Tuesday, March 06, 2012

VIDEO: Get to know Your Jewish Star Finalists!

8 Adult and 4 Juniors finalists of A Jewish Star Singing Competition – season 3 will compete live March 19 at Brooklyn College. Join Judges Avraham Fried, Yossi Green, Eli Gerstner and Mendy Pellin and Guest performer Lipa Schmeltzer for the most anticipated Jewish music event of the year.

Adult Semi Finalists:

Ami Eller –A music fan from day one, fifteen year old Ami is no stranger to the stage or the recording studio, having performed live with some of Jewish music’s biggest stars including Benny Friedman, Baruch Levine and Srully Williger and has sung at weddings, dinners and Bar Mitzvahs.  Ami was a star soloist in Kol Noar Boys Choir, has been a soloist on six other albums, including Shloime Gertner’s Say Asay, two AKA Pella albums, Shea Rubenstein’s Ohavti and Shua Kessin’s Lo L’hityaesh and has recorded vocals for two additional albums that have not yet been released.  An avid piano player for more than half his life, Ami is teaching himself to play guitar and has composed several songs which he dedicated to the choson and kallah at his siblings’ and cousins’ weddings. 

“Being a semi-finalist is amazing,” said Ami. “I have been to Brooklyn College for so many concerts.  The idea that I will be singing on the same stage as the biggest names in Jewish music is awesome.  While I may be the youngest adult contestant, music inspires people of all ages, from my one year old niece who wants to hear Ya’alili over and over again to my Zaidy, whose biggest pleasure is singing zemiros with his grandchildren.  It is a direct path to our neshamos and our hearts and a way of bringing us closer to Hashem.   More than anything, I want to thank the coordinators, producers and sponsors of A Jewish Star for giving me and my fellow contestants a chance to follow our dreams.”

 Choni Goldman – One of eleven children, twenty eight year old Choni is the Cultural Officer at the Israeli Embassy in South Africa and serves as the Chazan at Chabad of Sandton in Johannesburg after doing a three and a half year stint as Choirmaster in the Pretoria Shul.  He has been singing since childhood, both in Shul and in school choirs and sang with Mordechai Ben David at a concert in South Africa.  Choni loves African harmonies, plays some percussion and confesses to being extremely adept at drumming on the table.  Choni aspires to become a recording and performing artist.

Extremely happy to have made it to the semi finals, Choni is aiming to win this year’s competition with a great performance and after flying in from South Africa, he hopes he is over his jetlag on the night of the concert.  He has a deep passion for Judaism, the Jewish people, Israel, the Grand Rabbi and is a keen tennis player who enjoys dmc’s and invites his fans to friend him on Facebook.

“Get my autograph before the concert,” advises Choni with a smile.

Dovi Minkowicz  - Thirty three year old businessman Dovi Minkowicz is a father of five who loves to practice the cantorial art fused with a taste of modern Jewish music, blending the best of both worlds.  In addition to having davened at Shuls all across the globe, Dovi has appeared with both Avraham Fried and Mordechai Ben David and plays the piano as well. 

Dovi admits to being surprised that the judges selected his more chazanish voice over the more classical pop voices of some of the other contestants.  He hopes to further impress the crowd and the judges with the same quality that they recognized in his audition video.

“I am super excited about the Jewish Star concert,” confessed Dovi.  “It is surely going to be different and electrifying.  Good Jewish music isn’t a myth, it is very real.  Everyone was curious why Yossi Green was so hung up on singers connecting with their songs.  The truth is, he is completely correct.  Feeling, understand and expressing the song, with or without lyrics, is the magic of music.”

 Moshe Biton – Born to immigrant Moroccan parents, thirty one year old Moshe was raised in a new immigrant section of Tiberias called Shikun Dalet and learned to sing in Shul, as singing is an integral part of prayer for Moroccan Jews.  The father of two children, ages five and three, Moshe works as a Mashgiach in a Chinese Kosher restaurant and loves to sing Jewish Oriental tunes and religious poems, but has also sung at weddings, Sheva Brachos and the Yahrtzeits of tzaddikum like the Yom Hilula of the Baba Sali. 

“Tiberias a small development town, with not too much contact with the outside world, but my friends say I have a good voice,” said Moshe.  “My father in law suggested I try the Jewish Star and Baruch Hashem, I am in.  I pray that someone takes an interest in me but most importantly, I hope my singing brings Jews closer to their Father in Heaven and awaken their souls.  I know it sounds silly, but that’s what I want to accomplish.  Finally, always remember:  All Jews are Jewish Stars.”

 Pinchas Tsinman –  A twenty seven year old resident of Pinsk, Pinchas Tsinman works for the local community, as a teacher in both the Jewish school and kollel, runs the Pinsk Beit Chabad and is the father of an eight month old baby boy named Avrom Michoel. Pinchas went to music school as a child where he studied both flute and guitar and played in the school band at various concerts dedicated to Jewish holidays.  While Pinchas had already composing his own music for quite some time, it wasn’t until he went to yeshiva that his music began to take on a new dimension, reflecting his newfound love for Yiddishkeit.  Pinchas hopes that his music will invigorate people who think that Judaism is boring and dated and hopes to record albums in order to be able to reach an even larger audience.

Pinchas admits that he never expected to be chosen as a semi-finalist because of the language barrier.

“I thought that my style wouldn’t be a fit for this project and that people would not be able to value my song because of the Russian words,” said Pinchas, who submitted a translation of his lyrics with his video submission.  “I am trying to translate parts of my song into English but I hope that when words come from my heart they will reach the hearts of others and everybody will understand my message.  I want to thank A Jewish Star for all their help and hope that my music will bring every Jew closer to yiddishkeit, which will reveal Moshiach in our world, soon in our days.”

Shimi Markovich – An importer of medical supplies who devotes his nights to learning, twenty four year old Shimi is the father of a baby boy named Aby.  He has been singing since he was a child and has performed in school choirs and at weddings.  Shimi has his own music studio and plays piano, guitar and drums.

“I would love to be able to share my music with the world and succeed in the Jewish music business,” said Shimi.  “I think A Jewish Star is a great opportunity for people to be able to show their talent to the world and let them decide if they would like to hear more from you in the future.  I want to thank everyone who voted for me and I hope to do my best at the upcoming Jewish Star concert.”

Shmueli Schwartz  - A twenty seven year old social worker for the Jewish Home of the Aging in Los Angeles, Shmueli is currently enrolled in the Yeshiva University semicha program.  Married for just two month to his wife Raquel, Shmueli has in his own words, “twenty kids on the way.” 

Shmueli comes from a family of singers and was trained by his own father at the Shabbos table.  He composes his own music on the piano and has been singing in community choirs and at chupahs for years.  Shmueli hopes to bring people closer to Hashem with his compositions and his Jewish Star submission was an original song written both as a hesped to the Fogel family who was murdered in Itamar last year and as a way to help both Jews and non-Jews experience the tragedy on an emotional level.

“I appreciate becoming a semi-finalist,” said Shmueli.  “I hope it can help my music career and I want to give concerts both locally and internationally.  I think there is a lot of talent being displayed at the Jewish Star concert and that regardless of who wins or loses, it is an experience in and of itself.”

Yehoshua Solomon – A Jewish music teacher at Brooklyn’s Yeshiva Derech HaTorah and a counselor and musical director at Chaim Day Camp, thirty five year old Yehoshua hopes to bring simcha to as many Yidden as possible as both a singer and a keyboardist.  Yehoshua performed as a member of the Pirchei Boys Choir in A Time for Music 2 and as a member of the Miami Voice Symphony at Miami Experience IV and V and would love to release a single or an album one day.

Despite his many years experience, Yehoshua confessed to being both nervous and excited about the upcoming Jewish Star finale and expressed gratitude to his audio and video producers as well as Hashem Yisborach for helping him get to the semi final round and giving the public a chance to see him as a lead singer instead of just an instrumentalist.

“Looking at the videos I see there is some really good talent and even if I don’t win I will get great exposure.  I always dreamed of singing onstage as a youngster, but never had a solo performance like this in front of a large audience.  I believe my mother, a’h, would be very proud of me and I’m sure she’s smiling down from Shomayim, shepping nachas.”

Junior Semi Finalists

Dovid Markovits – A resident of Kew Garden Hills, Queens, Dovid was born in Jerusalem in 1999 and is twelve years old. The oldest of three children, Dovid has a nine year old sister named Esther Leah and a six year old brother named Chezky.

Dovid attends Yeshivah Ketana of Queens and has been a singer since he was three years old, performing at family gatherings and weddings. At the age of six Dovid joined the Chazak Boys Choir conducted by Ofi Nat and spent summers honing his singing skills, earning a chance to sing a duet with Avraham Fried at one of the Chazak summer concerts.  More recently he has recorded and performed with Yitzy Bald and the New York Boys Choir. Under Yitzy's mentorship, Dovid has learned musical arrangement and has greatly expanded his vocal skills. In addition to his love for music, Dovid is busy preparing for his Bar Mitzvah which will take place on Shabbos Nachamu 2012, where he plans to lein Parshas V'eschanan.

Dovid recently started learning how to play the piano and guitar and looks forward to developing his skills on those instruments as he continues to expand his musical talent.

Dovid is grateful to the producers of the Jewish Star competition for this opportunity. He has had a great experience thus far and looks forward to being a part of an amazing concert on March 19th.

Mendel Piekarski – A sixth grader at Yeshiva Oholei Torah and the oldest of three children, twelve year old Mendel already has a long musical resume.  He sang with Temimim and Sparks Boys Choirs, produced his own album (which is not available for sale), performed at the Tzivos Hashem BAM Theater in 2011 and Tzivos Hashem Dinner at the New York Hilton in 2012, is featured in an upcoming music video and is the voice orator for Jewish Education Media’s Living Torah museum, doing the weekly childrens’ narration.  Mendel, who took drums as a youngster and plays piano by ear, aspires to maximize his talent as a young star and child prodigy and perhaps return to the Jewish music one day as an adult. 

Mendel is very excited both to be a finalist and to have the opportunity to work alongside with his fellow competitors.  He looks forward to connecting with the audience at the Jewish Star finale and hopes to be able to touch the hearts of everyone at the concert.

Mendy Antelis – Fourteen year old Mendy is a student at Jewish Education Center (JEC) in Elizabeth, New Jersey and is the seventh of nine children. A member of an extremely musical family, he has performed at family events as well as at Queens College.  Mendy hopes to release a debut album and continue to work on and improve all aspects of his musical endeavors.

“I’m honored and excited to be one of the semi finalists and I can’t wait to meet the other contestants and judges,” said Mendy.  “I look forward to performing and rocking the house at the Jewish Star concert and am thankful for the opportunity to be part of this competition.  Thanks to all those who have supported me thus far. I can’t wait for perform in front of all of you!”

Shlomo Skolnik – A former member of Yeshiva Boys Choir who sang on the HASC stage and performed with Shlomo Schwed, fifteen year old Shlomo has seven brothers and one sister.  Shlomo is a ninth grader at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway who loves sports and hopes to one day release an enjoyable album that will appeal to Jewish music lovers.

“It is really amazing to have been chosen as a Jewish Star semi-finalist because it must mean I have some talent,” said Shlomo. 

As for the upcoming Jewish Star finale, Shlomo had only two words.

“Can’t wait!!”