Holidays sing out to Laurie Wagman’s soul, which explains why this prominent player on Philadelphia’s theatrical scene has taken to writing songs in a very special notebook.
Wagman, founder/chair of American Theater Arts for Youth, has written the music and lyrics for A Year in Music: Holiday Songs for Jewish Children. The book, which comes with a CD, is free to educators, kids, families — anyone who wants to sing of their Jewish pride, says the musical Mitzvah Hero, who published it at her own expense.
It’s not like Wagman had a lot of down time to download her project. She and her husband, Irvin J. Borowsky, are prime-time titans in the arts community. He founded the National Liberty Museum and is known nationally for his extensive collection of fine arts glass sculpture. In fact, he and his wife have been called "patron saints of the glass arts" by Sean Buffington, president of the University of the Arts, which houses the Irvin Borowsky Center for Glass Arts.
Wagman has been involved in music and education one way or another her whole life. She tends to her pioneering theater group — now in its 42nd season — as it travels nationally, introducing kids to the musical wonders of a Wizard of Oz or the sweet slumber of a Sleeping Beauty.
As for her latest songbook project, "I just felt there was a need for this,” the grandmother of 14 explains.
“When my kids were younger we would do a big holiday party twice a year in which we’d tell the stories of the holiday, and it occurred to me, at a Chanukah party, there has to be something besides 'Dreidel, Dreidel.’ ”
Her “Hanukkah” spins a different tune: “Hanukkah, Hanukkah, freedom at last!/Hanukkah, Hanukkah, celebrate the past!”
But usually it is the future Wagman's thinking about. Nothing is more important, she says, than the forward momentum that comes with anticipating holidays.
“Our lives are so caught up in the calendar, why not have our children” feel its musicality from generation to generation?
“Have fun with music every day,” she implores in her introduction to the book. “Enjoy nourishing experiences” that all can “share, cherish and remember.”
Copies of A Year in Music are available for free on a first-come, first-served basis. Nearly 1,000 have already been given away to synagogue education directors and students throughout the country. To request a copy, call 1-800-523-4540.