Once he'd decided to become a cantor, Russell Jayne never considered attending any institution but the H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music at The Jewish Theological Seminary: "I felt that by attending JTS I would receive the most balanced education available in the cantorial arts, combining the best of traditional nusah with the best of the modern synagogue music experience," Russell said.
His mother and grandmother, who raised him, instilled Russell with a love of religious ritual, and he was a devout Roman Catholic until he became intensely drawn to Judaism and converted 10 years ago. He plans to become a pulpit cantor after the completion of his studies and his investiture next year, in 2013.
Russell has found a source of inspiration that is always renewable: "the passion of the professors who teach here. Every class is taught with such . . . intensity for the subject at hand. I leave every class feeling that I have to delve deeper," he said of the training and education he's receiving at JTS.
Among the classes that have moved him the most is Advanced Cantorial Recitative. "We get to pick the brain and assimilate the experiences of a master hazzan," said Russell. "We also learn, simultaneously, to interpret the works of the master cantors, and how to make them work in the modern synagogue, thus both preserving our musical heritage and attempting to update it for the modern congregant."
The powerful sense of fellowship among students at the H. L. Miller Cantorial School and all of JTS is also vital to Russell's experience. "We really are a ‘community,'" he says. "You can take classes with colleagues from any of the other schools, and we all feel that we have something to learn from each other. We're all in this together so we can serve our people better, and it shows."