Top Five

Susan Gaeta

Teacher
The Nysmith School
Herndon, Virginia
Age: 61
Nominated by: Herself
Song: “La Orasion de la Mujer” (“The Woman’s Prayer”), Flory Jagoda

I sing Sephardic music and inspire listeners to remember — through a musical journey — the deep roots of our collective past. The music is traditional, so I carefully follow the nuances: Sephardim have a history of adopting rhythms and melodies of wherever they emigrated from, which encourages me to feel a new heartbeat of musical interpretation; to sing soulfully and from within, and to feel true to the source. I see myself as a preservationist, an interpreter and a creative bridge between the traditional music and its future.

I share music that celebrates a meaningful story that many have not heard before. It enriches those who hear it, and it comes from the voices and hearts of the women who carried the tradition before me. It’s a rich musical inheritance, and I am dedicated to making it vibrant and alive in today’s world. — Susan Gaeta

INFLUENCES: My primary influence has been Flory Jagoda, my mentor and friend. She is an extraordinary singer, composer and storyteller, often referred to as “The Keeper of the Flame” of Sephardic music. Rachel Hersh Epstein, the cantor of Adat Shalom, has been a joy to learn from and listen to, and I appreciate her invitations to teach and sing together. And my parents, Frances and Philip Feltman, who have instilled in me a love for the Jewish people, our music and our culture.

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