Singing is spiritual
Cantorial soloist Michelle Cohen, Temple Beth Am, Margate
Cantorial soloist Michelle Cohen, Temple Beth Am, Margate (Susan Stocker, Sun Sentinel / September 21, 2010)
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?