Ray Smolover

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Itzchok Reev "Ray" Smolover (January 15, 1921 – September 11, 2015) was an American vocal pedagogist, voice teacher, tenor, opera librettist, opera director, and hazzan. He was a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and Columbia University.[1] One of his notable students was Richard Kiley.[2] He is the author of several publications on the art of singing, including The Singer’s Handbook, Vocal Behavior Analysis and Modification, and Sing Your Best.[3]

Smolover founded and directed the Opera Theatre of Westchester, which in the late 1950s and early 60s commissioned and produced six chamber operas on Jewish themes and performed them throughout the Midwest and East Coast of the United States. Smolover wrote the libretti and performed leading roles for all six operas.[4] Included among the operas was Chelm (1956), as set to music by Robert Strassburg [5]

Though a cantor and singer devoted primarily to performing music by others, Smolover composed a cantata, several art songs and liturgical settings, and: two folk rock sacred services: Edge of Freedom (a Sabbath eve service, 1967) and Gates of Freedom (a Torah service, 1970). As he explained in an oral history session, he was inspired by hearing Bob Dylan records that his son played at home. Certain aspects of Dylan's vocal delivery reminded him of the way Jews daven, or pray, in synagogue.[6]

Smolover served as cantor for more than 40 years at Congregation Kol Ami in White Plains, New York. He was also the executive vice president of the American Conference of Cantors for over three decades. He died on September 11, 2015 in Scarsdale, New York.[7]


  1. ^ "Montreal Meetings". Canadian Jewish Review. December 27, 1957.
  2. ^ "Earl Wilson". Toledo Blade. September 22, 1977.
  3. ^ ray-smolover at www.guitarworkshop.com
  4. ^ Levin, Neil. "Raymond Smolover". Milken Archive of Jewish Music: The American Experience. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
  5. ^ http://www.milkenarchive.org/artists/view/robert-strassburg/
  6. ^ "Raymond Smolover Oral History, Pt. 2/2". Milken Archive of Jewish Music: The American Experience. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
  7. ^ http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/lohud/obituary.aspx?n=raymond-smolover&pid=175829365&fhid=21960