Who The Folk?! Ross Fishman

What’s a better combination than music and a beverage? Ross Fishman has turned that combination into Barside Baby Music. We talk this week with Ross — also a choir teacher and composer — about his musical roots, how Barside Baby Music got started, and the process he goes through when he composes, on this week’s Who The Folk?! Podcast.

You can read an excerpt below, but for the whole interview, please listen or subscribe to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Stitcher, with more to come later soon. Please subscribe, rate, and review. And of course, if you have suggestions of others who would be great subjects, let us know!

We are here in your basement, which doubles as the classroom, if you will, of Barside Baby Music. What is Barside Baby Music?

Well, it’s a music class that parents have the opportunity to have some Jewish education or some Hebrew literacy for their kids, and also just kind of schmooze with each other and maybe meet some folks that they haven’t met.

You have this schedule of how the class works and the menu of beverages to choose from. Where did the idea for this concept come from?

Well, first of all, uh, just because I have a son who’s almost 2, and I wanted him to have some music this summer. And I figured, well, because I’m a music teacher. I might as well have my own class. And, and in our house, here, we have the instruments next to a bar happens to be just how the room is set up. So that’s kind of how the idea came about. And then also think about all the breweries on the weekends where people bring their kids. So it’s kind of like an idea to combine that with a little more educational aspect to it.

So where you mentioned you’re a music teacher; where are you teaching right now?

I teach on middle school choir in Buffalo, about a half-hour west of here.

Where did your love of music come from?

Well, I grew up in Plymouth and went to Armstrong High School, and they were known for and still known for really strong music program. And so yeah, I knew that I wanted to be a music teacher, myself, and especially teach choir. So that’s what I’ve been doing the last 10 years, kind of been going abroad as well. Actually, it taught in Israel and China. And in between the school years, I did a lot of song leading at Camp Olami.

What other sorts of musical endeavors are you involved with?

I am expanding in my composition, and have some Jewish compositions that are now being published. So that’s something I’m really excited about and separate from kind of the teaching world.

There’s a lot of liturgical music that gets taught in school choirs, and obviously, most of it is, comes from the church. Are you hoping that some of this repertoire that you’re creating can be integrated into schools?

Absolutely, So basically, as a Jewish choir director, I get to see all the Hebrew songs that that are available, and a lot of them are preschool songs that teenagers are supposed to sing. It’s like Dayenu. “There’s a new arrangement of Dayenu;” that’s a preschool song and you expect to 17-year-olds to be interested in by that. So I’m trying to elevate it and put a more contemporary feel to it.

What’s the biggest challenge you found to creating that kind of composition?

It just takes time. I think for me, it’s not like it comes out in a week; it takes me months. This last piece, I wrote, that I’m hoping will be published. I was kind of reflecting after the school shooting in Florida. I thought about how I want schools to be a sacred place where we can learn in peace. And so I used the text from the Birchat Ha’bayit, which is in every mezuzah. I put that in the song, and I did put some English translation and it was actually a really great experience. We performed it at our school this year. And one of the parents stood up and said, “Amen.” And someone came up to me at the end, and they’re like, “I didn’t understand most of the words. But I understood Shalom. And that was very, very inspiring.”

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