Making music accessible – and viral
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Making music accessible – and viral

Six13 member celebrates singing, Jewish identity

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Six13 performed at the Celebrate Israel parade on Sunday. Josh Sauer is the second from the left.

What does it mean when a video goes viral?

It means wanting to introduce your children and grandchildren to a particularly delightful song only to find that they have already watched it – repeatedly.

Such was the case this year with the Passover parody “Chozen,” which this writer thought she was bringing to her family for the first time. In fact, it already was one of their favorites.

“That’s great,” said 22-year-old Franklin Lakes resident Josh Sauer, a member of the a capella group Six13, which made the musical video. “It means that our music is out there.”

Indeed it is. Mr. Sauer said the group – founded some 10 years ago at Binghamton University- has five gigs over the next two weekends.

Six13’s music – reflecting the strong Jewish identity of its members and featuring complex harmonies and vocal arrangements – clearly has struck a chord. The group has recorded four award-winning albums, and its songs have been played all over Jewish radio.

Recognized both in the Jewish world and in the wider community – the group was chosen as finalists during the casting for NBC’s “The Sing-Off” – it also has performed around the world, including “at a big Jewish convention in Berlin,” said Mr. Sauer, who joined the group last August.

Mr. Sauer said that Six13 also visits dozens of Jewish communities each year, providing entertainment at synagogues, schools, JCCs, and fundraising events. He is particularly pleased that it will be performing at the upcoming gala of the Gerrard Berman Day School on June 8.

“GBDS had an amazing impact on my life,” said Mr. Sauer, a graduate of the school. “I still feel a unique connection to the people I went to school with, and I’m still in touch with a good number of them. When some of us graduated and went to the Schechter High School in West Orange, we still had a sense of community about us. [GBDS] helped to foster lifelong friendships.”

Newly graduated from the University of Maryland, where he majored in pre-med and psychology (“I’m not doing it,” he pointed out), the young singer now works part-time for his father and part-time for his own company, the “ticket trading platform” Seat Swap.

So in addition to singing, Mr. Sauer sells electro-mechanical components and matches people who can’t use their event tickets with those who need them. He also spends two hours a week learning at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue on New York’s Upper West Side.

Mr. Sauer said he spent four years looking forward to joining Six13.

“When I was a senior in high school, Mike Boxer [a founder of the group and still a member] saw me perform in a play and asked if I knew where I would go to college. NYU was one of my choices. He said if I was around, I should audition. So for the last four years, it’s been in the back of my mind. If I moved home, I wanted to do it.”

And that’s what happened.

“It’s a kind of supergroup,” Mr. Sauer said, pointing out that many talented singers “from the best collegiate groups across the country move back to the New York area,” forming a pool of well-qualified candidates for Six13. In college, he sang with Rak Shalom. Also of note, he said, are Tizmoret (Queens College) and Kaskeset (Binghamton). “We all kind of know each other from singing at competitions and Shabbatot.”

“I think there’s been a boom in a capella music over past four years because of [the television shows] ‘Sing Off’ and ‘Glee,'” he added, noting the increasing popularity of a capella singing. “We’re more sought after – more readily accepted.”

“Jews have always been into music and singing. [With a capella music] being brought to the forefront in pop culture, it gave us more of an avenue to succeed. We get more calls for bar mitzvahs and weddings. People hire a capella groups and they know about us.”

One of his group’s strengths is improvisation, Mr. Sauer said.

“We walk table to table and say ‘What do you want to hear?’ Then we get up and sing it. Mike [Boxer] is somewhat of a musical genius and tells us what chords to sing with his hands.”

Group members “rehearse together, sing together, and are friends with each other,” he said, pointing out that 80 percent of the music they sing is original, while the other 20 percent is parodies. Mr. Boxer writes most of that music.

“We don’t all have a day school background,” Mr. Sauer said. “We come from all walks of life – from tzitzis-wearing to being very active in the Reform movement to being less religious but still connected to Judaism through music.”

This dovetails nicely with the group’s goal – “to make music accessible for people so they can connect to Judaism the way they see fit.” To do this, members must keep up with the latest trends in pop music – which also comes in handy when preparing for improvisation.

Mr. Sauer said the June 8 concert will include both original music and some parodies. He also said to “keep your eyes peeled” for something new before Rosh Hashanah.

For more information, go to www.six13.com.

Information
What: The Gerrard Berman Day School’s Gala in the Garden, with dinner, including a performance by

Who: the a cappella group Six13, which includes GBDS alumni Josh Sauer, as well as a solo performance by Mr. Sauer.

Where: At a private home in Franklin Lakes

When: June 8 at 6:30

Why: To honor Elaine and Dr. Sy Schlossberg

How much: $125 per person; $75 per GBDS graduate

To register: Go to gerrardbermands.ejoinme.org/ or call Amy Sharon at (201) 337-1111 for more information.

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