From Bike Mechanic to Jewish Songstress
EDITOR’s NOTE: Beth Hamon’s song “Sparks,” made the Top 5 in our Soundtrack of Our Spirit project, which celebrates the best new voices in Jewish music. In , she describes her musical journey from Portland bike mechanic to full-time songleader, and rejoices in a newfound community.
It has been quite a day here at Rancho Beth.
Since pouring a cup of coffee this morning and learning of the news in the form of congratulatory notes from friends, through a HHD planning meeting with my Rabbi, downtown bicycle errands and a lesson with a Hebrew student, I have felt a little like I’m floating, an uncommon sensation while riding a bicycle if ever there was one.
When I got home this evening, I began listening to all the other artists whose names are listed in the Forward’s Soundtrack of Our Spirit project and took a trip through Jewish Music, circa 2015.
The breadth and depth of the offerings was pretty amazing — everything from folk to contemporary classical to straight-up chazzanut to Ladino and beyond.
Some AMAZING musicians are to be found here, and if you care at all about Jewish music you totally NEED to check them out for yourself. Please! Do it! Seriously. I can’t mention the whole list from memory but here are a few you might want to start with: Rebecca Wolpert Schwartz, Ilene Safyan, Noah Aronson, Josh Breitzer, David Propis, Randall Schloss — there’s a bunch more, all waiting to be heard and discovered. Go to the list and just start clicking.
What I can tell you, at the end of this remarkable day, are two very important things:
1) My being on this list would not have happened if I had not submitted the song “Sparks” — a song I wrote for my Sweetie months before our wedding but which I only recorded for my most recent album (released last year). I would not be who and where I am without the support and total belief of my Sweetie, who prefers not to be named online but who has my back and is my backbone — and who teaches me again and again the incredible power of the word “yet”.
2) It is impossibly isolating being where I am, a singer-songwriter stubbornly committed to creating Jewish music while also stubbornly committed to living in not-so-Jewish Portland, Oregon. Sometimes it’s no big deal and/or even freeing, to be so on my own musically. Out here in the “wild west” I can sort of do whatever I want. Other days it is lonely as hell, and I would love to be able to travel more often to more places where there are, well, more Jews and Jewish culture all bunched together, if only to gain new perspective and see how things are done elsewhere.
Finding all these artists and hearing some of their work has not only shown me what supremely talented company I am in, but it makes me feel a lot less lonely in what I do. In what WE do.
Where do we go from here?
Where do I go?
I’m not sure.
I only know I want to keep creating more Jewish music and sharing it with as many people as I can, in Portland and everywhere else. I am open to whatever comes next.
Meanwhile, a huge Mazel Tov and congratulations to all the artists who were honored on this list. Let’s reach out to each other and learn from one another, and see what can be made more beautiful in the world by our efforts. And may all of you have a sweet, sweet new year.
This story "From Bike Mechanic to Jewish Songstress" was written by Beth Hamon.