Benjie-Ellen Schiller


 Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller (b. 1958), spent her childhood in Stamford, Connecticut, learned to play the piano initially on her own, mostly by improvising. Formal lessons followed, but as she has observed, her playing remained improvisatory. In her teen years she began writing songs—lyrics and music—of what she has since called a “folk nature,” with accompaniment for piano or guitar. When she was fifteen, she composed a setting of “May the Words of My Mouth,” the English prayer in the Reform prayerbook, to sing at her brother’s bar mitzvah celebration, and this inspired her to continue writing liturgical settings. “The prayerbook has spoken to me ever since I was a teenager,” she remarked in a recent interview. She received her bachelor's degree in composition from Boston University, and during that time sang with the John Oliver Chorale and the Zamir Chorale of Boston. Now a nationally known composer, her works include "Life-Song Cycle," a series of pieces for Jewish life passage ceremonies; "Halleluhu," a multi-rhythmic setting of Psalm 150; and various commissioned works for synagogues, choirs, and interfaith groups. In addition to her duties as cantor at Bet Am Shalom in White Plains, NY, Cantor Schiller is a Professor of Cantorial Arts at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.