On my birthday last August, my wife decided it was time I take up a new hobby. (Or, as she said, “It’s time you get a life.”) I had been threatening for years to start playing trumpet again, which I played for several years pre-braces, so we’re talking a long time ago. Guess what she bought for my birthday? A trumpet! And now I’m taking lessons and enjoying it tremendously. But….I still managed to find connections between trumpet playing and Jewish life.
My teacher introduced me to an online music education service called SmartMusic. I’m just learning how to use it, but as soon as I subscribed, I realized how apt it could be for Jewish learning and teaching! As a SmartMusic subscriber ($36/year), you can access a rich library of exercises and music for all band instruments. The music appears on your screen and as you practice or play, your computer can record you. Then, a playback of the music with corrections appears on the screen, so that you practice and improve.
SmartMusic doesn’t, however, replace a teacher. Among other things, a teacher can share stories about his or her teachers – that is, give you an oral tradition – and help you move from technician to musician. As it turns out, SmartMusic actually allows teachers to customize lessons for students and enables students to submit MP3 files of their lessons to teachers, so that they can monitor their progress.
My question: is anyone aware of a similar type of site for increasing your knowledge of Jewish learning and ritual?
Rabbi Hayim Herring
P.S. If you’re in a hotel room in some city, and you hear a struggling, novice trumpet player, it’s a safe bet that it’s me working from SmartMusic. Oh….and Mom-thanks for making sure that I received some music education when I was a kid!