People always thought Matt Klein should become a cantor. As he describes it, "I was that kid who was singing Veshamru while loudly running down the aisle of the synagogue. I prayed with a lot of feeling." Small wonder that today he is an enthusiastic and dedicated student at the H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music of The Jewish Theological Seminary.
Matt attended the College of William & Mary, where he majored in music. Despite choosing a secular undergraduate school, Matt, who grew up in the Conservative Movement, used his time there to strengthen his Jewish identity. "I led kiddush and Yigdal services at a local Conservative synagogue, whereupon the rabbi on staff offered me my first High Holiday pulpit. I also became engaged through Hillel, the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi, and courses in religious studies."
After graduating in 2006, Matt wanted to invest his Jewish life with both music and deeper meaning. "JTS was the clear place to do so, given my background and religious conviction," he says. "I was looking for academic rigor and the spiritual disciplines of tradition, with an eye toward innovation."
Now a fifth-year cantorial student, Matt is in his element. During the H. L. Miller Cantorial School's first-year program in Israel, he took a class with Bible professor Rabbi Hillel Milgram, who, Matt says, "changed my life and my spirituality by helping me gain an authentic, Conservative approach to the Bible." While In Israel, Matt and three of his classmates—Yakov Hadash, Jonathan Schultz, and Sidney Ezer—also formed a band, The Wizards of Ashkenaz (who will be on tour again soon). See a video of the band below:
At JTS, Matt has enjoyed his courses and has begun working toward a certificate in Pastoral Care and Counseling from the JTS Center for Pastoral Education. Beyond 3080 Broadway, Matt has embraced the opportunity to research and study at both Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and Union Theological Seminary. He has also taken advantage of "the resources of the City of New York, with its myriad of both well-entrenched and innovative Jewish organizations, synagogues, and minyanim. The city has given me a supplemental education that will enable me to become the best hazzan that it is within me to be."
After completing his master of Sacred Music degree, Matt looks forward to building a kehillah k'doshah (a holy community) and, hopefully, one day returning to JTS to teach. Many different components of Matt's time at the H. L. Miller Cantorial School have shaped who he is today, and Matt says this is a reflection of JTS: "This place is like a Georges Seurat painting—lots of little pixels form a beautiful overall picture."
Matt Klein discusses the range of resources available to JTS students: