News from Carol:
February 2019: Back to Music Fun!
Because of my recent retirement from my 9-to-5 job, I now have time to return to doing some of the fun music activities I needed to give up in 2011. So I'm teaching FREE "Miss Carol's Music Fun" classes (for ages 12-24 months with an adult) on a monthly basis at the Burke Centre library, doing bedside concerts with my husband, John, for pediatric patients at Medstar Georgetown Hospital through Taffy Presents, and looking to present a series of summertime children's concerts. Plus I still lead Tot Shabbat services, Greenspring Village services, and direct choirs. So life is good!
March 2013: Sleepytime Sh'ma was FINALLY printed this spring!
Okay, it took me far too long to get around to printing this gorgeous Jewish bedtime picturebook, but life (and, unfortunately, death) had gotten in the way. It's time to get back on track and so Sleepytime Sh'ma is currently being printed. I'll make it available for purchase online as soon as they arrive, plus I'll sell them in person to people who I see.
I have tentative plans for turn the ecumenical bedtime book, Snuggle Into Bed, into an ebook, but would like some feedback on whether parents do indeed use a Kindle to share picturebooks with their children.
September 2009: There's got to be a way to get these beautiful books printed!
My lullaby prayer bedtime books -- one Jewish, one ecumenical -- are complete. And they're absolutely gorgeous (which I'm allowed to say because the illustrator is not me but is Romi Caron who has illustrated some 40 other children's books). I know children will find these books comforting and full of love, just like the cozy star-covered quilt pictured within them. But printing costs are sky-high for full-color picture books.
So... what are my next steps? I welcome your help, support, suggestions -- anything to make these books a reality so they can get into the right hands, the hands of your children or grandchildren.
July 2009: Happy birthday, 101-year old!
On July 5, I helped celebrate the 101st birthday of Leon Dornfest in Reston, VA with a concert of old-timey songs. Leon loves to sing and not only sang along but serenaded me! Leon is like a kid in spirit and being with him on his special day left me with wonderful memories!
Update: Mr. Dornfest lived to the ripe old age of 104.
January 2009: Dayenu! arrives at Barnes & Noble
The wait was long but now it's over... my Dayenu! haggadah and CD were published and released by KTAV Publishing House this month. In season, the book is carried by select Barnes & Noble stores, as well as Judaica and Jewish bookstores and gift shops... and is available through my website, too. Check out the specially-priced family pack only offered through my website!
November 2008: Posted a video for "Brick By Brick, Wall By Wall"
From the Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia website:
The Annual Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia Benefit Breakfast was held on Thursday, October 23, 2008 and it was a grand success! 600 guests attended and we raised approximately $160,000 and 10 guests signed up to be Dream Builders! Dream Builders donate $1000 a year to Habitat for 5 years.
Special thanks to Marriot, our lead sponsor, the special events committee for all their hard work and dedication to make the event possible and Carol Boyd Leon for writing and producing the Habitat song, Brick By Brick, Wall By Wall, that was performed at the breakfast.
September 2008: Burke Centre Singers debut "Burke Centre, Always My Home"
July 2008: Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia commissions a song
Carol has written the music and lyrics of Brick by Brick, Wall by Wall, which is a ballad-like anthem for Habitat for Humanity. She is currently recording it in the studio. It will debut Oct 23 at the Sixth Annual Benefit Breakfast in Falls Church, VA.
Dayenu! is on its way
I can hardly wait for the arrival of my new children's haggadah, Dayenu! A Young Child's Haggadah from KTAV Publishing House. It should be here in plenty of time for Passover 2009 so that families, schools and congregations can incorporate it into their holiday celebration. [UPDATE from 10/1/08: Official release date is Jan. 19, 2008 and advance copies for review are currently available.]
A feast for both the eyes and the ears, Dayenu! will provide, for about the cost of a CD both a beautifully-illustrated haggadah with color artwork throughout AND a CD to teach the music.
The haggadah is directed toward children ages 3-9 and their families. Its big-font text and lyrics will be appreciated by young… and old!... readers.
Although the CD teaches the songs and blessings that are within the haggadah, I suspect many children will want to listen all year long. Some of the songs are just too much fun to save only for Passover! The songs are performed by me and the Dayenu Children's Choir. We're accompanied with clever arrangements by keyboardist Adrian A. Durlester and also some lively klezmer clarinet by Fred Patzelt. The rendition of the song "Dayenu" which concludes this seder is probably the liveliest you'll ever hear!
The blessings, sung by child soloist Jessica, use the traditional Pesach nusach (melody). The songs include "traditional," a few Passover "kiddie classics," a wonderful presentation of José Bowen's "Thank You God," and a half dozen of my own kid-friendly compositions written specifically for this project.
The CD includes 3 bonus tracks which schools and families will find invaluable. One slowly and clearly teaches very young children how to sing the first of the 4 Questions. I sing a phrase and then it is echoed by the listeners; it's a treat to hear 5-year old Skyler sing the echoes! Another track moves faster through all 4 Questions in a fun way that'll have children asking to repeat it over and over. A third track provides just the instrumental accompaniment so children can practice on their own.
Everyone around the seder table is bound to want their own copy of Dayenu! so KTAV is setting a very reasonable price for the haggadah alone.
The maggid ("telling the story") section of the haggadah can be used separate from a seder and read to children at home or in the classroom.
I hope you'll re-visit my website before Passover to find out more about Dayenu! and to order your own copies well in advance of Passover 2009. It'll also be available through KTAV and at bookstores. Thanks for checking here first!
Please drop me a quick email if you'd like me to add your name to a list of folks who have asked to be notified when the haggadah arrives.
From the Press:
July 5, 2006: "Local Singer is a Ringtone"
From Washington Jewish Week
The ringtone is from her "Songs From The Heart: Family Shabbat" album (2000); the song was also recorded on "Gan Shirim" (2004).
Nov. 16, 2006: "Spiritual Americana Heals"
From the Jerusalem Post (by Ben Jacobsen)
Under the leadership of Carol Boyd Leon, who serves as the ensemble's music director and the DVD's producer, the Olam Tikvah Chorale has recently released this live performance of a cycle of compositions subtitled "Inspirational and Healing Music Based on Jewish Liturgy."
The back cover of the DVD describes the choir as "a haimish group of congregational singers," and the home-made feel carries throughout. Healing is a fashionable theme in today's art, and the choir, who are in residence at the Olam Tikvah Conservative synagogue in Virginia, has assembled in what looks like someone's living room to present the material using digital video - a strange format choice. Single-camera, single-microphone footage of the living room concert is spliced with photos.
The material chosen reads like an all-star lineup of today's American composers of Jewish liturgy, including three Debbie Friedman pieces, one by Craig "Craig'N'Co" Taubman, two Carol Boyd Leon originals, and a Psalms medley by Cantor Charles Osborne of Temple Emanuel of Newton, Massachusetts. In addition, Olam Tikvah performs a spirited version of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach's "Esa Einai" and a beautiful rendition of Doug Cotler's elegantly phrased "Hashiveinu."
July 29, 2005: Musical Healing
Olam Tikvah creates and donates new inspirational DVD to local hospital
A serene soul has the power to heal a sick body. That is the idea behind a new DVD of Jewish inspirational music, A Healing Service in Song: Inspirational and Healing Music Based on Jewish Liturgy made by the 20-member Olam Tikvah Chorale of Fairfax for INOVA Fairfax Hospital.
"I attempted to select songs which would bring both hope and healing to the viewers," says the group's music director, Carol Boyd Leon, who produced the DVD and chose the music. "We included songs that may be familiar to many, such as Debbie Friedman's Mi Shebeirach and Shlomo Carlebach's Esa Einai, plus songs that are likely to be new to the viewers, but equally inspiring, such as Charles Osborn's Hal'lu/Hodu."
In addition to the songs, the DVD contains images of pastoral scenes, flowers, the ocean, children, animals, mountains, Judaic symbols within Congregation Olam Tikvah, and images of Israel.
The 13-song film came in response to a request from the hospital to Olam Tikvah's Rabbi David Kalender about two years ago for a new Jewish program for its in-house TV chaplaincy network.
Phil Brooks, manager of the chaplaincy services at the hospital, had asked Kalendar to make the new DVD. The previous Jewish programming, which had featured former Olam Tikvah Rabbi Yitzhak Klirs, was 12 years old, and it was time for a replacement.
Brooks says the hospital has Catholic and Protestant, as well as Jewish, programming, but he has received feedback "and it was positive" only about the Jewish contribution to the hospital network.
May 1, 2004: "This Music is Meant for Singing"
From Washington Jewish Week (by Aaron Leibel, Arts Editor)
The strength of my music is that I write singable, memorable melodies, which people of all ages enjoy, says the Burke resident, whose songbook and CD, Gan Shirim, A Garden of Songs for Schools and Families (arrangements and accompaniments by CD co-producer Adrian A. Durlester) will be published by KTAV Publishing House next month.
If my songs are sung at worship services, the entire congregation can sing along. That encourages more participation in worship services, she says. When I write children's music, I gear it to their singing ability. My children's songs are in a limited vocal range, have age-approriate lyrics and catchy melodies.
Leon began her career as a music teacher and composer almost by accident.
Teaching music crept up on me, she says.
A member of Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria, she says she always has enjoyed music and singing. As a child in elementary school, she wanted to be a teacher, but as I got older, I changed direction and didn't go into teaching.
Some friends who had attended her children's musical birthday parties suggested she start teaching music to preschool kids. In 1991, Leon began teaching music in a Music and Me class at Congregation Olam Tikvah preschool in Fairfax.
From that modest beginning, she has become very active in the music teaching profession. She is music specialist at the Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax; Beth El Hebrew Congregation Religious School; Olam Tikvah Preschool; Beth Emeth Early Childhood Center in Herndon; and Keshet Child Development Center in Alexandria.
She also is founding musical director of the Olam Tikvah Chorale; Kol NoVa Community Youth Choir in Fairfax; Harmoniyah of Gesher Jewish Day School; and Beth El Hebrew Congregation Youth Choir.
And Leon is cantorial soloist at Greenspring Village in Springfield and Tot Shabbat leader at Beth El Hebrew Congregation and Congregation B'nai Tzedek in Potomac.
In her spare time, she founded and teaches each summer at the Encore Summer Performance Camp and the Music & More Summer Camp in Burke.
It wasn't ending up a teacher that surprised Leon. Becoming a composer was unforeseen.
"I always thought that people were born song writers, she says. I didn't know that one could simply write music."
For the past eight years, that is what she has been doing, writing more than 100 songs.
Her first effort, The Ladybug Counting Song, followed a purchase of ladybug finger puppets to use in her Music and Me classes.
I needed a song to teach with, but not finding one, decided to try to write one myself, she says.
A couple of years later, inspired by songwriters she had met online, she turned her talents to writing Jewish music.
Since then, The Ladybug Counting Song has morphed into a Jewish song ("One little ladybug achat [one in Hebrew] on a tree, red wings, black spots, you can see").
The music teacher-composer started off on a completely different track. She was born in Oceanside, N.Y., in 1954, but grew up in Baldwin, N.Y. Although her parents were members of a Conservative synagogue, she neither attended Hebrew school nor had a bat mitzvah ceremony, a lack she has remedied as an adult.
After graduating from Brown University in 1977 with a degree in economics, Leon worked for the Bureau of Labor Statistics until 1985. She then did some freelance writing from home, where she was raising her children. Only when they were more grown did she start her music career.
In addition to Gan Shirim, the composer, who has her own Web site (www.carolboydleon.com) has published Jewish Life Cycle (2002) and Songs from the Heart: Family Shabbat, with CD (2000).
Gan Shirim is pitched specifically for preschool through elementary school kids, but Leon believes the whole family will find itself singing along to virtually every song.
She notes that there are snippets of humor, which may appeal to adults, such as I'm All Shook Up, a song about a lulav sung in 1950s rock 'n roll style.
The CD and songbook are sold separately. The CD, with 70 songs, will not contain printed lyrics. So if people want to sing along, the songbook would be helpful, she says.
The songbook has big-print lyrics as well as sheet music including melody and chords for every song. There also are teaching suggestions and a page of information about the topic or holiday for which each song is appropriate.
For the ladybug counting song, for example, the numbers are printed in Hebrew, feminine and masculine, with transliterations. There's also an explanation of the origin of the Hebrew word for ladybug.
November 10, 2005: "A Better World": Capitol Celebration Kicks Off Jewish Social Action Month
Washington Jewish Week (by Paula Amann)
Organizers of the ceremony in Senate Room 211 on Thursday of last week have earmarked the Jewish month of Cheshvan – which began that day – for global community service and social justice work, since it follows the holiest days in the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
"We're building a better world, one person at a time," chorused the kids of Kol NoVa, a Northern Virginia youth choir led by Carol Boyd Leon.
They set the tone for an event that drew some 50 people, including Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who have both endorsed ISAM. Others on the program included Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.), a representative from the Jewish Congressional Staffers Association; Paul Bardack, CEO of MyJewishLearning.com; and members of Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps.
Heralded by the chanting of Shehecheyanu -- the prayers for new beginnings -- this effort grew out of Kol Dor (Voice of a Generation), a network of some 130 Jewish young adults in 15 countries, including Israel and the United States...
..."It's a lot to accomplish in one month -- it may well go beyond the capacity of the United States Congress," quipped Joseph Lieberman, who wished everyone a "happy and socially active Cheshvan."
And the youngsters of Kol NoVa seemed to capture the message as they sang, "Everyone can help, no one is too small... tikkun olam, let's help to fix the world."
(Lyrics from Carol Boyd Leon's "Tikkun Olam" published in "Gan Shirim.")
July 28, 2005: "Getting To Know Carol Boyd Leon"
From the Burke Connection
Family: I celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary with husband John Boyd last fall. Our daughter, Sarah, 23, is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and now a professional music director. Our sons are Jacob, 20, a junior at the University of North Dakota School of Aeronautics, and Jamie, 16, a junior at Robinson Secondary School.
Education: I have a bachelor of arts degree from Brown University, and I have done graduate work at George Washington University.
Current job: I am employed as a Jewish music educator, choir director and songleader/cantorial soloist. On weekdays, I teach music at Olam Tikvah Preschool in Fairfax, Beth Emeth Early Childhood Center in Herndon, and Keshet Child Development Center in Alexandria.
On weekends, I lead children's worship services at Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria and Congregation Bínai Tzedek in Potomac, Md. — they are enormously fun for me as well as for those who attend — as well as teaching music at Beth El and at Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, Md.
In addition, I am the cantorial soloist for the very warm and welcoming Jewish residents of Greenspring Village in Springfield and am grateful to have the opportunity to lead them in prayer.
I direct the Olam Tikvah Chorale and the Kol NoVa Community Youth Choir, both in Fairfax, and am the coordinator of the annual NoVaShir Choral Festival which brings together many Jewish youth, teen and adult choirs from throughout Northern Virginia.
I also direct two secular camps in Burke Centre which meet at Burke Presbyterian Church. "Music & More Summer Camp" has been something of a Burke institution since 1991, and "Encore Summer Performance Camp" is now in its sixth season.
In addition, I am a songwriter. In 2004, I produced a double-CD and songbook of 70 original songs for Jewish children entitled "Gan Shirim, A Garden of Songs," I wrote the "Jewish Life Cycle Songbook" in 2002, and produced the "Songs From The Heart: Family Shabbat" CD and songbook in 2000. Most recently, I produced the just-released DVD, "A Healing Service in Song," in which the Olam Tikvah Chorale presents songs based on Jewish liturgy, complemented by beautiful pastoral images, to bring hope and healing to patients of INOVA Fairfax Hospital as well as to people recuperating at home.
Achievements: I was very pleased that my composition, "Patriots' Dreams," was selected in 2002 as the George Mason University alma mater and that two of my liturgical compositions, "Shalom Aleichem" and "Nakum Uvaninu," were selected for the First International Festival of New Jewish Liturgical Music last fall. I feel greatly honored that my music is part of many worship services and life-cycle occasions as well as being sung at GMU events.
But I'd have to say my greatest achievement, aside from helping to raise three children of whom I am very proud, is being able to forge special relationships with so many people throughout Northern Virginia and beyond, from tiny tots through seniors, through my music.
Activities/interests/hobbies: My songwriting is the activity which occupies almost all of my "spare time," often keeping me awake so far into the night that I hear the birds chirping before I realize that dawn is close at hand and I've forgotten to go to sleep. I am currently working on a few special projects including a songbook of super-simple Jewish songs and fingerplays for very young children and a song called "Washington, D.C."
Favorite local restaurant or place: OK, I'll admit it. I purchase far too many Starbuck's java chip frappuccinos — both with and without the mint. And they make it far too easy — there are seven Starbucks within four miles of my home.
Community concerns: I am concerned that people don't feel comfortable with or try to learn about neighbors whose culture and traditions are foreign to them. I would love to see an annual street fair that features the art, music, dance and food of the many cultures represented by local residents, complete with an expo where we could purchase things to bring home. I recently saw the most exquisite jewelry from India in a local shop and could only wonder how many people don't know that's available right here in Burke and never would consider stepping inside to learn more about it.
Community hidden treasure: Walking the paths of Burke Centre with Sandy, my Scottish Terrier, is a special treat every fall when the leaves turn brilliant colors, and so is riding the train at Burke Lake Park. (I bring a train whistle to blow in the tunnel).
Personal goals: To continue learning, singing and songwriting, maintaining strong family ties even as my children move to other parts of the country, and making a positive difference in peoples' lives — both people I get to meet personally and those who know me only through my music.
May 19, 2005: Hearing the Exultation of Exodus
From Washington Jewish Week (by Aaron Leibel, arts editor)
"The piece has parts layered on, combining several melodies together to reach the climax of crossing the sea," says festival coordinator Carol Boyd Leon, discussing "Sea Chanty" which she composed and Adrian A. Durlester arranged for the third annual NoVaShir concert.
"People will hear what sounds like bagpipes in the piano accompaniment, a hornpipe in the voices of the sopranos and the excitement, waves (of the sea) and exultation that were part of our passage through the sea," Leon says.
The Burke resident traces the festival's origins to the formation of the Olam Tikvah Chorale three years ago.
"I heard from its members that they wanted to sing for the community," says the group's director. "Therefore, I created a venue for them."
In addition to that group, seven others will perform this year.
"People attending the concert will enjoy hearing eight Jewish choirs from Northern Virginia singing their hearts out on songs they love to sing," she says.
November 11, 2004: Sacred Songs at Shalom
From The Washingont Times (by Christopher Stollar)
Nineteen musicians from around the world will put prayers to music at the Shalshelet Festival this weekend at Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase.
The styles range from pop and jazz to South American rhythms, but the texts and goal will remain the same: to inspire new music for Jewish use and share these sacred sheets with a secular world.
"We want the audience to sing," said Shalshelet President Hazzan Ramon Tasat. "So little [of life] is about what's important. ... If there is music, there is something higher. ... Music creates a bond with the lasting values, whether love or a sense of transcendence. It brings out the human of people, because it is not tainted with any price."
The artists will turn texts to tunes, drawing from a deep history of Jewish poets, Rabbinic works and the Old Testament.
Some are simple: "Let me see your countenance; let me hear your voice. Sweet is your voice, and lovely your countenance."
Others plead: "My soul mate, merciful father, pull me, your servant, toward you. Your servant will run like a doe and bow in front of your grace."
Carol Boyd Leon from Fairfax and Jeff Marder of Las Vegas will each present "Shalom Aleikhem" ("Peace to the Sabbath Angels"), which begins, "Welcome to you, celestial angels, angels of the most high; the king of kings, the holy one, is praised."
The audience will hear this passage performed in jazz style by Mr. Marder and as American folk by Ms. Leon.
Then comes "El Adon" ("Lord, Master of All"). This piece will be performed in Renaissance style by Terry Horowit from Maryland but will take on a Middle Eastern flavor when Shirona Kaufman of New York takes the stage.
"This makes the texts come alive," said Norma Brooks, vice president of Shalshelet. "Some of these melodies have been sung for generations and generations. We're not here to supplant the existing melodies. ... The goal of Shalshelet is to really find and locate liturgical music that is being done around the world and country that may not have a home."
Shalshelet means "chain" and is the name of one of the symbols ("cantillation") for chanting the Hebrew Scripture aloud. Miss Brooks and Mr. Tasat chose this name for their program because it was created to build upon the rich musical legacy of the Israeli Song Festivals held between 1960 and 1980. For many of the performers, those festivals marked the start of their own music careers.
The Shalshelet founders say they hope the composers will become better known at the festival and return with pieces they can share with their congregations and choirs.
"This music won't get played on the radio," said performer Wendy Morrison of Rockville's Tikvat Israel, who called the tunes "treasure houses of little musical gems that people don't know outside of their own synagogues. [Shalshelet] provides a forum to have these treasures disseminated."
The founders also hope their music will mute the mundane.
"There are other colors [to life]," Mr. Tasat said. "We tend to give a number to things, and then those elements of life that can't be measured are discarded. ... I strongly believe that there's nothing more beautiful than everyone singing together. Something happens. A connection is made. ... I hope our audience feels this measure of spirituality."
The festival founders chose 19 performers from among 169 who submitted compositions. Undaunted by the competition, the composers sent their songs because they see a strong connection between their work and their faith.
"The song comes from deep inside," Ms. Leon said. "My personal faith is a combination of deeply held religious belief and questioning. The music I write allows me to combine both of those into melody."
The Shalshelet Festival (www.shalshelet.org) begins Saturday night and features three workshops on Sunday afternoon during which visitors can meet the composers and learn about their work.
"Music and faith go hand in hand," Mr. Tasat said. "In American society ... we think that if we work harder, more hours, buy a new car, new house, our lives will be better. Society says, 'Don't look inside of you. You'll find what you need outside.' ... Music does the exact opposite. It always begs for the other."
May 2002: New Alma Mater Evokes Patriot Pride and Begins New Tradition
From Mason Gazette (by Fran Rensbarger)
University Life and the University Traditions Committee sponsored a contest to create the new alma mater. Contributions were sought from faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the community. Leon's submission won her the $500 prize. Adrian Durlester arranged the four-part choral version of the new alma mater performed by Take Note!
"The committee had a difficult time deciding between two finalists," says Alissa Karton, Johnson Center and University Life program manager and member of the Traditions committee. "Ultimately, the Traditions Committee chose 'Patriots' Dreams' because it was easy to sing and learn. The goal was that new freshmen would learn their alma mater at Orientation and be able to sing it throughout their time at Mason."
Leon learned of the alma mater contest from friend and Mason alumna Amy Hausman, M.A. '97, who heard the anthem Leon had written for her son's bar mitzvah.
"I was very much in a post-Sept. 11 patriotic mood and composed a melody that I felt could be an appropriate tribute to a university steeped in American history and ideals," says Leon. "I wanted to create a song that was as stirring as the American patriotic songs that give us all a special sense of pride in our nation." The song was designed so that anyone could sing it, not just professionals, she adds.
In addition to the song Leon wrote for her son, she has recorded a CD and songbook set of original compositions, Songs from the Heart: Family Shabbat. Leon also owns and teaches Music Fun, a secular music program in Burke, Va., that includes parent-and-tot classes and a children's summer music camp. Leon is song leader, music teacher, and youth choir director at Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria, Va., and song leader at Congregation B'nai Tzedek in Potomac, Md., as well as a preschool music specialist at five local preschools, and director of the Community Youth Choir at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia.
"Having 'Patriots' Dreams' as our alma mater will allow all members of the Mason community to connect in a new way. It is a great song that allows us to show pride in our university," says Karton. "We have received positive feedback on the song. It seems that people have a hard time getting the tune out of their heads. We think that's a good thing."
To the green and gold we will ever be true