I started writing Jewish music in about 2008. By about 2011 I knew that the music was for more than just my own enjoyment. By then I had several hundred pages of musical ideas in various states of completion. I figured that even if 10% of the songs and melodies were truly exceptional that would mean at least an album or two worth of solid spiritual Jewish music.
In 2013 I “dropped” 🙂 my first album: Be a Blessing. It was a collaboration between me and my beloved Davis Academy community. In 2015 we released A Palace in Time and in 2016 I released my first self-produced album, Eit HaZamir. Amidst all this I’ve performed my music in venues ranging from Tot Shabbat to Erev Rosh Hashanah to Shavuot on a moshav in the Galilee to Sunday Morning services at Ebenezer Baptist Church and beyond. There have been music videos, scholar-in-residencies, commissions, festival gigs and all the stuff that comes with being a real composer and musician.
But I could never settle on the perfect band name. After all, I’m not really a band. And I’m not really a musician. I’m a rabbi. And one of the most authentic and compelling manifestations of my rabbinate is the music that I write and create. But alongside that music I have a profoundly fulfilling full time job, a doctorate in education, three active blogs, numerous community involvements and so on. I’ve got plenty of other dreams that are still taking shape as well.
So the whole issue of the “name” eluded me for years. When I was playing primarily with fellow teachers at The Davis Academy I thought it would be fun to call the band, “Who’s Watching the Kids?” after seeing that phrase in a Hebrew primer from South Africa (random, I know). I thought about calling it “The 6:8 Band” after the biblical verse of Micah 6:8. And I won’t even go into the list of random, absurd, and hysterical band names that materializes when the question of what to call your own band is always somewhere in your conscious mind.
Then it dawned on me. Hello, Goodbye & Peace. Ask any Jew. Literally, any Jew. What does “shalom” mean? And they’ll tell you, “Hello, Goodbye & Peace.” They might not be able to tell you who took the Jews out of Egypt, but they can tell you what Shalom means. It is one of the most fundamental and widely held pieces of Jewish knowledge out there. And, in my opinion, it’s the perfect name for capturing what it is that I’m trying to do and how I think about it.
I would NEVER call myself a brand. Even writing that sentences makes me ill. The narcissism is completely unbearable.
But I do think that, if someone wanted to, they could take any of my songs, any of my blog posts, shadow me for an hour at The Davis Academy, or analyze any of my core beliefs and be able to see patterns of meaning that connect all of these things and more. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call it an “essential self” but I think there’s a coherent voice, point of view, and soul that weds what others might find to be completely disparate.
Which brings me back to Shalom and Hello, Goodbye & Peace. Alongside these three common meanings of Shalom there is another– thru a slight grammatical emendation Shalom becomes Shalem. Shalem means “complete” or “unified.” The Jewish vision of peace contains within a deep yearning for reconciliation, for completion, for unity, for absoluteness. Hello, Goodbye & Peace is therefore, in my mind, sufficiently broad to encapsulate all that I am currently doing and all that I might do. And amazingly, the name was available!
The image at the top of this post, created by Rebecca Ganz, is the official logo of Hello, Goodbye & Peace. If you look carefully you’ll see the Hebrew word “Shalom” in the ampersand.