Meet our new Cantorial Soloist Jessica Bass
I am extremely excited to be part of the clergy team at Temple Beth Am. This beautiful temple and community is a testament to what the tenacity, love and courage of the Jewish people can accomplish. I look forward to introducing myself in person to everyone in the congregation in the near future.
I am a Miami native, the only child of an interfaith family. We were members of Bet Breira Samu-El Or Olom, where I attended preschool. It was there that I experienced my first connection with Judaism. I fell in love with Jewish music before I was old enough to understand what religion was. The incredible beauty and depth of emotion expressed through Jewish melody is captivating, and I could never have enough of it.
As my exposure to Judaism and its music grew, I wanted to know more. I asked my parents if I could go to Hebrew School, and they gladly complied. When I was 12, I went to Israel with my family on a temple trip, where I became a bat mitzvah in Jerusalem with Rabbi Jaime Aklepi. I am so pleased to have Rabbi Aklepi as my colleague and mentor here at Temple Beth Am.
My first High Holy Day service was also Cantorial Soloist Don Bennett’s first year at Bet Breira. I was very young, and felt very grown-up to be allowed to attend. That Rosh HaShanah service shaped the trajectory of my life. My parents remember the expression of utter shock and awe as I watched the clergy, the choir and instrumentalists, all dressed in white. I still can remember the thrill of listening to the majestic music of the High Holy Days so beautifully interpreted by Don Bennett, and especially the music of composers such as Max Helfman and Max Janowski.
After attending Miami Palmetto Middle School, I auditioned for and attended Miami Coral Reef Senior High School in their chorus magnet program. I had become infatuated with musical theater, opera and classical art song, and actively pursued these genres. Throughout high school I continued to attend Friday night services, and was given the opportunity to join the High Holy Day choir in 2010, my sophomore year. My initial High Holy Day experience inspired my love of opera and classical voice, but it was this experience in the temple choir that made me realize how much I wanted to become a cantor.
Following high school, I attended the Florida State University, where I graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in voice performance in 2017. In my second year of college I became the cantorial soloist for Temple Israel of Tallahassee with Rabbi Jack Romberg, and I served as their High Holy Day Cantorial Soloist from 2017–2019. I will forever be grateful for this inspiring experience, which initiated the training for my future calling. In that same year I made my collegiate opera debut with FSU’s Opera Outreach as Hansel in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel.
I returned to Miami after college and began teaching at Miami Music Works, while studying voice privately at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music. In 2019 I became the Shabbat cantorial soloist for Bet Shira Congregation here in Pinecrest.
Currently I am a graduate student at the University of Miami, beginning the final year of my voice performance master’s degree this fall. With the Frost Opera Theater in fall 2019, I was fortunate enough to understudy the role of Orfeo in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, as well as the title role in Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges, where I performed the role of La Chatte Blanc. I had been preparing for the role of the gypsy Beppe in Mascagni’s L’Amico Fritz when the university campus was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am a private voice and piano teacher, a writer, a studio recording artist and a lover of languages. I live in Kendall with my family and my two rambunctious cats, Ringo and Patches.
I look forward to continuing my mentoring with Cantor Rachelle Nelson, who has already begun this spiritual journey with me. I want to thank all the clergy team: Rabbi Jeremy Barras, Rabbi Rachel Greengrass, Rabbi Aklepi, and especially Cantor Nelson, for becoming my newest inspirations in Jewish music and study. I look forward to making music and prayer with you. Thank you for granting me the opportunity to learn, grow and celebrate with you in this warm and welcoming House of G-d.