history would you like most to meet?
Brahms. His music is very pure and beautiful. There's no story behind it. It's pure beauty.
What would you do if you had a year off?
You know, I'd probably do the same thing. I'm very happy with the balance I have right now between working and singing and being home with my family.
Your most memorable spiritual experience?
I was singing in an opera by Puccini, called "Suor Angelica." It was the most beautiful music I was ever onstage singing.
Something most people don't know about you?
I love David Broza, an Israeli pop singer. When I was at Indiana University, he did a concert there. And I got to go backstage and had coffee with him, and we sang through his songs till 6 a.m.
What one thing would you change about yourself?
I would worry less. I worry about performing well. Not that I can't, but what if I get sick or my daughter gets sick?
What's the most important thing you've ever learned?
The only consistent thing is change.
Have you ever doubted your faith?
I have a lot of unanswered questions, like "What is God?" and "Is there only one true religion?" I know what the religion says, and parts of me believe that.
How is that doubt resolved?
I've resolved to the fact that they're unanswered. I understand a lot of points of view. I don't feel less or mean less when I pray because of that.
James D. Davis
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