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Michael Reid Winikoff

This is my first post on the subject of music, both in the Jewish community and beyond.  I’m anxious to talk to you about what thrills me (and about what doesn’t necessarily thrill me) in Jewish sacred music today, and in the wider musical world – sacred and secular.  I want to offer my perspectives on where we’ve been, where we seem to be headed, and where I would like to see us go.  I would also like to impart to singers and conductors some helpful ideas on various styles and approaches to music, how to read and understand written music, how to rehearse more efficiently, how to be a “team player” and improve your ensemble.

Who Am I and What Do I Know About Music?  I am Michael Reid Winikoff, a classically trained singer who has performed as a classical soloist, cantorial soloist, choir singer, and not infrequent conductor.   Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and learning from many distinguished singers, conductors, voice teachers, coaches, composers and cantors.  I have learned about the many aspects of successful performing from both the stage and the audience perspectives.  And I’ve been honored to participate in numerous world and American premieres by other composers.


Classical to Pop.  I’ve been composing (or trying to) in some fashion since about age 15.   My musical influences have been wide-ranging:  the Big Bands, mainstream pop (in my youth “mainstream”  precluded most rock music), Broadway, Hollywood, and eventually even rock and folk-rock.

But most of all, it was classical, and especially classical choral music that has always stirred my imagination, and classical is my predominant musical sensibility.  In junior and senior high school, our chorus repertoire included Handel, Bach, Mendelssohn, Haydn, and many others in-between, along with the obligatory pop selections.  And yes, Xmas music contributed to the mix as well.  I’ve learned an enormous bit from all of it.

Shul Music.  After 45 years of Jewish choral singing,  and 34 years as a cantorial soloist, I feel well acquainted not only with our liturgy and the musical legacy contained in our nusach (chant modes), but with a growing portion of our great choral literature: Lewandowski, Sulzer, Helfman, Zilberts, et al.


A few years ago, I felt a need to take a different direction in my career.  I took the radical step of quitting my day job for a while to pursue composition full-time.  In the process, I learned loads of technology, built my website MRWinikoffmusic.com, composed and published lots of music on the site.

During this period I have participated in the revival and burgeoning of choral music in the Jewish community, most notably through a program like the annual North American Jewish Choral Festival under the auspices of the Mati Lazar’s Zamir Choral Foundation.  It’s a brave new world out there, radically different than just 20 years ago, a world I’ve found both exciting and frustrating – but more on that in future posts.


In upcoming posts, I’ll have things to say about music in shul, wedding music, classical vs. pop esthetic, composing, singing, performance and musicianship – all areas where I feel I can contribute to the discourse.  I hope you’ll join me for some lively discussion!
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