Sony Pixel Power calrec Sony

Berklee Professor Releases Heartfelt Hanukkah Song

15/12/2023

Berklee Professor Releases Heartfelt Hanukkah Song Mike Sempert recently released Hold On to the Light, a catchy track with a sincere message about what it means to be Jewish during the holiday season.

By

Daniel Pesquera

December 14, 2023

At this time of year, there seems to be an endless supply of Christmas songs taking over the airwaves, with new records released every season. In contrast, songs about Hanukkah, especially the non-satirical variety, are much less common and typically lack the widespread presence enjoyed by traditional holiday standards.

Enter Mike Sempert, an artist, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, media composer, entrepreneur, and assistant professor of songwriting who teaches both at the Boston campus and Berklee Online. Sempert took on the challenge of writing a sincere song about Hanukkah, and his efforts culminated with the recent release of Hold On to the Light, a warm, catchy tune that borrows from '70s rock to deliver a heartfelt message about what it means to be Jewish during Hanukkah. What started out as a bonus track for Sempert ended up becoming a song that he hopes will offer a genuine perspective on what matters during the holidays that resonates with listeners of all beliefs.

In addition to his role as a Berklee educator, Sempert runs the commercial music company West Channel and is currently wrapping up a film score for an independent action film. His music has been performed at the Guggenheim Museum, the San Francisco Jazz Center, and the Rathaus in Vienna, among many other venues, and his film scores include the award-winning indie films Summoning the Spirit, A Room Full of Nothing, and Homestate. We caught up with him to take a deeper dive into Hold On to the Light and the important message behind the endearing song.

Tell us about what inspired you to write Hold On to the Light. Was writing a Hanukkah song something you set out to do or did it come together more spontaneously?Dan Kaplowitz from Friendly Fire Licensing (a sync house based in LA) is an old friend and encouraged me to try writing a Hanukkah song for sync. Theres not a lot of sincere Hanukkah songs out there! It turned into something Im really proud of and feel connected to in an authentic way. Even if I never license it, its a song that I believe will outlive me and feels very meaningful. The lesson is: something positive always comes from creating new music.

You're a father, and you describe your music as dad rock. What are some of the elements of your music and this song in particular that embody the distinctive dad rock vibe?I dont generally think of all my music as dad rock, but Ive got some songs that are heavily influenced by that era of vintage soft rock and this song in particular certainly is. Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty collaborations such as Full Moon Fever and Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 are big influences on this track. The synth solo is very influenced by Steve Winwoods approach to synth leads. I called it dad rock to be a bit self-deprecating, but deep down I honestly love this sound.

The song's lyrics confront the idea of feeling inadequate or inauthentic when it comes to knowing about your faith and specific holiday traditions. Why is this theme important to you, and what message do you hope others may take away from it?Its important for readers who dont know a lot about Judaism to understand that someone doesnt have to be religious to be Jewish-there are cultural and ethnic components to Jewish identity that are really important and sometimes exist independently of each other. So theres a lot of ways to be Jewish; theres no one right way. I think a lot of secular Jews and even Jews who were raised religious but dont actively practice have this fear that were doing it wrong. The funny thing about this is, I think this kind of anxiety exists around other holidays too-for everyone! For example, Christmas can drive people crazy trying to make it perfect. Is the turkey too dry? I think this all comes from some similar place inside of us that can hinder our enjoyment of the holidays, which should just be about being together.

How challenging was it to write a holiday song that you felt would resonate and feel relevant for current times, particularly a Hanukkah song? Theres a great compilation called Hanukkah+, but theres nothing out there with this particular '70s soft-rock vibe on there. So the lack of precedent kind of helped, to be honest, and writing the song came easily. And I didnt feel like I had to worry about it being too this or too that; it was just a bonus song. I try to encourage all of my students to think of their songwriting in this way if possible. The bonus songs are written from a place of freedom, they arent necessary, they dont define your value as an artist or a person, theyre just for fun (omg what?), and they tend to be the best songs you write.

Will we see more holiday songs from you in the future? Perhaps an entire album?Maybe so! Ive written a couple of Christmas songs too, which is a very Jewish thing in its own way. Type Christmas songs written by Jews into Google and youll see what I mean.

Listen to Mike Semperts Hold On to the Light:

Related Categories

Keyed In

News

Most Popular

15 of the Best Cover Songs (and Why They Work) From Fast Car to Ring of Fire, there's no formula to making a successful cover song. But the best covers answer two important questions.

Latest

Francesco Castro B.M. '21 (left) and Matilde Heckler B.M. '23 (first from right) at the Mean Girls red carpet event

Image courtesy of Matilde Heckler

Alums Make Big-Screen Debut in Musical Adaptation of Mean Girls Francesca Castro and Matilde Heckler bring Band Freak energy to the cinematic version of Tina Feys 2018 Broadway production.

Boston Conservatory Orchestra Celebrates Black History Month Th
LINK: https://www.berklee.edu/berklee-now/news/berklee-professor-releases-he...
See more stories from berklee

More from Berklee

18/04/2024

Krisha Marcano Announced as Dean of Theater for Boston Conservatory at Berklee

Krisha Marcano Announced as Dean of Theater for Boston Conservatory at Berklee The theater educator, choreographer, and performer will join Boston Conservator...

18/04/2024

Berklee's Yoon-Ji Lee Receives Guggenheim Fellowship

Berklee's Yoon-Ji Lee Receives Guggenheim Fellowship Lee, an assistant professor of composition, creates music based on unconventional and nonlinear struc...

17/04/2024

Simone Pilon Appointed Executive Director at Berklee Valencia

Simone Pilon Appointed Executive Director at Berklee Valencia Pilon, who has served as Berklee Valencia's interim executive director since March 2023, has a...

17/04/2024

FINNEAS and Ashe Talk Confidence and Collaboration in the Music Industry

FINNEAS and Ashe Talk Confidence and Collaboration in the Music Industry Days before his sister Billie Eilishs new album announcement, producer and songwriter...

12/04/2024

Youssou NDour to Receive Honorary Doctorate at Berklee Valencia's 2024 Commencement

Youssou NDour to Receive Honorary Doctorate at Berklee Valencia's 2024 Comme...

12/04/2024

Berklee and Electronic Arts Celebrate Annual EA Day

Berklee and Electronic Arts Celebrate Annual EA Day The second annual EA Berklee Day celebrated women in the screen scoring industry and presented the Electro...

11/04/2024

Boston Conservatory at Berklee to Honor LaChanze and Lar Lubovitch at Commencement Ceremony

Boston Conservatory at Berklee to Honor LaChanze and Lar Lubovitch at Commenceme...

11/04/2024

Berklee Hosts Leading Artists and Entertainment Pros at Annual Career Jam

Berklee Hosts Leading Artists and Entertainment Pros at Annual Career Jam Grammy-winning producer and singer-songwriter FINNEAS and hitmaker Ashe BM 15 headli...

10/04/2024

Ledisi, Q-Tip, and Gilberto Santa Rosa to Receive Honorary Doctorates at Berklee 2024 Commencement

Ledisi, Q-Tip, and Gilberto Santa Rosa to Receive Honorary Doctorates at Berklee...

05/04/2024

Berklee Honors Three Outstanding Artists at Alumni Achievement Awards

Berklee Honors Three Outstanding Artists at Alumni Achievement Awards Natalie Toro, Gustavo Borner, and Mark Kelley were recognized for their achievements in ...

05/04/2024

Berklee's Africana Studies Department to Host its First Annual Symposium

Berklee's Africana Studies Department to Host its First Annual Symposium The inaugural event will feature scholar, political commentator, and author Dr. E...

04/04/2024

Boston Conservatory at Berklee to Present Five Iconic Works at Spring Dance Concert: Limitless

Boston Conservatory at Berklee to Present Five Iconic Works at Spring Dance Conc...

04/04/2024

Morton Subotnick Named 2024 Herb Alpert Visiting Artist for Electronic Production and Design Department

Morton Subotnick Named 2024 Herb Alpert Visiting Artist for Electronic Productio...

03/04/2024

Boston Conservatory at Berklee to Present Four Iconic Works at Spring Dance Concert: Limitless

Boston Conservatory at Berklee to Present Four Iconic Works at Spring Dance Conc...

03/04/2024

Berklee's Signature Series Presents Gospel Extravaganza 2024

Berklee's Signature Series Presents Gospel Extravaganza 2024 Gospel singer and composer Bishop Hezekiah Walker will be among this year's inductees int...

30/03/2024

Celebrating Women's History Month with Berklee and Spelman College Students

Celebrating Women's History Month with Berklee and Spelman College Students Idriemeka Bailey and Madyson S. McSwain open up about their experiences in the...

29/03/2024

Student Spotlight: Bethanie Liu

Student Spotlight: Bethanie Liu The electronic musician shares how Berklee helped shape her desire to be a songwriter and arranger into something that incorpo...

28/03/2024

Boston Conservatory to Present Center Stage Production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Huntington

Boston Conservatory to Present Center Stage Production of A Midsummer Night'...

27/03/2024

15 Latin Artists Who Became Musical Idols

15 Latin Artists Who Became Musical Idols Listen to iconic Latin musicians across genres in this playlist and read about how they've influenced Berklee st...

22/03/2024

Berklee, A3 Communication, and the Gnaoua and World Music Festival Launch Berklee on the Road Program

Berklee, A3 Communication, and the Gnaoua and World Music Festival Launch Berkle...

19/03/2024

What Is Dembow? Tracing the Roots of a Global Phenomenon

What Is Dembow? Tracing the Roots of a Global Phenomenon The story of the dembow beat, which can be found in reggaeton, hip-hop, pop, and far beyond, speaks t...

19/03/2024

Berklee's Roger H. Brown Jr. Building Honored by Boston Society for Architecture

Berklee's Roger H. Brown Jr. Building Honored by Boston Society for Architec...

19/03/2024

Applications Open for 2024 Berklee at Umbria Jazz Clinics

Applications Open for 2024 Berklee at Umbria Jazz Clinics The 39th edition of the program will be held from July 9-21. By Callista Chan March 21, 2024 Ima...

14/03/2024

Berklee Career Jam Concert Showcases Student Artists for Music and Entertainment Industry

Berklee Career Jam Concert Showcases Student Artists for Music and Entertainment...

14/03/2024

BPMI to Host 22nd Annual Showcase at Brighton Music Hall on April 17

BPMI to Host 22nd Annual Showcase at Brighton Music Hall on April 17 The Berklee Popular Music Institute will showcase performances from six rising stars who ...

08/03/2024

Berklee Presents the Michael Jackson Ensemble: Human Nature

Berklee Presents the Michael Jackson Ensemble: Human Nature The Signature Series concert honors the King of Pop, surveying the entirety of his iconic career. ...

07/03/2024

Bruce Hornsby Is Still Seeing What He Can Get Away With

Bruce Hornsby Is Still Seeing What He Can Get Away With Since The Way It Is, the visionary songwriter has made his mark on so many genres. His latest, Deep Se...

06/03/2024

Student Spotlight: Mehrpouya Daneshvar

Student Spotlight: Mehrpouya Daneshvar The clarinetist from Iran talks about discovering a love for Iranian classical music and how coming to Berklee has allo...

02/03/2024

Applications Open for Berklee in Puerto Rico 2024

Applications Open for Berklee in Puerto Rico 2024 Registration is open now through April 11. By Colette Greenstein March 1, 2024 Students perform at Berklee...

01/03/2024

Student Spotlight: Shivaraj Natraj

Student Spotlight: Shivaraj Natraj The vocalist, konnakol beatboxer, and percussionist reflects on his musical journey from Oman to India and beyond, and how ...

01/03/2024

Berklee to Present American Master Award to Arturo Sandoval

Berklee to Present American Master Award to Arturo Sandoval Berklee will recognize the Cuban-American legend's legacy and impact on jazz and Latin music. ...

28/02/2024

Announcing the 2024 Issue of STAGES Magazine: Future Proof

Announcing the 2024 Issue of STAGES Magazine: Future Proof This issue takes a deep dive into how a Boston Conservatory education lays the foundation for futu...

28/02/2024

40 Years Later, Thriller's Grammy Sweep Still Resonates

40 Years Later, Thriller's Grammy Sweep Still Resonates Professors Lil John Roberts and Mimi Jones, part of the team leading the upcoming Michael Jackson ...

27/02/2024

The Rubin Brothers Bring Circus Spectacle to American Idol

The Rubin Brothers Bring Circus Spectacle to American Idol Berklee alum Colescott Rubin and his brother, current student A.J., rode unicycles and sang about lov...

24/02/2024

Berklee International Hip-Hop Symposium Spotlights Local Artists, Entrepreneurs

Berklee International Hip-Hop Symposium Spotlights Local Artists, Entrepreneurs SAMMUS, DJ Troy Frost, and DJ WhySham are among featured guest speakers for th...

22/02/2024

Berklee's Signature Series Celebrates Vibraphone Master, Composer, and Educator Joel Ross

Berklee's Signature Series Celebrates Vibraphone Master, Composer, and Educa...

17/02/2024

Boston Conservatory Dance Students Perform in New Music Video by Pop Artist Piao

Boston Conservatory Dance Students Perform in New Music Video by Pop Artist Piao The video for Neopet features choreography by commercial dance major Sofia ...

17/02/2024

Berklee Awards Fenway Neighborhood Improvement Grant to Five Organizations

Berklee Awards Fenway Neighborhood Improvement Grant to Five Organizations A total of $25,000 will be distributed amongst the Boston-based nonprofits. By Co...

14/02/2024

Cecil Adderley Named President-Elect of the National Association for Music Education

Cecil Adderley Named President-Elect of the National Association for Music Educa...

14/02/2024

Cecil Adderley Named President of the National Association for Music Education

Cecil Adderley Named President of the National Association for Music Education The chair of Berklee's Music Education Department will serve as NAfME's...

14/02/2024

Berklee's Signature Series Presents Great American Songbook: Night and Day-A Celebration of Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga

Berklee's Signature Series Presents Great American Songbook: Night and Day-A...

09/02/2024

Sounds of Black History at Symphony Hall

Sounds of Black History at Symphony Hall Boston Conservatory Orchestra will showcase works by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Margaret Bonds, Valerie Coleman, and ot...

09/02/2024

Berklee Valencia Alumni Recognized at the Grammy Awards

Berklee Valencia Alumni Recognized at the Grammy Awards Carla Patullo, Gracie Laboy, and MT Aditya Srinivasan took home awards on musics biggest night. Febr...

09/02/2024

Lee Berk Tribute Concert Honors Legacy of Music Education Pioneer and Former Berklee President

Lee Berk Tribute Concert Honors Legacy of Music Education Pioneer and Former Ber...

07/02/2024

Berklee Abu Dhabi Music Summit Aims to Empower Aspiring Artists

Berklee Abu Dhabi Music Summit Aims to Empower Aspiring Artists The third annual event will focus on essential music business principles that enable creatives...

06/02/2024

Boston Conservatory at Berklee's New Music Festival Highlights Original Student Works

Boston Conservatory at Berklee's New Music Festival Highlights Original Stud...

05/02/2024

Berklee Alumni and Faculty Win at the 2024 Grammy Awards

Berklee Alumni and Faculty Win at the 2024 Grammy Awards Laufey, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, Miguel Zen n, and Carla Patullo were among the winners of musi...

02/02/2024

Vimbayi Kaziboni Wins Prestigious Ditson Conductor's Award

Vimbayi Kaziboni Wins Prestigious Ditson Conductor's Award The Boston Conservatory faculty member joins a group of legendary conductors who have received th...

01/02/2024

Dancing with the Stars: Berklee Edition Puts the Fun in Fundraiser

Dancing with the Stars: Berklee Edition Puts the Fun in Fundraiser The annual dance competition exceeded fundraising goals, fully endowing a new Dance Divisio...

01/02/2024

Vimbayi Kaziboni Wins 2024 Alice M. Ditson Fund Conductor's Award

Vimbayi Kaziboni Wins 2024 Alice M. Ditson Fund Conductor's Award The Boston Conservatory faculty member joins a group of legendary conductors who have re...