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Sharon Lebell: Musician, Philosopher, Author, Congregant

11/16/2021 11:14:55 AM


Rose Hornstein

Music brings people together, it bonds and celebrates life. I was fortunate enough to interview Sharon Lebell, musician, mother, philosopher, and Rodef Sholom congregant. We caught up on Zoom as she sat in her West Marin home surrounded by redwood trees, her two cats in the next room. Every Friday at 8:30 am on Facebook Live, Sharon graces us with sweet tunes from her hammered dulcimer.  You can view a session here.  Sharon is also an acclaimed author; she writes about philosophy, curiosity and history and how to live the most virtuous life possible. Check out her awesome collection of books here! 

How long have you been in the music world and playing the hammered dulcimer? 
It all started at a pivotal moment when I was working in the cafeteria at UC Santa Cruz as a freshman, filling condiment bottles. A man walked in with a hammered dulcimer, and began to play music. We were alone and I was mesmerized, I knew it was my calling in life. I had to know how to play it, and had to share that sound that touched me so deeply with other people. So, I had the man build me my own hammered dulcimer, and it felt like an extension of my body—like it protected me or something. I began studying and practicing on the hammered dulcimer, and have never put it down since. 

Who is your biggest musical influence and inspiration? 
Currently, the Israeli Pop musician Idan Rachael; he plays world music. What's beautiful is he gathers people from all different countries, cultures, and languages and they play together. Idan Rachel’s bandmates are all from places that are usually in conflict, and they create transcending music.

How does music relate to Judaism? 
Well, I cannot think of Judaism separately from music. For example, in our Shabbat prayers, we say “when we sing, we pray twice.” To me the music is the prayers. Music has always been the way that I have felt connected to something larger than myself, and Judaism has also been that link for me. There is an intersection there, sharing music with the community, music may be like a prayer, it gets its vitality from being received. 

When you play weekly for Rodef Sholom, do you improvise or think of tunes you want to play beforehand? 
I allow myself for anything to come up. So sometimes, it ends up being true improvisation in the sense that certain tunes will just present themselves as their time. I try to put myself in a receptive position. When you haven't planned for something, there's just no guarantee as to what you're going to do, it is a surrender to control. I am trying to communicate that it is safe to allow ourselves to be free, where something is coming through. 

Do you have any plans for the future regarding your music, writing, or entrepreneurship? 
The biggest thing I want to do is, write more. I am writing, I am always writing, and I want to compose more tunes in honor of the people who have elevated my life in some way.

Tue, March 28 2023 6 Nisan 5783