While some knew him as Jonah and others as Mac, we all loved and respected him. And we miss him dearly.

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Reflections on Jonah as Musician – Part One

As our “Summer Music” campaign heads toward its conclusion, I’d like to share a collection of snapshots of Jonah’s musical life. I hope you enjoy them and maybe become inspired to add a little music to your own life.

Billy


Music has always been important in our family. I grew up playing piano and guitar, and doing a little singing as well. Ellen learned guitar in high school at the feet of her friend and mentor, Brad Gaber (z”l). She knew pretty much every folk-rock song worth listening to, and I was lucky to strum along from time to time. Becoming a cantor was an obvious career choice (even if its obviousness eluded her for a while).

Katie.68a

Rare view of Katie as musician (circa 1998)

So having kids who enjoyed making music was kind of inevitable. We never pushed it on them, but we were always thrilled when their choices were musical ones. Katie played cello, piano and drums in her youth. And while none of them stuck, we loved getting what we could from her. She never fancied herself a singer, but one of my favorite moments with her has always been accompanying her on the piano as we sang “A Whole New World.” You can just imagine the buoyant smile on my face when, at her wedding reception, she invited me up for our father-daughter dance and it was “A Whole New World.” Katie was the first of my musical children, and I love her for it and will always be grateful for that gift she gave to me.

Jonah and Josh Davidson (1995)

Jonah with Josh Davidson (1995)

Jonah’s musical journey was a thrilling and varied one. Frankly, we hadn’t seen it coming. At age six, he learned how to play the shofar when our long-time family friend, Rabbi Josh Davidson, a world-class ba’al tekiya himself, taught three shofar sessions at Woodlands. Who knew that this was the very first indicator that Jonah, who became quite an accomplished ba’al tekiya himself, was going to weave such a profound musical tale of his own?

At age 8, Jonah took a year of trumpet lessons through his school. Later, he would receive a trumpet as a gift from Josh Davidson, I think because they shared the same initials, JMD, which were embossed on the trumpet case. Jonah thought that was just about the coolest thing in the world, even if he was disgusted at the thought that Josh’s lips had touched the same mouthpiece. Josh, well on his way to a brilliant pastoral career, responded that Jonah need not be concerned because “any cooties have long since died.”

3rd Grade June 1999

3rd Grade (1999)

We got to attend a couple of school concerts in which Jonah was part of the trumpet section. You probably know how most school orchestras sound, so it’s difficult to say just how good Jonah was. He sure looked cute, though!

It wouldn’t take long before Jonah was finished with trumpet. It probably had less to do with the trumpet itself and everything to do with others telling him what to play. That, if you ever knew Jonah, was never going to fly. Which paved the way for him to pick up the guitar (see “Jonah’s Guitar Journey” for that story).

Aiden in “Parade” (2014)

Aiden would eventually become the professional musician among our kids. As I write this, he’s a junior in the Tisch School of the Arts program at NYU. Time will tell what destiny awaits him, but we love listening to him sing and have tremendous confidence in his abilities. If proud parents are any indication, he’s headed for the very top. I imagine that when he was a little boy, he was watching his big brother’s musical involvement and, when the right time came, stepped into it himself. In this way, Jonah’s life and influence will be forever felt, remembered, and thoroughly enjoyed by us all.

Billy

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