Portland musician and poet Alicia Jo Rabins is one of four visiting artists selected to join the educational team for this year’s Bronfman Fellowship for 11th-graders from across North America.
The Bronfman Fellowship is a yearlong, transformative experience of study and conversation centered around pluralism, social responsibility and Jewish texts. This will be the first time in its 34-year history that the fellowship has included visiting artists.
Alicia Jo, along with Jessica Tamar Deutsch, Aaron Henne and Jake Marmer, will each teach six art workshops beginning July 12. Fellows will have the opportunity to participate in one of four different arts tracks this summer. Due to the pandemic, the artists will lead the workshops remotely.
Alicia Jo will lead the music track, which gives participants the opportunity to listen to and create “Jewishly experimental” music in any genre. Her works include Girls in Trouble, an indie-folk song cycle about the complicated lives of women in Torah.
“We’ll be listening to a wide range of Jewish music (broadly defined) across indie-rock, folk, rap, hip-hop, traditional music and far-out kabbalistic jazz, and participants will be creating their own musical responses to Jewish texts or traditions in their chosen genre,” says Alicia Jo. “I believe in the power of art for meaning-making, pleasure, and as a way to experience and re-interpret our ancient traditions through a contemporary lens.”
Being able to provide that lens virtually for the Bronfman fellows is just one silver lining Alicia Jo has seen during our shift to a virtual world during the pandemic. She has been able to perform at least once a week for non-location-specific performances and rituals as well as for those based in various cities around the country. She was able to join her extended family for a seder for the first time in 20 years. She has been able to have remote weekly post-production meetings for her upcoming film, A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff. “And as a parent, it’s been a delight not to have to choose between touring and being with my kids.”
“Of course, these are silver linings of an enormous tragedy, and I don’t mean to lose sight of that, but I do want to appreciate the ways in which it makes art more accessible,” she concludes.