Cantor Beth Cohen
Beth Cohen is a well-known vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and music teacher in New Mexico.
Since 1995, Ms. Cohen has served as the musical director and cantor at Congregation Nahalat Shalom where she shares her joy and love for Jewish music. During this time she has studied Ashkenazic & Sephardic Jewish liturgy, nusach, trope and t'filah with several cantors and rabbis as well as conducting her own studies and research. At Nahalat Shalom, she teaches, directs, arranges music for, and performs in The Nahalat Shalom Community Klezmer Band and Alavados Holy Days Ensemble. Cantor Beth tutors the pre-B'nai Mitzvah students in t'filah and in Torah cantillation. She also leads services -including the popular Der Freylekher Shabes- a joyous danced heimishe ("homey") old-country style Shabbat service that she created and developed. Beth coordinates and co-produces the internationally recognized klezmer music and dance festival KlezmerQuerque, which, since 2003, has taken place annually at Nahalat Shalom.
Beth studied vocal performance at the University of New Mexico (UNM) with Dr. Katherine Fowler and Professor Robert Smith, earning her Bachelor of Music degree in voice (performance track) in 1991 and remaining at UNM to complete core course work towards a Masters in Music degree in voice performance until 1993.
Beth has enjoyed teaching and playing music throughout her life and she has received extensive training on a variety of instruments in folk, jazz and classical styles. She began studying classical guitar and voice and accompanying her own singing when she was seven years old, and soon added studies in piano, theory, performance and arranging with Boston jazz pianist Charles Rose from ages nine through sixteen. Throughout her youth, Beth was the recipient of many awards, teaching apprenticeships and scholarships for her musicianship and teaching talents. After graduating from UNM in 1991, she studied classical violin and violin pedagogy with Albuquerque's "go-to" violinist/violin teacher Kathy Jarrett. At this time, Beth also began studying maqam (the Arabic modal/ scale system) on the violin with several masters including oudist Haig Manoukian (z"l), violinist Beth Bahia Cohen, oudist/ kanunist Mimi Spencer (z"l), and clarinetist Sonia Tamar Seeman. Today she continues her studies and explorations in maqam on violin and now voice, adding Mizrahi / Sephardi pizmonim, prayers and Torah cantillation to her studies and repertoire. Beth's latest project is a trio called Neshama del Bosque (Soul of the Forest), which explores the roots, seeds and branches of Sephardic and Judeo-Spanish music from Asia to New Mexico and beyond.
Beth has been teaching voice, guitar, violin, viola, mandolin and piano to students of all ages in her Albuquerque music studio since she moved here from her hometown of Boston in 1983. A much sought-after music teacher and ensemble director in New Mexico, Beth taught string orchestra at the Public Academy for Performing Arts (PAPA), as well as band, jazz and chamber ensembles at The Bosque School. For eight years she taught piano, voice and violin at Santa Fe School for the Arts & Sciences and she currently directs the choir at Congregation B'nai Israel and teaches music to the children at Rising Phoenix Waldorf School and at La Mesa Elementary School.
Beth is also skilled on the tenor banjo, Macedonian tambura, Russian balalaika, bowed psaltery, Appalachian dulcimer, and penny whistle. She especially enjoys researching, performing and teaching international folk music - particularly the music of Eastern Europe. Both of her parents spoke Yiddish to each other at home and her mother sang Russian and Yiddish folk songs to her. Beth is a featured musician in the book and recording "Roots and Branches, A Legacy of Multicultural Music for Children" (Campbell, McCullough-Brabson & Cook Tucker, 1994, World Music Press), performing one of her mother's favorite Russian folk songs "Kalinka."
Beth performs throughout the southwest as a soloist and also with the noted traditional and world music ensembles: The Rebbe's Orkestra-Klezmer & Judaic band (since 1996), Goddess of Arno-Balkan band (since 1994), Gamelan Encantada (2006-14), Svirka women's Balkan chorus (1984-2004) & Earth Angels vocal trio (1991-2004). Some of Beth's favorite musical moments have been: at Festival Djudeo-Espanyol VIII 2018--performing with her trio Neshama del Bosque; At ALEPH Kallah 2016--playing violin with Steve Moos & Cantor George Mordecai and also with the Israeli group Nava Tehillah for two separate Shabbat services; At Popejoy Hall UNM 2013--playing violin with the Canadian touring group Classic Albums Live on 'The Beatles Abbey Road & Greatest Hits' U.S. tour; At KlezmerQuerque 2013--performing with the mother-daughter klezmer duo Elaine Hoffman-Watts (z"l) and Susan Watts. Beth loves and teaches many genres of music and she has performed with many different ensembles throughout her life in addition to Klezmer and Judaic bands including: Celtic, classical, Americana, rock, reggae, Middle-Eastern, Medieval/Renaissance, cowboy-western, blues and world folk.
Beth lives with her husband and band partner Randy in their funky Victorian era house (built in 1886) in Albuquerque's South Broadway / EDO neighborhood where they raised their daughter and "nakhes-machine" Jamie. In Beth's spare time she enjoys backpacking in the high Rocky Mountains, secluded deserts, and lush Rio Grande Bosque as well as hiking, walking, bird-watching and snowshoeing anywhere --appreciating, observing, studying, loving--and helping to protect plants, wild animals and our planet. Her favorite mammal is the pika, her favorite fish is any type of trigger fish, and her favorite bird is the curved-bill thrasher.