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Signature Sheya

Yisroel Besser

After more than three decades on the front lines, veteran Jewish music producer Sheya Mendlowitz is still at it — sniffing out new stars, genres, and styles for a most discerning crowd, and making sure there’s enough pizza to keep everyone happy when the work seems overwhelming. From creating a young chassid named Avremel to finding a class act for HASC, he never ceased bringing freshness to an ever-changing, discriminating industry.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I keep clearing my throat but Sheya Mendlowitz doesn’t take the hint. Here and there, over the course of our interview, I hum a few notes. “You never know,” an industry veteran told me. “Everyone else hears with their ears. He hears with all five senses. He might just see something in you.” But Sheya doesn’t jump up and say, “Sign here.” I guess it’s not bashert — the magazine will just have to continue to be my stage. It’s not that I have a particularly good voice, but Sheya, I am told, is a magician: he doesn’t only discover stars — he can even invent them. Veteran Jewish music producer Sheya Mendlowitz has been doing it for years, and he’s still doing it — identifying and cultivating genius and skill like some kind of expert gardener, smelling out genres, styles, events, even people. He plucked songs off obscure tapes and replanted them, watching them develop into hits. In an industry where competitors are friends and friends are competitors, he’s the sounding board, his musical haskamah as necessary as that of a respected posek to a new sefer. It’s the singers who take center stage in this industry; the producers are somewhere off in the wings worrying about food, lighting, sound, and funding. But the recent chasunah of Sheya’s son was an impromptu celebration of his accomplishments, with friends and admirers pouring in to take part. The paparazzi might have captured the faces of attendees — Jewish music’s A-listers — but not the mood, the appreciation and acknowledgment of established stars who lined up to say mazel tov. They knew that the credit for their careers — and for the richness of today’s Jewish music scene — belongs in large part to the man whose place has always been behind the scenes.

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