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Accountant/Cantor Banks on Singing Career

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Accountant Glenn M. Gelman said he always wanted to perform as a singer, to grab the spotlight.

Although he is not exactly on stage, Gelman has reached the first level of what he hopes will be a singing career, possibly in opera or musical theater.

His booming tenor voice can be heard as the part-time cantor at Friday night and Saturday morning services for Temple Beth Shalom in Long Beach.

He also teaches bar mitzvah classes on Thursday evenings and sings at weddings, holiday events and funerals. For 10 years he volunteered as a cantor at the South County Chabad Jewish Center in Irvine.

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No matter his future, the New York University accounting graduate intends to continue on either a part-time or a full-time basis.

Gelman says he would prefer working part time as an accountant and full time as a cantor, but the father of four acknowledges that cantors are not highly compensated.

“I’m not sure what kind of potential I have,” said Gelman, who owns Glenn M. Gelman & Associates in Irvine. “Some people think it is unlimited.”

To give himself every chance, Gelman is taking four lessons a week from a number of voice teachers, including other cantors.

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“I don’t have a beautiful, beautiful voice, but it is powerful and has a lot of range,” said Gelman, 37, who became infatuated with cantorial singing at age 12.

He feels his voice has improved in the past year but still needs more training.

“To the untrained ear, the weaknesses are not easily noticed because the sound is captivating, but I’m making progress,” he said.

Gelman practices about an hour a day in a music room in his Irvine home as well as during drives to and from his office.

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“I know my neighbors can hear me, but fortunately they like it,” he said. “No one has ever complained.”

He remembers singing while the sunroof of his car was open “and I saw a number of drivers who were looking and smiling at me.”

His religious upbringing in Paterson, N.J., brought him in contact with a cantor who taught him to read the Torah and to put the Hebraic words to music. He was 12 at the time.

“I fell in love with Torah singing and couldn’t wait until I grew up,” he said.

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During his early years, Gelman was always ready to perform.

“I’ve always tried to analyze why I was that way,” he said. “I was always comfortable in front of an audience.”

He remembers watching “The Jolson Story” as a young man and says, “I was moved by the film. I admire other singers so much.”

Getting the job as a part-time cantor was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

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“Someone from the temple heard me sing and suggested I try for the job,” he recalled. “I’m lucky, really lucky. I’m thrilled to have this job.”

Despite his love for the job, “I feel I could do opera,” he said. “Maybe one of these days. I’m hoping for the best.”


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