Curriculum:
Become a Cantor

A Rich and Innovative Curriculum

The Jewish world is changing. Synagogue life is evolving. Today’s congregants are seeking a new kind of spiritual leader, one who invites deeper personal connections, leads dynamic worship services, and creates compelling programming.

Hebrew College stands ready to lead in this new environment. 
Our accelerated, three-year Cantorial Ordination for Spiritual and Educational Leadership (COSEL) program, is designed to meet the needs of 21st-century Judaism. It fuses traditional Jewish text and liturgy with innovative musical and spiritual programming. The program features two eight-week summer institutes and a year of post-ordination supervision and advisement.

Graduates of the program earn cantorial ordination plus a Master of Jewish Education and 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, COSEL student.

The COSEL curriculum is notable for its academic rigor and spiritual depth—a rich blend of cantorial and education classes, private voice lessons, and cantorial coaching.

First year

In the first year, our innovative thematic curriculum combines the best elements of the university and the yeshiva, enabling students to examine the sources of Judaism both in historical context and from personal religious perspectives.

The first year of the program places a particular emphasis on acquiring a foundation in Torah, Talmud, and advanced-Hebrew skills. During this period, cantorial students study side-by-side with rabbinic students in our Beit Midrash and with our interfaith partners, giving them the opportunity to interact with those who most share their ideals and aspirations.

Cantorial students also begin their study of Jewish music history and their individualized work in vocal arts and performance during this first year.

Second and Third Years

In the second and third years, students delve deeper into the theory and practice of Jewish liturgical music.

Our approach to teaching cantillation and nusach ha-tefillah is both unique and rigorous. Cantillation classes (Torah, Haftarah and holiday trope) are based on grammatical analysis of the sacred Hebrew texts. An enhanced understanding of the text informs the musical application of the traditional chants. Using historical sources, our nusach curriculum encourages personal improvisation and expression. Our classes utilize the hevruta model, allowing for collaborative and peer learning.

During the second and third years, students fulfill a cantorial internship and an educational fieldwork placement.

All coursework is structured so that classes build on each other. Faculty members communicate closely with each other, facilitating topical connections across the curriculum. Because the curriculum focuses on blending traditional forms with innovative approaches to music and spirituality, our graduates are uniquely positioned for a wide range of career options after ordination.

Summers

The COSEL program includes two intensive summer sessions, eight weeks each at our Prayer Leader Summer Institute (PLSI). Courses are taught by School of Jewish Music faculty as well as guest musicians and master teachers. Teachers during past institutes have included Hankus Netsky, Ellen Allard, Joey Weisenberg, Noah Aronson, Mitch Gordon, Shir Ben-Yakov and others. Summer courses* include the study of:

  • Nusach Hatefillah
  • Liturgy of Shabbat and Weekday
  • Contemporary Models of Service
  • Leadership
  • Accompanied Repertoire for Shabbat
  • Niggun and Klezmer
  • Pedagogy of Music: Teaching Music to Children
  • Choral Conducting
  • Composing and Arranging
  • Communication and Presentation
  • Practicum
  • Sacred Drumming

* partial list

Summer sessions also include Communication and Presentation Practicum, a class unique to our program. This course explores communication modes including vocal performance, sermon preparation and delivery, and community presentations.

Extracurricular activities give students the best of Boston and Boston-area culture. These include trips to Tanglewood, art museums and historic Jewish institutions.

Year 1: Fall & Spring

Music Courses

  • Genres and Themes of Biblical Literature, 2 semesters
  • Hebrew 5 and 6
  • Introduction to Reading Biblical Texts
  • Introduction to Reading Rabbinic Literature
  • Introduction to Mishna
  • Introduction to Talmud 
  • Basic Nusach
  • Jewish Music History 1
  • Private Voice Lessons, 2 semesters
  • Private Cantorial Coaching, 2 semesters
  • Kol Arev Chamber Choir, 2 semesters
  • Studio Recitals, 2 semesters
  • Vocal Boards

Education Classes

  • Models of Teaching
  • Theory and Practice of 21st Century Jewish Education

Year 2: Summer 1

Music Courses

  • Weekday and Shabbat Liturgy
  • Weekday and Shabbat Nusach
  • Communication and Presentation Practicum
  • Choral Conducting
  • Accompanied Repertoire for Shabbat
  • Contemporary Models of Tefillah Leadership (this includes classes in niggun, klezmer, communal singing, Jewish world music, renewal, and other master classes)
  • Sacred Drumming

Education Classes

  • Pedagogy of Music: Teaching Music
  • Pedagogy of Music: Teaching Tefillah

Year 2: Fall & Spring

Music Courses

  • High Holidays Liturgy
  • Rosh Hashanah Nusach 1
  • Rosh Hashanah Nusach 2
  • Cantillation 1
  • Hebrew 7
  • Jewish History — Medieval/Modern
  • Pastoral Counseling
  • Lifecycle Officiating
  • Private Voice Lessons, 2 semesters
  • Private Cantorial Coaching, 2 semesters
  • Kol Arev Chamber Choir, 2 semesters
  • Studio Recitals, 2 semesters
  • Vocal Boards

Education Classes

  • Human Development
  • Special Education or Pedagogic Content elective
  • Education Fieldwork placement, 2 semesters

Year 3: Summer

Music Courses

  • Three Festivals Liturgy
  • Three Festivals Nusach
  • Accompanied Repertoire for High Holidays
  • Cantillation for High Holidays
  • Cantillation for Haftarah
  • Composing and Arranging
  • Contemporary Models of Tefillah Leadership (this includes classes in niggun, klezmer, communal singing, Jewish world music, renewal, and master classes)
  • Instrumental workshops
  • Liturgical Hebrew

Education Classes

  • Pedagogy of Music: Facilitating Tefillah

Year 3: Fall & Spring

Music Courses

  • Yom Kippur Nusach
  • Cantillation for Festivals, Eicha, Esther
  • Jewish Art Song
  • Jewish Music History 2
  • Workshop on Liturgical Halakhah
  • Leadership Seminar
  • Cantorial Internship, 2 semesters
    Private Voice Lessons, 2 semesters
  • Senior Recital
  • Private Cantorial Coaching, 2 semesters
  • Kol Arev Chamber Choir, 2 semesters

Education Classes

  • Pedagogy of B’nai Mitzvah
  • Special Ed or Pedagogic Content electives, 2 classes
  • Graduate Research Seminar (master’s thesis)
  • Comprehensive exams in Nusach and Cantillation
  • Ordination Boards

Register for Courses

Performance Opportunities

Cantorial students have ample opportunity to perform and participate in musical programming at Hebrew College and in Greater Boston. Students 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 Lynn Torgove and Music Director Amy Lieberman envision the ensemble serving as ambassadors of the School of Jewish Music and Hebrew College.

Caption: 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.

Students also participate in regular voice recitals; and are eligible to audition for the internationally recognized Zamir Chorale of Boston.

Voice Lessons and Coaching

All cantorial students enter with a basic knowledge of music theory and study privately on campus with renowned voice teachers from the Boston area. 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, 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.

Music History

The Jewish music history curriculum will immerse students in the music of the Jewish people. Students will study and perform repertoire in Jewish art song, folk song, Jewish musical theater and hazzanut.

 

The School of Jewish Music offers a part-time graduate-level certificate program [19 credits] in Jewish sacred music — making Jewish music accessible for congregants, lay leaders, cantorial soloists and gabbaim. Specifically, the certificate is designed to train individuals to become cantorial soloists, sh’lichei tsibbur (prayer leaders), ritual directors and Jewish educators who may be called upon to lead or teach tefillah in their synagogues. Students receive a basic grounding in nusach hatefillah (the form and order of prayers and the traditional melodies used to chant them), cantillation, liturgy, Hebrew language and synagogue skills relevant to the leading of prayer.

Join our community if you have:

  • A passion for Jewish music
  • Involvement in Jewish communal life
  • Intermediate Hebrew proficiency
  • Prior training in vocal or instrumental performance
  • Knowledge of music theory

This program may be taken as a stand-alone certificate or applied toward fulfilling requirements for a Master of Arts in Jewish Studies or a Master of Jewish Education. Students may take individual courses, but only after passing an audition process to demonstrate musicianship, musical literacy, vocal ability (for some courses), and Hebrew proficiency.

The curriculum is composed of two semesters of cantorial coaching plus six courses, including:

  • Basic Torah Cantillation
  • Basic Haftarah Cantillation
  • Basic Nusach for Shabbat
  • Basic Nusach for High Holy Days
  • Liturgy of the Synagogue Service
  • Jewish Music Survey

This certificate can be completed either online or in a combination of online and on- campus classes. Completion of the certificate requires demonstration of Hebrew-language proficiency through Hebrew IV as well as an oral examination and written musicianship test.

Learn More

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 recognized that the time has come to merge innovative musical education and pluralistic rabbinical training. The result is our first-of-its-kind Rav-Hazzan (rabbi-cantor) ordination program. Through a blended five- or six-year curriculum, the Rav-Hazzan program awards both rabbinic and cantorial ordination, preparing rabbis and cantors for leadership in twenty-first century Jewish communities.

Learn More

Faculty

  • Cantor Brian J. Mayer
  • Joshua Jacobson
  • Cantor Lynn Torgove, MAJS’11, Can’12
  • Cantor Louise Treitman

Adjunct Faculty

  • Cantor Jeff Klepper
  • Amy Lieberman
  • Judith S. Pinnolis
  • Cantor Ken Richmond
  • Cantor Neil Schwartz

Vocal and Cantorial

  • Cantor Peter Halpern
  • Cantor Marcie Jonas, Can’10
  • Frank Kelley
  • Cantor Becky Wexler Khitrik, MAJS and Can’14
  • Cantor Michael McCloskey, MJEd’07, Can’07
  • Hazzan Elias Rosemberg
  • Cantor Elana Rozenfeld
  • Cantor Rabbie Solomon

View Faculty & Read Bios

Application Deadlines

  • Cantorial Ordination for Spiritual and Educational Leadership (COSEL) : January 15
  • Jewish Music Certificate Application: May 15 for fall semester; November 15 for spring semester.

Contact Info

Marcia Spellman
Administrator
617-559-8643
sjm@hebrewcollege.edu