Lakewood, NJ – Mrs. Dina Storch composed her first English song at age 14. Since then she’s composed more than 450 songs, including “There’s a Place in My Mind” (about Yerushalayim), “Bird of Hope,” “Someday”, “Crack Of Dawn” and “Daddy Dear” (both sung by Mordechai Ben David).
The Storch family moved from Cleveland to Lakewood in 2000, where Rabbi Storch now serves as the menahel of Yeshivas Nesivos Ohr and Mrs. Storch is the music teacher in Bnos Yaakov and Bais Tova elementary schools. For the past twenty-nine summers, Mrs. Storch has also served as the musical director in Camp Bnos, composing all the camp, play, and cantata songs.
For many of us, singing your songs brings a feeling of utter sweetness, joy, and melting into the music. How and when did you write your first song?
Mrs. Storch: I wrote my first song, about a boy pleading to reunite with his father, when I was in ninth grade. Until then I hadn’t been much of a writer. In elementary school I excelled at math more than writing. Then, in ninth grade, we had an English teacher, Mrs. Ady Frankel, who started a literary club with a few of us. She stirred our brains and encouraged us to write.
She would tell us, “Close your eyes. Clear everything out of your head.” Then she would say, “Now open your eyes and write.”
I had always been musical and played my guitar and accordion (given to me by my uncle, Reb Yom Tov Ehrlich, z”l). Once, after reading literature poems in class, I decided to put tunes to them. I started putting tunes to all the poems in my literature book. Later on, I was left with tunes, and slowly I started putting pesukim to them.
My father, Reb Shmuel Kaluszyner, z”l, definitely influenced me in my songwriting. Just growing up in his home I was very accustomed to expressing myself. He was a Novardok baal mussar, and he painted ‘word pictures’ when he spoke.
How did songwriting affect your growing years?
Mrs. Storch: It was a great outlet for me as a teenager. I would close my bedroom door, take out my guitar and express myself. I was groping with the same frustrations as other teenagers, but I had a way to express myself.
Rebbetzin Tina Juravel, my ninth grade historiah teacher, once pointed out something interesting. She said that when people are watching a play and it gets to a sad part, they may burst out laughing. We’re afraid to lose ourselves in tears, so instead we escape through laughter. As I was growing up, I always felt safe to express my innermost feelings in song.
One of your best-known songs is “Someday.” How is it that Mordechai Ben David came to use it as one of his signature songs?
Mrs. Storch: In 1977, during my first year in Bais Yaakov of Boro Park Seminary, I composed the song “Someday” for our play, called “Double Identity.” Several months later, I received a call from Rabbi Golding of JEP asking if I had a song he could use for a tape JEP would be producing. (At the end of each summer, they culled Color War songs from the different camps and produced a tape.) I gave him “Someday,” which he then had Mordechai Ben David perform for the recording.
What kind of concrete steps do you engage in when writing a song?
Mrs. Storch: First I write one line of words. I start to sing that one line and develop a pattern or beat. I then continue to write the song according to that beat. I have the picture of a piano keyboard in my head, and I write down which keys form the beat as I sing it. Sometimes I’ll call my husband for help with finding an appropriate passuk for the song, and he’ll print me a page of all the pesukim with the word or idea I’m looking for.
There’s also the impromptu method. When I feel inspired by an experience, I jot it down and put it in my pocketbook. At some point, sometimes years later, I’ll write a song from those notes.
The song Daddy Dear composed By Mrs. Storch, and sung in a 1998 cassette by MBD
When during the year do you start working on making up the theme song for camp?
Mrs. Storch: I have an unspoken agreement that Rebbetzin Shonnie Perr (director of Camp Bnos) calls me the week after Pesach, at which point most of the plans for camp have been arranged. Rebbetzin Perr tells me the camp theme for the upcoming summer and gives me about fifteen to twenty pesukim she will be using in the theme throughout the summer. She has the entire summer mapped out like a lesson plan. It’s pretty amazing.
The camp song I compose is light, without any pesukim in it. Every Friday night, when she speaks to the camp, Rebbetzin Perr centers her speech on one idea and refers to one line in the theme song.
Tell us about the new album you are working on. When is it due to be released?
Mrs. Storch: This is something I should have done a long time ago. When I moved to Lakewood, I started meeting old choir members from the Camp Bnos cantatas. When my husband opened his yeshivah, I had the idea of performing “Nostalgia Night” as a fund-raiser for the yeshivah. It was a performance of many of my songs, by any women who wished to join.
Performers usually knew about one-third of the songs. We included songs from the 70s, 80s, 90s – and some that were never heard before. The only thing that all the singers had in common was that they loved to sing.
We made three performances for three consecutive years. This album, to be called after my song “There’s a Place in My Mind,” includes the songs from the first Nostalgia Night, which will be sung by several popular male Jewish singers. Some of the songs included are “Yerushalayim,” “Power of a Prayer,” and “Be Proud That You’re a Jew.” I’m calling the project “Project STEP,” which stands for “Storch Educational Entertainment Production.”
What else is included in this project?
Mrs. Storch: I have a tefillah tape for children’s schools that is a wonderful tool to teach children to bentch and daven using the correct havarah. I specifically want to thank Rebbetzin (Heiman) Nadav for tuning me into to the importance of davening with the correct havarah. I also have a booklet of short scripts for elementary school plays.
What do you feel is the key ingredient to focus on when composing a song?
Mrs. Storch: My uncle, Reb Yom Tov Ehrlich, z”l, taught me that to write a good song, the listener has to be able to “see” something in front of him while he’s listening. For example, with the song “Be Proud That You’re a Jew,” I was trying to convey a feeling of the Jewish People as a whole throughout the ages. Only when the song tells “of a chain that is longer than long” and “every bead on this strand,” do you feel the unity of Klal Yisrael.
When I wrote a song about “Ani Ma’amin,” I was trying to portray the concept of belief. When the listener hears and then pictures in his mind’s eye “with the ani ma’amin that they cried,” and “people gave up their lives for this,” then the listener is with you. An artist needs 3-D to make a picture look real. I’m also painting a picture for the listener.
One last question, though I wish we could keep on going! Do you have any advice for people who feel that “there’s a place in their mind” that would compose a song, but don’t know where to begin?
Mrs. Storch: Get a blank bound book (not a spiral). This way you’ll feel like you’re writing in a book. I call my book a “nothing book.” When you think of something you want to write, don’t lose it. Run to the book and jot it down.
Or you can write it on a paper and write it over into the book after you’ve perfected it. Then come back to it whenever you feel ready to embellish your previous work.