Amy Steinberg has a brand new album out called Broken Open. It has the power to break you open, too. It is amazing and uplifting, real and raw, thrilling and refined.
She is an outrageously talented singer-songwriter, spilling with brilliance.
Full disclosure: she is also my soul sister, in my Small Council, one of my precious true besties of this lifetime (and many previous lifetimes as well,) mamash an inspiration, and meeting her was just straight-up one of the best things to ever happen to me.
Even so, I wouldn’t waste the space – or your precious time, dear reader – if her music wasn’t totally worth listening to. Her voice is uniquely her own, but…imagine if Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, and Bette Midler were somehow merged into one holy superpower who was hot for G!d…and you start to get the idea.
Have a listen for yourself:
Here’s a psychedelic video celebrating Amy’s sense of holy transcendence, “One with Everything” from Broken Open:
And here’s a gorgeous and uplifting song of affirmation featuring the theatrical stylings of Amy’s Musical Theatre Workshop for Teens, “Sawyer’s Song” from Broken Open.
I gotta testify…I must honor Amy here by sharing our origin story, and how she changed my life forever with her magical love.
When I do interviews, one of the first questions I am asked is, “When did you start writing poetry?” People expect the stereotypical gothy-poetry answers…I was a lifelong journaler…I spent my teen Saturday nights in a Miss Havisham-esque dusty attic penning couplets…I’ve obsessively read Emily Dickinson since I was 5…
No, nope, and nay. Negatory on all counts. My answer is always the same, because it is the truth: I write poetry because Amy Steinberg told me to, and lovingly nagged my resistant self until I did.
We were two little baby mystics, barely 20, when we met in New York City. I was at a cattle call for JC Superstar when I noticed a totally fantastical and larger-than-life figure across the extremely crowded waiting room. I mean, her burgundy-brown hair was truly larger-than-life. A Jewfro to be reckoned with. I instantly respected that fabulous hair.
And speaking of hair, she had on a “Hair” baseball jacket from the European Tour. You only got those jackets if you were actually in the show. She caught my eye because she was asking the Actors’ Equity rep running the audition if she could jump the line and go early, because she was on a hard and fast timeline. I was impressed with her boldness. Waiting to audition for hours on end sucks.
Well…as you all know…timing is divine…she pulled it off and the rep moved her up in the audition line. They were herding us like cattle (that’s why they are called “cattle calls,” folks,) in groups of five to wait outside the audition room proper so that we could go in and sing our 16 bars. That equals about 20 seconds, for the curious. Because she got moved up, she and I ended up in the same group of five. I cannot imagine if she hadn’t pulled that off; I can’t imagine my life if we had never met.
So we are standing outside waiting for our big 20 seconds to shine, and we are all holding our sheet music. She is holding “Come to my Window” by Melissa Etheridge. I was holding “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now” by Thomas “Fats” Waller. Now, while on the surface these songs may seem to have nothing in common, they actually do…in that they both totally jam, and both are pretty oddball choices for a musical theatre audition. Like, really oddball. They are choices that announce, “I don’t give a whoopdedoo, I am doing this my way.” Well that was enough for us to fall in friend-love at first sight.
I walked out of my 20 second audition to see super Jewfro girl waiting for me. She asked me if I wanted to go hang out, maybe share a cab home if we lived near each other. The rest is history.
We rode off together into the sunset and never looked back. In the cab, I asked her about the super-important appointment she had mentioned to the union rep. “Oh, I have to get to my waitressing job, I don’t want to get fired!” I loved her. Oh, how I loved her.
We were inseparable from then on. We started hanging out a lot, just chilling at my pad or her pad, and it was there that I learned one of the greatest and most important lessons of my life: how to share your art in love, in light, in joy, from a place of generosity rather than self-aggrandizement or egoic self-serving.
In her tiny Manhattan apartment, she had a keyboard set up facing the wall, (that was a space saver,) and a mirror hung on that wall immediately in front of her. This was so that when she played a song, she could fully engage with whoever was sitting on the sofa behind her. She wanted to make eye contact, to delight in the union between artist and audience. She would excitedly ask to share a new song she’d written, and I’d happily say, “Yes!”
This was completely revelatory for me. I had never experienced someone sharing so purely, with no hidden agenda.
Not long after we met, Amy asked me if I had ever tried my hand at spoken word or poetry. She told me that I had a weird way with words, a quirky perspective, a unique voice.
Not only had I never thought to write a poem outside the occasional high school assignment, I’d never even been to a spoken word event or any kind of poetry reading. But I loved hip hop. I loved Shakespeare. I loved George Carlin and Richard Pryor. That was poetry to me.
I found the idea of writing my own poetry and performing it strange and ludicrous. I was completely disempowered as a content creator. I had always been a dancer and then also an actor. My art, creativity and expression was completely dependent on the approval of others, either directors or choreographers. I needed to be chosen, to be cast, in order to perform.
I just couldn’t get my mind around the idea of writing my own words. Using my own voice. Putting forth my words and perspective. Thank G!d Amy saw in me what I was unable to see in myself.
No exaggeration, she faithfully reminded me for a full year – yes folks, a year – that writing poetry would be a great idea.
And then…one day…I did it. I wrote a poem. I was eating a piece of cheese one day, and something about it inspired me, and by golly, I wrote a poem.
Keep in mind, not only did she plant the seed in me to create my own art in my own voice, she had also taught me how to share my art in joy and love, so that I could come to her and say, “Hey, guess what, I did it, I wrote a poem!” It was probably horrible, but she celebrated it and cheered me on, and I kept writing. And then I started sharing on stage.
And if you enjoy my poetry at all, you have Ms. Amy Steinberg to thank.
Our friendship has fed me and healed me since I met her and continues to do so. Her art is so sweet, so divine, such nectar from beyond-beyond, I just had to share it with you.
I’m still learning from her. Even on this album, I received such holy reminders that the full spectrum of experience – the dark and the light – is worthy of expression and art. You’d think I’d have that figured out by now. Her songs are so light-filled, so uplifting and rocking at the same time. Her new album is an exercise in elevation. And then I get to a song like “Delicate Desperate” and I am reminded that our pain contains balm that can heal not just ourselves, but others. For we receive such art, and we realize we are not alone, we are never alone.
So, dear Amy, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for changing my life completely, for introducing me to myself, my biggest best self.
And, dear reader, I thank you for the opportunity to introduce you to Amy Steinberg’s music. I’m so excited to share her art with you. Enjoy.
And now…your EMOJI DVAR TORAH! PSA FOR COUNTING THE OMER EDITION!
Friends, I am re-running my Tree of Life Emoji Dvar Torah as a means of hopefully inspiring you to COUNT THE OMER this year. The journey connects Pesach to Shavuot. It is one of the most healing and fascinating processes that you can undertake. It is still ahead of its time. I recommend it to EVERYONE, not just observant Jews. You move through lower Sephirot of the Tree of Life, working on your own self-development each and every day. If you want to learn more about the process, check out this awesome link from Simon Jacobson’s Meaningful Life Center. It explains the process with detailed links and specifics on the right side of the page, and links to his hard copy guide to counting the omer, and his FREE APP! Both of which I am a huge fan of and use every year. Please feel free to ask me any questions about counting the omer. The process changes my life over and over again. Whatever you decide, CHAG SAMEACH to everyone, and may we all know liberation from bondage!