HaZamir: The International Jewish Teen Choir aims to connect Jewish high school students to their heritage through music. The program is offered across the United States and Israel, giving students the opportunity to discover the power of music, strengthen their connection to Judaism, and build lasting relationships.
Abram Foster participated in HaZamir during his high school years. Below, he shares some of his experiences and how they influenced and shaped his life, both personally and professionally.
What was your experience with HaZamir? How long were you involved?
I sang in HaZamir through high school, from 2011-2015, generally as a tenor. Locally, I sang in the HaZamir Baltimore chapter under Erika Schon, who was incredibly supportive of me throughout that chapter of my life, and without whom my path through high school and beyond might have looked very different. I was also given the exciting and formative opportunity to sing with the international choir, including in the chamber choir under Mati Lazar for my latter two years of high school, and three times as a soloist.
What did you enjoy most about HaZamir?
Although my local HaZamir chapter was a wonderful community and experience (and as one of the larger chapters, offered plenty of local performance opportunities), every year I looked forward most to the big HaZamir international events: Intervisitation, Gala, and later on our performance at the North American Jewish Choral Festival. The feeling of being part of that massive sound, and being introduced to the brilliance of Mati Lazar, was transformative both for my relationship to music and to Judaism.
Are you still involved now and how?
Most years (whenever I can) in the spring I join with old friends from all over the world for the HaZamir alumni performance at the yearly gala concert, which is always a delight. But beyond HaZamir I’ve found a lot of ways since high school to stay involved with the broader Zamir Choral Foundation! I sing tenor in their young adult choir, Zamir Noded, and when my schedule allowed, I’ve also sung with the Zamir Chorale. In addition, I’ve been very fortunate to study in a small group setting with Mati Lazar through the Zamir Conducting Fellows program, including at the North American Jewish Choral Festival, and I’ve occasionally played rehearsal piano for Zamir Noded and the HaZamir alumni ensemble.
What are some things you learned from your HaZamir experience that still resonates with you today, either personally or professionally?
Personally, my experience in HaZamir has served crucially to keep me connected to Jewish music and Judaism in general, even when I’ve been in locations without a Jewish community that I feel strongly connected to. Professionally, as a composer and musician, I’ve felt that my experience with Mati Lazar specifically has taught me about a whole dimension of musical interpretation beyond the notes on the page, and this has proven absolutely invaluable in guiding my writing, playing, and singing outside of Zamir; and I often feel gives me a leg up on my competition.
Why should someone join HaZamir?
HaZamir is a wonderful Jewish social experience with an opportunity to be part of an impressive musical sound and offers meaningful experiences for all levels of musicality and observance. It’s fun, it’s moving, and if you’re at all like me it might just change your life.
What is one word to describe your experience?
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