Become a Cantor
A Rich and Innovative Curriculum
The Cantorial Ordination Program offers a five-year diverse and multi-faceted curriculum that prepares you to serve as a spiritual and musical leader for communities across the denominational spectrum.
Our curriculum is designed to meet the needs of 21st-century Judaism, fusing traditional Jewish texts and liturgy with innovative and compelling musical and spiritual programming. You will grow into the kind of leader who invites deeper personal connections, is well versed in Jewish texts, leads dynamic worship services and creates compelling connections.
Graduates of the program earn cantorial ordination plus a Master of Jewish Studies or a Master of Jewish Education. Our Cantors will be eligible to apply for membership in both the Cantors Assembly and the American Conference of Cantors.
Hebrew College is a special place. I’m immersed in a community of rabbis and cantors where people talk openly about their emotions, and strive to become better people. It is a pluralistic place, and not in name only, but lived every day. There is a rigor to our pluralism; we learn how to become better listeners and how to be more tolerant and respectful of others. It isn’t simple—it is examined, studied and talked about.David Wolff, Cantorial Alumnus
The Cantorial Curriculum is built on these Core Competencies and Courses:
All courses that are part of the Core Competencies curriculum will require at least an intermediate level of Hebrew comprehension, grammar and verbal ability. A level of Hebrew 4 (equivalent to 4 semesters of college Hebrew) is required of all entering students.
Advanced Hebrew courses are taught during your first year in the program and are offered throughout your years of study at Hebrew College.
In keeping with Hebrew College’s commitment to study based on traditional sources, the foundations of our Cantorial curriculum are built on the chant traditions for singing Jewish texts, Nusach and Cantillation.
Like Oral Torah, the orally transmitted musical systems of Nusach and Cantillation carry with them the historical and spiritual expressions of Ashkenazi Jews from the Middle Ages to the present. These musical forms connect the Cantor and the congregation to the primary texts of Tanakh and Jewish Liturgy, while facilitating communal congregational singing and individual reflective participation.
Our students study Nusach and Cantillation systems for the complete liturgical calendar.
Nusach and Cantillation Courses
- Basic Weekday Nusach
- Shabbat Nusach
- Three Festivals Nusach
- Rosh HaShanah Nusach
- Yom Kippur Nusach
- Torah Cantillation
- Haftarah Cantillation
- High Holiday Torah Cantillation
- Cantillation of Esther, Book of Ruth (Three Festivals) and Lamentations
The rich and varied music of the Jewish People will comprise the pillars of your study and your service, both liturgically and culturally. The Jewish music history curriculum will immerse you in the context and sources of Jewish music. You will study the history and perform repertoire in Jewish art song, folk song, Jewish musical theater and hazzanut. You will also learn and sing Jewish choral music, contemporary and traditional congregational melodies, niggunim and Shabbat and High Holiday repertoire.
Through this bountiful musical language, we express our deepest yearnings and experience our most joyous celebrations. The music of the sacred moments of our lives – births, b’nei mitzvah, weddings and funerals – carries our most profound connections to on another, our community and our people. Becoming fluent in these many musical expressions, you will be able to lead and teach your congregations through the medium of song.
Jewish Repertoire Classes
- Jewish Music History
- Jewish Art Song
- Choral Conducting
- Accompanied Repertoire for Shabbat
- Accompanied Repertoire for High Holidays
- Individual Cantorial Coaching (all semesters)
- Private Voice Lessons (all semesters)
- Kol Arev Chamber Choir (all semesters)
Accompanied Repertoire with Hankus Netsky
The liturgy of the Jewish Prayer Services, Tanakh, Talmud and Halakha (Jewish Law) serve as the primary texts that you pray, chant, teach and study as a cantor. You will study the poetry and sources of the liturgy of the weekday services, Shabbat, Three Festivals and High Holy Days, so that you will be able to lead your congregations with knowledge and appreciation for the foundational texts of our people.
At Hebrew College, you will have the unique opportunity to study the core texts of Tanakh, Talmud and Halakha with a study partner in chevruta with rabbinical students in the Beit Midrash (Study Hall). Together, you will examine the meaning, context, and interpretation of these texts as you connect the source material to the relevance of contemporary life.
Core Text Classes
- Liturgy of Weekday and Shabbat Services
- Liturgy of the Three Festivals
- Liturgy of the High Holy Days
- Genres and Themes of Biblical Literature
- Introduction to Mishnah and Jewish Practice
- Introduction to Talmud
- Hilkhot Tefillah
- Talmud: Berakhot
Being a Cantor and a member of the Jewish clergy requires specific skills to help you address the many different needs of your congregation and larger community. Whether you are training b’nei mitzvah students, teaching a religious school class, conducting a congregational choir, communicating with your lay leaders, or providing counsel to individual congregants in need, you will be asked to navigate the varied terrain of being a Jewish Leader.
At Hebrew College, we address these practical skills with the same seriousness that we apply to all topics of study in our curriculum. As you step into the many roles of a Cantor, we want you to feel comfortable in the knowledge that you have the skills you will need.
Professional Skills Classes
- Pastoral Counseling
- Life Cycle Officiating
- Communications Skills Practicum
- Foundations of Jewish Education
- Cantorial Internship (full year)
You will also address specific Cantorial Skills in your individual Cantorial Coaching sessions and Voice Lessons.
As ordained Clergy you will graduate with a Master of either Jewish Studies or Jewish Education.
Jewish Studies classes may include:
- Medieval Jewish Thought and History
- Modern Jewish Thought
- Zionist History and Thought
- Contemporary Jewish Thought
- Graduate Research Seminar and Thesis
Jewish Education classes may include:
- Models of Teaching
- Theory and Practice of Jewish Education
- Human Development and Learning
- Special Education courses
- Spiritual Development in Jewish Education
- Field Experience (1 full year)
- Graduate Seminar and Thesis
Cantorial students have ample opportunity to perform and participate in musical programming at Hebrew College and in Greater Boston.
Students will sing with the Hebrew College chamber choir, Kol Arev—a music ensemble composed of students, faculty, staff, and alumni of Hebrew College. Founder and Artistic Director Cantor Lynn Torgove and Music Director and Conductor Amy Lieberman envision the ensemble serving as ambassadors of Hebrew College in the larger Jewish Community as well as bringing musical inspiration and learning to their fellow students and faculty.
Cantor Melanie Blatt, Can`18, sings J. S. Bach’s “Auch mit gedämpften, schwachen Stimmen” from BWV 36 at her final School of Jewish Music recital. Cantor Blatt was ordained in June 2018 and is currently the Cantor-Educator and Director of Community Engagement at Congregation Beth El in Baltimore, MD.
Cantor Dara Rosenblatt`18 sings her original version of
“Adonai Ori” with lyrics from Psalm 27.
Students also participate in regular voice recitals; and are eligible to audition for the internationally recognized Zamir Chorale of Boston.
All students will study privately on campus with expert voice teachers. Voice lessons are an integral part of our vocal arts curriculum. These lessons are included at no additional cost.
Each student is assigned a cantorial coach for each, and coaching sessions are crafted to meet the needs of the individual student. Coaching focuses on leading tefillah, officiating at Jewish lifecycle events, songs for the Jewish year, and guitar proficiency.
As more cantors are being asked to fill pastoral roles and more rabbis are being asked to take on musical leadership of their congregations, Hebrew College recognizes that the time has come to merge innovative musical education with pluralistic rabbinical training. The result is our first-of-its-kind Rav-Hazzan (rabbi-cantor) double ordination program. The Rav-Hazzan program awards both rabbinic and cantorial ordination, preparing rabbis and cantors for leadership in twenty-first century Jewish communities.
- Cantor Lynn Torgove, MAJS’11, Can’12, Director of Cantorial Program
- Cantor Louise Treitman
- Cantor Brian Mayer, PhD
- Joshua Jacobson, PhD
- Amy Lieberman, Head of Vocal Arts
Adjunct Faculty, Vocal and Cantoral Coaches
- Cantor Matt Austerklein
- Cantor Vera Broekhuysen`16
- Cantor Marcie Jonas `10
- Frank Kelly
- Cantor Jeff Klepper
- Cantor Michael McCloskey`07
- Judith S. Pinnolis
- Cantor Ken Richmond
- Hazzan Elias Rosemberg
- Cantor Robbie Solomon
- Samantha Zerin, PhD