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Black American Writes "My Chanukah" After Hearing a NPR Report Stating Jews Do Not Yet Have a Unifying Chanukah Anthem

James E. Shaw, Composer of "My Chanukah"

Black Writer Says His Inspiration Was Anne Frank's Eternal "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment to improve the world."

We received your song, 'My Chanukah', and have listened to it in its entirety. I will tell our contacts about it and will tell them to be on the lookout for it.”
— Richard A. Braun, President, the Jewish Music Commission, Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA , USA, October 22, 2019 / -- James Shaw says that when he heard a NPR (National Public Radio) report that "Jews have no universal or unanimously upheld Chanukah anthem, I decided to grab some music manuscript paper and write out the chords, melody, lyrics, and orchestral presence I kept hearing in my head." When asked if his "My Chanukah" will be recognized and accepted, Shaw says, "the United States has a very long tradition of Blacks and Jews collaborating in making music.

James E. Shaw has had a long professional career that began as a counselor for the Pasadena Unified School District. There, in 1975, he started the in-school suspension program "to preserve the average daily attendance (ADA) monies the state of California was paying its school districts, but only if students were present. Absent students resulted in forfeited payments." What Shaw really liked about the in-school suspension was his "use of a large, empty classroom as an 'opportunity classroom' for giving kids a second chance; and for keeping them off the streets, since previously suspended students couldn't go to school, and many did not stay at home, either." Shaw cites as the "physical nerve center of the program," teachers who brought homework assignments and graded work to the opportunity classroom and "thus kept a vital connection with their students. Parents also adored the opportunity classroom because it was safe."

At night, Shaw led a band called "Chain Reaction," which provided the music for the Los Angeles Singles Society (L.A.S.S.). Three years prior to his counselor work for the Pasadena USD, Shaw graduated from California State University at Los Angeles, with a Bachelor's Degree in Music, and immediately began graduate work at the University of Southern California, where he graduated in 1974 with a Master's of Science Degree in Education.

In 1971, Dr. Robert Strassburg chose Shaw to transcribe his monumental work, "The Torah Sonata," for the University of Judaism, now named The American Jewish University. Shaw says, "I did not see that as atypical. I viewed Dr. Strassburg as an extremely talented music professor and gifted composer asking me, an accomplished musician, to write the transcription for him. I was honored, and I still feel so, today."

For this coming Chanukah season, Shaw's "My Chanukah" has been embraced by iTunes, Pandora, Google Music, Spotify, and over thirty other music-streaming sites. The song is performed by True Believer, on the album "Eight-Day Miracles." Shaw says he is "optimistic" that NPR "may want to interview me, a second 'story' following their primary story about Jews and Chanukah. I got the idea for 'My Chanukah' from that NPR report," he says. Shaw adds, "I would be thrilled and honored if Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, P!NK, Barry Manilow, or Gene Simmons performed "My Chanukah. Wow! That would be absolutely wonderful!" Shaw and his wife, Sylvia, live in Los Angeles with their three children, two of whom are professional musicians with the American Federation of Musicians Local 47.

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