SHOLOM SECUNDA (1894 - 1974)
Sholom Secunda was among the most distinguished and preeminent composers associated with the American Yiddish theater. Born in Aleksandriya, in the Kherson region of the Ukraine, to a father who was an amateur badkhan (folk entertainer and singer at Jewish celebrations) who routinely taught songs to the family, the young Secunda became a coveted boy alto soloist in major synagogue choirs. He soon had a reputation as a brilliant wunderkind boy hazzan (cantor), and he also gained his first theatrical exposure at the age of eleven in Goldfaden operetta roles at a children’s drama club. Following a pogrom in Nikolayev, where his family had relocated, he emigrated to America with them in 1907 and, until his voice changed, was known there too as the prince of the young hazzanim. In 1913 Secunda was engaged as a chorister in Yiddish productions at the Odeon Theater in New York, for which he began writing Yiddish songs. A year later he began studies at the Institute for Musical Art (now The Juilliard School), and in 1916, together with Solomon Shmulevitz (1868–1943), who was well established by then as a songwriter and lyricist for theater and vaudeville, Secunda wrote his first full-length score for Yoysher (Justice Yoysher Justice) at the Eden Theater. In that time frame, the legendary prima donna Regina Prager introduced one of his songs, Heym, zise heym (Home Sweet Home), which became his first real success.