songwriter Larry Lesser has won awards in 3 genres: Jewish, math, and singer-songwriter contemporary folk!
reactions to his debut album Afterglow (1992) of original contemporary folk music:
“very, very nicely put together” – Kevin Connor, morning show host of Austin’s KGSR-FM
“His sly humor…and personal versus global observations won me over”– Eve McArthur, Music City Texas editor
“songs that are sensitive, soothing and often humorous” – David Medina, Rice University Sallyport
reactions to his current album Sparks (2020) of original contemporary folk/folk-rock based in Jewish text/culture:
“joy with strong songwriting and clever rhymes” — Joanie Leeds, GRAMMY-winning artist
“A unique blend… brought forth in cleverness, humor and tenderness.” — Nance Pettit, songwriter/artist on Out Beyond Ideas and healing arts practitioner
“inspirational, educational, historical and sometimes just plain fun” — Jose Antonio Ponce, producer of the New Mexico Music Awards
Larry Lesser is an award-winning songwriter in THREE genres: Jewish, math, and singer-songwriter contemporary folk!
In 2020, Lesser globally launched SPARKS, an ambitious 24-song album of original songs grounded in Jewish text with universal themes, spanning denominations and genres, yielding airplay/praise, and named a Finalist at the 2021 New Mexico Music Awards in 4 different categories (including Best Album of the Year), winning for Best Humorous Song! That latter song also advanced to the Semifinals (top 11%) of a 2021 international contest. Before this effort, Lesser released his singer-songwriter debut album, Afterglow, and also had songs recorded on albums by artists such as Folkus, Sababa, Larry Bach, and Ellen M. Wilson.
Larry has been El Paso-based since 2004 and songs such as “Border Town” show that influence on his muse. In one of his recent KTEP-FM interviews, Larry played his call for deeper dialogue on gun violence, “What We Carry Now”. At a 2018 concert at Fox Fine Arts Recital Hall, UTEP’s stellar middle eastern music ensemble premiered Larry’s song “Break”, a peace-seeking culture-bridging song (inspired by conversations with a former UTEP colleague who grew up in Ramallah) which was part of a 2022 exhibit at the El Paso Holocaust Museum. Also, Larry played his “Healing Song” at an interfaith panel at UTEP the month of the 2019 El Paso mass shooting, and had his song “The Dogs” in a 2022 El Paso museum exhibit about the experience of 2020.
Having started to learn guitar at 10, Larry began songwriting in college. His songwriting came of age during his 20s in Austin, where he served as ASG VP, had an album release (yielding his first radio airplay), interviewed a major-label artist, won awards in song contests, etc. Realizing he wouldn’t be able to support himself soon enough with coffeehouse gigs in his songwriter-saturated town, he resumed formal education, but never lost his love of performing and songwriting for growth, expression and connection. And now as Professor Lesser (hey, that rhymes!), Larry has been gratefully surprised how his songwriting overlaps with his academic STEM endeavors (HERE’s a lively example) and helped yield prestigious teaching awards, pioneering journal articles, over a dozen awards for songs/videos in recent national contests (e.g., NSF, ASA, MoMath, CAUSE, QL-SIGMAA, Sigma Xi), banquet/keynote presentations, featured appearances on episodes of a PBS-TV station’s children’s show, newspaper/TV coverage (especially for “American Pi” and “The Gambler”), a 2015-2020 NSF grant to create and assess interactive songs to help students learn introductory statistics, and the co-founding of an international network of kindred spirits (VOICES).
A 2006 visit from songwriting influence David Wilcox (on a cross-country Airstream family journey) sparked Larry’s parallel repertoire of spiritual/Jewish songcraft, aligned with his role for 14 years as Affiliated Faculty in UTEP’s Inter-American Jewish Studies Program. In addition to his SPARKS album mentioned above, his “Healing Song” appears on CDs (by former UTEP instructors), has been used by congregations in several cities, and was featured in an NPR station interview and in the blog of the literary journal of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at SUNY Upstate Medical University. And he co-wrote a song with (former head of the Women Cantors’ Network) Robbi Sherwin on the debut CD of top-notch contemporary Jewish music group Sababa.
Larry’s performances often raise money or awareness for community organizations/events such as: Northern Colorado Animal League, a county-wide AIDS Day program, UTEP Religious Studies’ International Day of Peace celebration (with Sara Potter), Insights El Paso Science Center, the Center Against Family Violence, Kelly Memorial Food Pantry, soup kitchen El Caldito, and food pantry Casa de Peregrinos. Larry has also opened for nationally-touring artists such as Roy Zimmerman, Chava Mirel, Shmuel Geller, Charlie King and Karen Brandow. Larry has written and/or performed songs for UTEP organizations (Religious Studies Program, Centennial Museum, Social Justice Initiative, Women’s History Month conference, Club Zero, UTEP Student Engagement & Leadership Center, and CETaL/CFLD) and written tributes for UTEP milestones (2014 Centennial, 2016 Quality Enhancement Plan, retirement of President Dr. Diana Natalicio, and the 2030 strategic plan).