Howard Nevison – The Cantor
Cantor Howard Nevison’s beginning stages of becoming a cantor can be traced back over one hundred years ago to his childhood and family history. Cantor Howard Nevison was blessed with good fortune in that both of his grandfathers were professional Cantors.
As a child, growing up, Cantorial music was the primary style of music that Nevison heard at home. This encouraged the Cantor at a very young age to further develop a natural tenacity toward Cantorial music. Cantorial music later became not only a discipline but also the road to his life achievements as a Cantor, Opera Singer and Teacher.
Cantor Howard Nevison at Community Reform Temple in Westbury, Long Island
At the age of eight years old Cantor Howard Nevison sang as a boy soprano in his maternal grandfather’s Synagogue Choir. Nevison was a quick learner, inherited powerful vocal chords and was agile. These assets enabled Nevison to easily read music and sing as a young professional in training, while he was still technically learning the alphabet.
By heritage, Cantor Howard Nevison’s success was in the making before he was born. The story of this great Cantor’s life began with a chance meeting of two men that takes us back over a century ago. It also pre-dates the meeting of Nevison’s parents.
In the early 1900’s, during one of North America’s largest immigrations that post dates the Industrial Revolution, a man named Harry Nevison came to the United States from Austria- Hungary while another man, Joseph Bobis came to the United States from Odessa, Russia by way of South Africa. Similar to other Jewish immigrants they left their country because of discrimination and also to find a better life in America.
Both men arrived by boat through Ellis Island and Harry Nevison of Austria and Joseph Bobis of Odessa settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They ended up singing in the exact same synagogue during the Jewish high holy holidays.
Cantor Harry Nevison sang in the large sanctuary while Cantor Joseph Bobis sang in an over-flow sanctuary. When Cantor Nevison’s parents met and both grandfathers were introduced to each other, Nevison and Bobis realized, they had spent years simultaneously singing in two sanctuaries that were side by side. Bon-chance as the French say, for such a mitzvah to occur. This mitzvah was just the beginning of a life long journey of Cantorial heritage to be celebrated in the Nevison family.
Cantor Nevison spent his youth singing in all male accapella choirs which instilled within him deeply, a musical discipline, that led him to form his own unique musical taste and style.
“From an early age, if I sang a wrong note and my harmony was completely off, my grandfather would give me the eye,” states Cantor Nevison. The majestic result of his grandfathers’ look of the eye when he sung out of harmony was that Nevison gained his grandfather as a role model and was then able to learn his entire major Cantorial repertoire under his tutelage.
Cantor Harry Nevison and Cantor Joseph Bobis even began to argue about what choir the young Howard Nevison would sing with. Eventually as a student, Cantor Howard Nevison satisfied both grandfathers by committing to a shared singing schedule.
Having held Cantorial posts in Pennsylvania and New York City, the most recent (Congregation Emanu-El) Nevison made his family heritage of Cantors proud. Cantor Nevison’s appointment and career as Cantor and Musical Director of Congregation Emanu-El was one of the most respected and important parts of his career as a Cantor, Opera Singer and Teacher. Congregation Emanu-El of the City Of New York is the largest Reform Jewish house of worship in the United States.
In 2006, Cantor Howard Nevison retired from Temple Emanu-El with still a ripened and full-bodied baritone voice and strong vocal chords in place. This has enabled him to pursue and continue to develop Howard Nevison, the Teacher – that resides within him.
As a baritone, Howard Nevison was born with the fortune of a type of male singing voice that lies between the base and tenor voices. Howard Nevison, the Opera singer performed in over 95 performances in Israel within a single year for both Israeli and European audiences. Nevison’s performances in operas such as Rigoletto, La Boheme, La Traviata and Romeo & Juliet earned him a name in opera and also helped him to roadmap his way to become a Cantor.
Cantor Howard Nevison has a lifetime worth of memories that span from childhood to adulthood. It is these memories that enable him to embrace his past and reflect upon what it took to become a Cantor, an Opera Singer and a Teacher. It is also these special memories and lasting experiences that Nevison reverts to when he needs to pass along new teachings to his students.