reactions to his debut cassette release of original contemporary folk music (1992):
“[his debut album is] very, very nicely put together” – Kevin Connor, KGSR-FM morning show host
“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 CD of original contemporary folk/folk-rock based in Jewish text/values (2020):
“…playful and soulful. His music not only creates
the setting for his poetic messages, it also lifts the spirit. Larry’s thoughtful words
shaped by Jewish ideals and values inspire thought and self-reflection.”
Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein
CEO Emeritus of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and President of NACOEJ
“The songs on this album are a new form of Midrash, expounding on Torah and Talmudic stories. The music brings the characters, ideals and lessons of Judaism alive.”
Karen I. Treiger
author of the award-winning book My Soul is Filled with Joy: A Holocaust Story
“A project that no one else could have done. A unique blend of things that you
value brought forth in cleverness, humor and tenderness.”
co-songwriter/artist on Out Beyond Ideas; healing arts practitioner
In 2020, award-winning songwriter Larry Lesser launched SPARKS, an ambitious thematic 24-song album of original songs grounded in Jewish text with universal themes, spanning denominations and genres, and becoming a Finalist for the 2021 New Mexico Music Awards in four different categories (including Best Album of the Year)! This came 28 years(!) after his first album, a cassette-only singer-songwriter album, Afterglow, released in Austin in 1992, though in between those albums he had some songs recorded on albums by other artists, including 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 major 2018 concert, 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 and he played his “Healing Song” at an interfaith panel at UTEP the month of the 2019 El Paso mass shooting.
Larry’s songwriting began in college, then came of age during his grad school years in Austin, where he served as ASG VP, had a (cassette!) album release (yielding his first radio airplay), interviewed a major-label artist, and won song contest awards. Larry has had several songs win contest awards (e.g., 2nd place in the fall 2012 El Paso Songwriting Contest) or published in SingOut!, and Larry has also published poetry.
As Professor Lesser (hey, that rhymes!), Larry is gratefully surprised that his longtime love for song has overlapped with his academic endeavors (HERE’s a lively example) and helped lead to prestigious teaching awards. On using music/song with teen/adult math/statistics learners, Larry has published pioneering journal articles (and about 100 STEM-related lyrics), won over a dozen awards for songs/videos in recent national contests (e.g., NSF, ASA, MoMath, CAUSE, QL-SIGMAA), given banquet/keynote presentations, was featured guest and lyricist for 6 STEM-themed episodes of a PBS-TV station’s children’s show, had newspaper/TV coverage (especially for “American Pi” and “The Gambler”), and directed a 2015-2020 NSF grant to create and assess interactive songs to help students learn introductory statistics, an effort that includes collaboration with UTEP music faculty Dominic Dousa and Stephen Haddad, and has spread to other disciplines (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 renowned Jewish artist Robbi Sherwin that appeared 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, and Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning) and written tributes for UTEP’s 2014 Centennial and 2016 Quality Enhancement Plan and then-President Dr. Diana Natalicio upon her retirement announcement.