Boaz Tarsi

Associate Professor of Music

Department: Jewish Music , Kiev Philharmonic, American Society for Music , Milken Archive of Jewish Music

Phone: (212) 678-8809


Building Room: Unterberg 606

Office Hours: By Appointment


BM, Rubin Academy of Music; MFA and DMA, Cornell University

Boaz Tarsi is an associate professor of music at The Jewish Theological Seminary. His main research area is the theory of Ashkenazi liturgical music and its role within the liturgical experience as a whole. As a secondary area of academic pursuit, he works on issues in music of the modern era, particularly the composer Arnold Schoenberg. He has published a long line of articles on these subjects in leading scholarly journals, and presented papers and lectures at academic conferences and institutions worldwide. He earned his doctorate at Cornell University.

His compositions for chamber ensembles, orchestra, chorus, voice, and solo instruments have been performed and broadcast throughout the United States, Israel, and Europe, hosted by such institutions as the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center, the 92nd Street Y, Merkin Hall, Cristofori Hall in Amsterdam, the Michelstadt Festival in Germany, the Jerusalem Theatre, Tel Aviv Museum, the American Society for Jewish Music, the National Museum of Jewish History, San Diego Jewish Arts Festival, The Kitchen, and the Adonai Foundation Concert Series in New York City. They have been performed by the New York Chamber Music Society, the Kiev Philharmonic, the Israel Sinfonietta Beer-Sheva, Gary Karr, Musicians Accord, the Lunatics, and Musica Mundana, among others. His liturgical settings and Hebrew art songs are published by Transcontinental Music and are performed often in the United States and Israel. 

Among the prizes, awards, and grants Dr. Tarsi has received are the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture Fellowship Grant, Meet the Composer, the Littauer Foundation Research Grant for research in Jewish music, ERMMedia Masterworks Prize for living composers, the Israel Sinfonietta Contest Prize for New Compositions, and the America-Israel Cultural Foundation grants. 

His piece “Concert Aria” for soprano and orchestra was recorded by the Kiev Philharmonic and released on a CD in ERM Media’s series Masterworks of the New Era, distributed by Naxos. His setting for Ashrei Ha’ish (published by Transcontinental Music Publications) was released in Berlin on the CD Cantorial Highlights of the Synagogue:  Meisterwerke der Synagogenmusik des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts. 

Dr. Tarsi collaborated with the Israeli stage director Yossi Yizraeli, with whom he created, wrote the musical arrangements for, and conducted a theater stage event titled Bratslav-Beethoven-Bratslav. The work was performed at the Israel Festival in Jerusalem in the summer of 2013. The premiere of the English version took place at JTS a year earlier. 

Dr. Tarsi has been extensively involved with the Milken Archive of Jewish Music’s recording project as a coach, language consultant, and supervisor throughout the United States and Europe, and has contributed guest essays on Mark Lavri, Arnold Schoenberg, and Yehezkel Braun for that project. 

As a classically trained baritone, Dr. Tarsi has been active in opera, oratorio, concerts, recitals, and cantorial engagements and synagogue work in the United States, Europe, and Israel.


  • Nehama Shel Harikat Shinaiym,” (in Hebrew), Salonet, 2021.
  • “Uncovering the Music Theory of the Ashkenazi Liturgical Music: ‘Adonai Malach’ as a Case Study,” TheJournal of Analytical Approaches to World Music, 2020.
  • At the Intersection of Music Theory and Ideology: A. Z. Idelsohn and the Ashkenazi Prayer Mode Magen Avot,” Journal of Musicological Research, 2017.
  • “The Early Attempts at Creating a Theory of Ashkenazi Liturgical Music.” In Jüdische Musik als Dialog der Kulturen (Jewish Music as a Dialogue of Cultures), edited by Jascha Nemtsov, 59–69. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2013.
  • “How Music Articulates Structure, Meaning, and Perception: The Kaddish.” In The Experience of Jewish Liturgy: Studies Dedicated to Menahem Schmelzer, edited by Debra Reed Blank, 309–40. Boston: Brill, 2011.
  • “On a Particular Case of Tonal, Modal, and Motivic Components in Sources for Liturgical Music of East and West European Origins,” in IggudSelected Essays in Jewish Studies, vol. 3: Languages, Literatures, Arts, edited by Tamar Alexander-Frizer, Yosef Tobi, Dan Laor, Ora Schwartwald, and Ziva Amishai-Maisels, 145–64. Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, Magnes, 2009.
  • “Music Theory as an Expression of Musical and Extra-Musical Views Reflected in Leib Glantz’s Liturgical Settings,” Leib Glantz: The Man Who Spoke to God, edited by Jerry Glantz, 175–95. Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv Institute for Jewish Liturgical Music, 2008.
  • “Congregational Singing as a Norm of Performance Within the Modal Framework of Ashkenazi Liturgical Music.” Journal of Synagogue Music 30, no. 1 (2005): 63–95.
  • “On the Placement of Hebrew Accents: Correct, Hypercorrect, Necessary, and Unnecessary Adjustments of Hebrew Accentuation in the Synagogue—The Musical Considerations.” Journal of Synagogue Music 29, vol. 1 (Summer/Fall 2003): 1–30.
  • Lower Extension of the Minor Scale in Ashkenazi Prayer Music.” Indiana Theory Review 23 (2002): 153–83.
  • “Voices in the Sanctuary: Musical Practices of the American Synagogue.” Conservative Judaism 55, 1 (2002): 61–73.
  • Observations on Practices of Nusach in America.” Asian Music 33, no. 2 (2002): 175–219.
  • “Toward a Clearer Definition of the Magen Avot Mode.” Musica Judaica 16 (2001–2002): 53–79.
  • “Manifestations of Arnold Schoenberg’s Abstract Versus Concrete Dichotomy.” Modern Judaism 21, no. 3 (2001): 238–55.
  • “The Adonai Malach Mode in Ashkenazi Prayer Music: The Problem Stated and a Proposed Outlook Based on Musical Characteristics.” Proceedings of the Thirteenth World Congress of Jewish Studies(2001): 1–20.
  • The Message of Moses and Aaron as Reflection of Arnold Schoenberg’s Spiritual Quest.” Musica Judaica 12 (1991–1992): 52–64.
  • “Tonality and Motivic Interrelationships in the Performance-Practice of Nusach.” Journal of Synagogue Music 21, no. 1 (1991): 5–27.
  • “George Rochberg: The Composer Who Returned to Tonality.” Music in Time. (1983–84): 18–22.
  • Ashrei Ha’ish” for voice and piano. New York: Transcontinental Music Publications, 1993.
  • Hashkivenu” for voice and piano. Journal of Synagogue Music 22, no. 1–2 (1992): 104–109.

Selected Performances of Dr. Tarsi’s Music Compositions

  • Five Movements for Orchestra, The Israel Sinfonietta, “Israeli Music Week” Festival, Israel, 2018 
  • Concert Aria. For soprano and orchestra. Kiev Philharmonic, 2005. Released on Masterworks of the New Era, vol. 14, ERM Media, 2009, distributed by Naxos.
  • Biq’ah Recitative and Dance. For orchestra. The Israel Sinfonietta Beer-Sheva. Tour of Israel’s main cities, including Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, Beer Sheva, and kibbutzim, 1985. Radio broadcast on Israel’s The Voice of Music (Kol Ha Musica) radio station.
  • Mediterranean Melodies. For flute, violin, cello, and piano. The Lunatics, New York, 2012; Musica Mundana, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 2003; Holocaust Memorial Concert, The Kitchen, New York, 1997; Michelstädter Musiknacht summer festival, Michelstädt, Germany, 1995; American Society for Jewish Music Contemporary Composers Concert, New York, 1995; Merkin Hall, New York City, 1992.
  • Ani Halachti Az. For voice and piano. Afternoon of Song, Summit, NJ, 2005; Israel Fiftieth Anniversary Concert, Perth Amboy, NJ, 1997; The Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, 1990.
  • Arrangement of Ani Halachti Az for soprano and string trio, Potsdam Museum, Berlin, 2018 
  • Arrangements of Two Songs by Paul Ben-Haim (Akara and Litmunat Imi). for soprano and string trio, Potsdam Museum, Berlin, 2018 
  • Ma Tir’ash Avi. For voice and piano. Afternoon of Song, Summit, NJ, 2005; Israel Fiftieth Anniversary Concert, Perth Amboy, NJ, 1997; The Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, 1994, 1991; Jerusalem, 1984, 1982. 
  • Yarad Ha’ish El Hamidbar. For voice and piano. Afternoon of Song, Summit, NJ, 2005; The Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, 1994; Jerusalem, 1982. 
  • Ashrei Ha’ish. For voice and piano or organ. The Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, 1997, 1994, 1990; Musica Habraica concert, Hebrew Union College, New York, 1994; Cantors Assembly Convention, Philadelphia, 1993; The Walter Davidson Memorial Concert, Hebrew Union College, New York, 1992. Included on the CD Cantorial Highlights of the Synagogue:  Meisterwerke der Synagogenmusik des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts,” Berlin: Kulturstiftung der Deutschen Bank, 2001
  • Veshameru: A Sabbath Prayer For chorus and optional piano or organ. Israel Fiftieth Anniversary Concert, New York, 1998. 
  • Esa Einai: A Prayer of Hope (Psalm 121). For chorus. Israel Fiftieth Anniversary Concert, New York, 1998. 
  • From The Song of Songs. For flute, mezzo soprano, baritone, and piano. San Diego Jewish Arts Festival, 1996; the Jewish Museum, Philadelphia, 1993; 92nd Street Y, New York, 1989. 
  • Five Songs About Love. For voice and piano. Commissioned by Motti Kastón of the Stuttgart Opera. Adonai Foundation Concert Series, St. Stephan Church, New York, 1996. 
  • Song Dance and Chorale Fantasy. For piano solo. Michelstädter Musiknacht summer festival, Michelstädt, Germany, 1995; Cristofori Hall, Amsterdam, 1994; Bruno Walter Auditorium, Lincoln Center, New York, 1993. 
  • Hashkivenu. For voice and piano. HUC Alumni Concert, Hebrew Union College, New York, 1994; The Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, 1994, 1989; cantorial concert at congregation Shaare Zedek, New York, 1993; Cantors Institute Alumni Association Conference, New York, 1991. 
  • Consecration of the Court—Fanfare. For double-bass, shofar, and piano. Commissioned by Kay Logan of the Chautauqua Institution for Gary Karr and Harmon Lewis. The Alwyn Court, New York, 1993. 
  • Five Songs on Poems by Wallace Stevens. For voice and piano. Ithaca, NY, 1987, 1984. 
  • Chalil. For flute solo. Ithaca, NY, 1986; Ithaca, NY, 1985.
  • Theme and Variations. For piano solo. Jerusalem, 1984; Recanati Hall, Tel Aviv Museum, as part of the Young Artist Concert, 1983. Broadcast on Israel’s Voice of Music radio station, 1983. 
  • Three Songs on Poems by Natan Yehonatan. For voice and piano. Ithaca, NY, 1986. 
  • Se’i Yona. For viola and piano, arrangement of a Yemenite song. Commissioned by Nancy Ascher (First Violist, the Jerusalem Symphony), 1982. 
  • Death Song and the Reminiscence of a Tune. For flute, soprano, viola, and piano. Jerusalem, 1981. 
  • Something. For flute, oboe, and bassoon. Jerusalem, 1981.
  • Invention. For flute solo, 1981. Jerusalem, 1981. 
  • Azure. For flute solo. Tel Aviv, 1976.  


  • Concert Aria, in Masterworks of the Twenty-First Century, The Kiev Philharmonic, ERM Media, 2009. Distributed by Naxos.   
  • Ashrey Ha’ish, in Cantorial Highlights of the Synagogue: Meisterwerke der Synagogenmusik des 19. und 20. Jahrthunderts, Berlin, 2001.     

Published Poetry

Book: Yad Ahat Hehela Roshemet, Pardes, 2021.

Poems in Literary Journals

  • “Oran,” Shvilim, March 2021
  • Z’riha Balvanon,” Salonet, February 2021
  • Aharey Kichlot Hakol,” Salonet, February 2021
  • Vechi Ma Ya’aseh,” Shvilim, December 2020
  • Me’evro shel sambatiyon,” Nachon, October, 2020
  • Hanoded,” Shvilim, October, 2020
  • Hine hen ba’ot,” Netivim, September, 2020
  • “Im nashuv,” Nachon, April, 2020
  • Vehayya ki ba hashemesh,” Netivim, December, 2019
  • Hachnasat kala,” Hamusach, November, 2019
  • Ata zocher,” Yedioth Ahronoth, June, 16, 2019
  • Zecher le’ma’ase,” Hamisderon, May, 2019
  • Agada noshana,” Hamisderon, May, 2019
  • Verklärung,” Iton 77, April-May, 2019
  • B’usti nad labem,” Ho 17, 2019
  • Sur la ville,” Ho 17, 2019
  • Les Adieux,” Granta, February, 2019
  • Mishirey yerushalaiym,” Moznaiym 92/3, September, 2018
  • Divra chir’ute,” Moznaiym 92/3, September, 2018
  • Gittin,” Hamusach, June, 2018
  • Midey pa’am,” Hamusach, June, 2018
  • Be’omdo al hahar bir’oto otah,” Moznaiym, 92/1, March, 2018

Theater Pieces

  • Musical director, “Beethoven-Bratzlav-Beethoven.” Cocreated with Yossi Yizraeli; a music and theater stage event. Concept, musical arrangements, coaching performers, running rehearsals, conducting performances, and supervising recordings. New York, 2013, Israel Festival, 2014.

Grants, Fellowships, and Awards

  • ERMMedia Masterworks Prize for living composers (for Concert Aria)
  • Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture Fellowship Grant
  • Meet the Composer
  • Littauer Foundation Research Grant for research in Jewish music
  • Israel Sinfonietta Contest Prize for New Compositions (for Biq’ah Recitative and Dance)
  • Solomon and Rose S. Lasdon Prize at JTS for a successful translation of the idea of Judaism into a significant work of art or scholarship (for From the Song of Songs)
  • America-Israel Cultural Foundation grants
  • Cornell University Fellowship
  • Cornell University assistantships
  • Jerusalem (Rubin) Academy of Music and Dance scholarships


  • “Does Ashkenazi Synagogue Music Have a Theory, Part I: What Happens When You Do not Let the Facts Confuse You” [with Amalia Kedem], The International Forum for Jewish Music Studies, 2021.
  • “Does Ashkenazi Synagogue Music Have a Theory, Part II: Facing the Facts (Partial View)” [with Amalia Kedem], The International Forum for Jewish Music Studies, 2021.
  • “Synagogue Music before Sulzer” [with Daniel Katz], The International Forum for Jewish Music Studies, 2020.
  • “On the Musical Performance of Psalms and its Implications for Identifying Psalms as a Liturgical Category in the Ashkenazi Synagogue,” Jewish Music Forum Psalmody through the Ages: Music and the Book of Psalms conference, New York, 2020.
  • On the Fuzzy Margins of the Definition of ‘Scale’ in Ashkenazi Liturgical Music, and its Role as a Constituent Factor in Unpacking the Theory Behind the Practice,” World Congress of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, 2017.
  • Steiger, modus, ofen hitnahalut vetsarot acherot: nisaiyon likri’a leseder,” Jewish Music Research Center, Jerusalem, 2017.
  • “Ravel’s Kaddish and Ashkenazi Liturgical Music.” North American Academy of Liturgy Annual Conference, Orlando, FL, 2014.
  • “Cross-repertory Motifs in the Liturgical Music of Ashkenazi Tradition.” The 16th World Congress of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, 2013.
  • “Toward Uncovering the Music Theory of Ashkenazi Liturgical Music.” North American Academy of Liturgy Annual Conference, Albuquerque, NM, 2013.
  • Al Hama’arechet Hamodalit Shel Muzikat Hatfila Benusach Ashkenaz: Hamoreshet Hahistoriyografit Venisaiyon Litsor Model Adkani (On the Modal System of Ashkenazi Liturgical Music: The Historiographic Inheritance and an Attempt for an Updated Model).” Tel Aviv University, 2011.
  • Mistika Tsfatit Vekabbalat Shabbat Kemafteach Livchinat Markiv Shel ‘Etos Bamusika Shel Nusach Hatfila Ha’ashkenazi (Safed Mysticism and Kabbalat Shabbat as a Key to ‘Ethos’ in Ashkenazi Liturgical Music).” Hagalil, Hamusika Hayehudit Vehazemer Ha’ivri Conference, Safed College, Safed, Israel, 2010.
  • “Early Theories of Ashkenazi Liturgical Music.” Jüdische Musik als Dialog der Kulturen und ihre Vermittlungsdimensionen Wege zur interreligiösen und interkulturellen Verständigung International Conference, Potsdam University, Potsdam, Germany, 2010.
  • Kama Markivim Shel Hamusika Shel Nusach Ashkenaz (A Few Components of the Music of Ashkenazi Nusach).” Beit Terezin (Theresienstadt Memorial Institute and Museum) Summer Music Seminar, Giva’at Hayim, Israel, 2010.
  • “The Ashkenazi Cantorial Tradition of the 19th Century” (lecture-demonstration concert). With Eli Schleifer. Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 2010.
  • “On the Question of Psalms as a Liturgical-Musical Category in Ashkenazi Prayer.” The French Research Center in Jerusalem International Conference, Jerusalem, 2009. 
  • “Ashkenazi Liturgical Music: Analysis of Modes of Operation in Historical and Cognitive Perspectives.” The 15th World Congress of Jewish Studies, 2009. 
  • “The Function of Music in Creating a Coherent Liturgical Experience: Kabbalat Shabbat and FridayMa’ariv.” Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Studies, Washington DC, 2008. 
  • “The Insider’s View of Theory of Ashkenazi Liturgical Music and Some of Its Implications.” Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Studies, Toronto, 2007. 
  • Hanisayon Litsor Te’oria Shel Muzika Liturgit Ashkenazit Kevituy Shel Ekronot Musikalyim Vechuts Musikalyim Be’avodato Shel Leib Glantz (The Attempt to Create a Theory of Ashkenazi Liturgical Music as an Expression of Musical and Extramusical Principles in the Work of Leib Glantz).” Israel Musicological Society conference, Tel Aviv, 2007. 
  • “On Motivic Structure and ‘Manners of Musical Conduct’ in Ashkenazi Liturgical Music,” Israel Musicological Society conference, Jerusalem 2006. 
  • Ma Anu Yecholim Lilmod Mehamekorot Haktuvim Al Nusach Ashkenaz (What Can We Learn on Nusach Ashkenaz from the Written Sources?).” Jewish Music Research Centre, Jerusalem, 2006. 
  • Hashpa’ato Shel Idelsohn Al Tfisat Hamodusim Ha’ashkenazim Vehagdaratam (Idelsohn’s Influence on the Perception and Definition of the Ashkenazi Modes).” Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel, 2006.
  • “Tonal and Modal Constructs in the Cantorial Manuscripts of Eastern and Western European Origins and in the American Practice.” The 14th World Congress of Jewish Studies, 2005. 
  • “‘Hashtaiger Magen Avot’: Ha’im Hu Kaiyam, Chelek Beit (The Magen Avot Steiger: Does It Exist?, Part Two),” Jewish Music Research Centre, Jerusalem, 2005. 
  • “Destination America: The Road to Minor in Synagogue Music.” Only in America: Jewish Music in a Land of Freedom conference, The Jewish Theological Seminary and the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music, New York, 2004. 
  • Lehavanat Hamodusim Ha’ashkenaziyim: Magen Avot Kemikre Mivchan (Toward Understanding the Ashkenazi Modes: Magen Avot as a Case Study).” Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 2003. 
  • “Selected Topics Regarding a Music-Theory Model for Explicating Nusach Ashkenaz.” Jewish Music Research Centre, Jerusalem, 2003. 
  • “Musical Characteristics and Motivic Structure of the Adonai Malach Mode.” The 13th World Congress of Jewish Studies, 2001. 
  • “Motivic Structure, Text, and Norms of Performance and Participation in Some Modes of Ashkenazi Liturgical Singing.” Chant in World Religion: Modern Perspectives on Traditional Practice conference, Center for the Study of Religion, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 2000. 
  • “The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: One Jewish Mode as a Case Study.” International Conference on Jewish Music, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 2000.


Dr. Tarsi’s research interests include theory of Ashkenazi liturgical music; music theory; music composition; music history; vocal music and vocal performance; ethnomusicology; music hermeneutics; musicology; musical modes; interrelationships among textual, intertextual, structural, and musical aspects of Jewish liturgy; synagogue music and ritual; linguistic considerations in the musical performance of Jewish liturgy; phenomenology of the performance of liturgical Jewish music; implementation of literary analysis models on liturgical texts; unpacking the “manner of conduct” of the liturgical music of Ashkenazi tradition and uncovering the metalangue of this practice; the connection between the different given, pre-set constituents—language, music, “autonomous meaning,” textual variables, performance, and ritual—and the liturgical experience, and how to effect the latter from the former.