May 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Launch of ‘A TABC Kumzitz’

(l-r) Yitz Goldstein ‘25, Zach Rothschild ‘25 and alumnus Ben Antosofsky ‘19 sing the opening track of the album entitled “Yitayn Lecha.”

Torah Academy of Bergen County’s Studio 1600 launched its debut album, “Perek Aleph,” in September 2022. Named neatly for the address of TABC, Studio 1600 has now rocketed into musical hyperspace with their third and newest offering, “A TABC Kumzitz,” released a couple of weeks ago.

Said Maya Engler, TABC director of admissions and communications: “We are always thinking of ways to expand our students’ horizons in a range of disciplines and give them agency over their learning. Teenage boys are naturally drawn to music; it’s a form of self-expression and social connection for them.

“We wanted to harness that innate passion for music and allow them to use it for creativity, collaboration and spiritual connection,” Engler continued. “After speaking with numerous students and stakeholders, we knew this was a worthwhile pursuit; and three years ago, we brought in Jacob Spadaro and established Studio 1600.”

(l-r) Jacob Oustatcher ‘24 on the congas, Rabbi Aryeh Tiefenbrunn on bass, Shaya Hirsch ‘24 on drums, guest artist Eli Levin and Jacob Spadaro on piano performing their original composition She’yesh M’chadesh.

Spadaro, the school’s music conservatory director and Studio 1600 producer, is a prolific musician and singer in the tri-state area, most notably as a former member of the Jewish acapella group Six13, with whom he performed around the world, including in the White House. He is currently the keyboardist and electronic producer for Energy, infusing the live Jewish wedding experience with polished pop-arena flair. He has taught music since 2013, most recently at Hebrew Academy of Nassau County.

Rabbi Joshua Kahn, TABC rosh yeshiva, commented: “Studio 1600 provides our students with an outlet to creatively express themselves. Specifically, the music our students produce under the leadership of Mr. Jacob Spadaro provides an avenue for their religious expression and taps into their neshamos through music. The class is just one of a multitude of electives our students can choose from, and it is project-based and student-driven.”

In its third year now, the program has transformed the school into a veritable musical culture, where students come together to create, record and produce their original content in a state-of-the-art facility. (See “TABC’s Studio 1600 Takes Jewish Music by Storm,” The Jewish Link, November 9, 2022, https://bit.ly/49IMTtQ.)

Members of the freshman class swaying and singing to the songs written and performed by their peers.

Planning, building and equipping a studio of this caliber is a significant and expensive undertaking, well outside the routine line items of a typical day school budget. Sharon Rifkind, TABC’s director of institutional advancement explained: “When we thought about how a program like this could positively impact our students and our school, we decided it was worth the capital investment to build our studio. We are fortunate to have generous donors who helped make this happen.

“As our program grows and we engage more students, buy more equipment and add classes, we are looking for additional partners to dedicate both the music program and the music studio, so that we can continue to expand our offerings and further enhance this incredible initiative.”

The newly released “A TABC Kumzitz” is composed of 10 original compositions. Spadaro said, “As part of the music production and composition elective, students have the opportunity to experience group-based songwriting workshops. There’s no ‘one way’ to write a song; it really varies based on the composer and circumstance.

“In the class, students are encouraged to start with a genre of music that interests them,” he continued. “From that point, the inspiration from the song can reveal itself as a melody, a lyric or a beat/groove. For many of our Hebrew songs, I specifically challenge students to consider which tefillos in their davening strike a particular ‘chord’ with them, since those are words and concepts that they connect with on an emotional level and will evolve naturally into song form.

“In some cases,” Spadaro added, “it’s the other way around. For example, track three, ‘She’yesh M’chadesh’ on the album, began with senior Jacob Oustacher wanting to write a song specifically about emunah. With a bit of research, we came across beautiful pesukim by Rebbe Nachman in Likutei Moharan that fully inspired the composition. If a student wants to work on his own song outside of his group project, Studio 1600 offers private sessions every day that students can book to work with me one-on-one. For this song in particular, the students collaborated with guest artist Eli Levin to take the song to the next level.

“I feel that my job as a music producer and educator can be elucidated through the Latin root of education, ‘educere,’ literally meaning ‘to lead out.’ When I sit with a student I try to meet him where he is, match his frequency, and help bring out what he’s trying to communicate through song. It is one of the greatest privileges of my life, and I am so proud of how far our students have come,” he concluded.

Junior Eyal Kinderlehrer shared his thoughts about what goes through his mind during a recording session, “When I’m in the recording studio, I sometimes find myself amazed by my surroundings. It is such a privilege to have access to this incredible, state-of-the-art equipment in my school.”

Freshman AJ Mandel commented, “There is a lot of anticipation before a recording session. I love watching how a song develops piece by piece and bringing it all together on recording day. It is the grand finale of all our hard work. … For me, it’s all about the people involved. You can really hear everyone’s personality shine through the songs we produce, and Mr. Spadaro makes sure that our unique voices and musical tastes are reflected in the finished product.”

Punctuating Mandel’s remark, Kinderlehrer said, “This class means a lot to me. I don’t take for granted that I can have an idea, see it through the entire music composition and production cycle, and then have my friends or even people I don’t know hear it on Spotify as a full-blown song.”

TABC’s state-of-the-art Studio 1600 where students write, produce and perform original music under the leadership of Jacob Spadaro.

TABC’s Studio 1600 held its inaugural Music Expo on May 22, 2023, featuring TABC musicians and vocalists from all grades. TABC’s recent annual dinner focused on honoring the past and looking toward the future. With that in mind, Spadaro brought in a group of talented alumni to write, produce and perform a song to be featured in a music video to be shown at the dinner.

Ben Antosofsky, TABC class of 2019 and vocalist on both the dinner track and a track on the latest album, shared, “It’s really amazing to be able to return to TABC as an alumnus and participate in songs, albums and videos coming out of Studio 1600. It’s incredible that students get exposure to all aspects of the production cycle, from conception and writing lyrics to performing and publishing. I only wish they had this while I was a student at TABC. I’m glad that I, and my fellow alumni, can still be involved.”

Studio 1600 welcomes interested alumni who would like to get involved to reach out by contacting Spadaro directly: [email protected]

All TABC Studio 1600 songs can be found on AppleMusic, Spotify and other streaming platforms. To see the music videos, visit the TABC Studio 1600 YouTube page at https://bit.ly/4cYdsOu

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