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Born and raised in Jerusalem, composer and musician Lior Ben-Hur grew up in the city’s diverse melting pot of Jewish traditions from around the world. With his Iraqi-born father and Greek mother each passing on practices from their own upbringing, Lior was exposed to the vast scope of ways in which communities around the world practice Judaism. His mother was an avid accordionist who inspired Lior’s dream of becoming a musician and using music to share experiences and connect deeply and personally with communities around the world. Having a love and passion for music and world cultures, he is constantly traveling around the globe learning new musical traditions.
In 2004, Lior moved to San Francisco, and after a couple of years exploring the local music scene, enrolled at San Francisco State University, where he attended the World Music program under the mentoring of Hafez Modirzadeh, earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in 2010. While in San Francisco, Lior worked in the Jewish community teaching Hebrew at local synagogues. Lior saw that while students in his classes were interested and engaged, they were quite disconnected from the songs and texts used in much of the course material. It was here that Lior both heard the call and saw the opportunity to create a meaningful connection between the ancient liturgy and the young minds of his students. In fact, his band’s first album, Sol Tevél (World Light) is primarily based on using music from around the world, particularly reggae music, to shed light on new possibilities and interpretations for the traditional songs and scriptures. He recalls, “The songs and texts used to teach about Jewish traditions were pretty dry and antiquated, ranging from decades to even centuries old. No wonder the students didn’t feel any meaningful connection. I knew there was an opportunity here and that I could find a way to draw from the rich history of communities around the world to create modern music that could meaningfully express the beautiful ideals and values in these ancient texts.”
What began as a part-time teaching job evolved into a broader passion, not just for teaching music, but for teaching through music. As an educator, Lior presents engaging programs for children and adults, including Jewish music classes, songwriting workshops and professional development workshops for other educators. His passion for traveling and learning about different cultures and traditions has expanded his reach well beyond the Jewish community. He frequently incorporates both Hebrew and English lyrics in his songs, with some verses in Spanish and French. This eclectic style has opened opportunities to educate children and young adults not only around the United States, but also in Jamaica and Latin America, including performing with youngsters on live television in Colombia.
“I don’t think of myself as a teacher. But with music, we can relate to certain ideas and questions much more deeply and personally. Music is the teacher. And my students, they are my teacher.”
Lior’s fresh and engaging style of teaching through music has gained traction in the communities where he works and has sparked additional opportunities to use his passion for music to reach and relate with the young minds of a new generation. In 2013, Lior won the national Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education for his new, innovative methods of integrating music as part of the educational experience. His experience as an educator has been a critical part of Lior’s journey and continues to influence and guide his growth as a musician.