Cantor Rollin Simmons grew up in Milton, MA and also at Temple Israel Boston. Cantor Simmons graduated cum laude from Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, NY in 2001 receiving a B.A., with a major in Art History and a minor in Italian. After college she moved to Cambridge, MA where she explored various career paths in architecture, visual arts, cantorial soloing, and education. During this time Cantor Simmons earned an M.Ed in Special Education from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She was also a soloist with the Zamir Chorale of Boston, performing locally and internationally. After being inspired and encouraged by her cantor, Roy Einhorn at Temple Israel Boston, and her experiences with Jewish music in the Zamir Chorale, Cantor Simmons decided to pursue cantorial school.
During her five years as a student at The Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, Cantor Simmons was honored to serve as the Student Cantor at Temple Emanu-El of Dallas, TX, alongside Rabbi Oren Hayon and Cantor Richard Cohn; Hebrew Tabernacle in Washington Heights in New York City; and The Community Synagogue in Port Washington, NY. Cantor Simmons served as a Hospital and Hospice chaplain intern at Evergreen Healthcare near Seattle, WA in the summer of 2007, and as the cantorial intern at Temple Israel Boston. During the first year of cantorial school in Jerusalem, Cantor Simmons met rabbinical student, David Segal. They were married in 2009 on Martha's Vineyard.
After being ordained in 2010, Cantor Simmons and Rabbi Segal moved to Aspen, CO, where they have served as co-clergy for the past six years at the Aspen Jewish Congregation. During her time in Aspen, Cantor Simmons has transformed the worship experience through creative uses of music and liturgy. She also formed Aspen's first volunteer Shabbat band, Shir Bliss. In 2013, Cantor Simmons became the director of the Aspen Jewish Congregation's Hebrew School, creating and implementing unique hands-on curriculum. Cantor Simmons has also created, produced, directed and performed in an annual summer concert fundraiser for the congregation, inviting a team of some of the country's best Jewish musicians. In February 2016 Cantor Simmons was invited by JEWISHcolorado in Denver to open for Itzhak Perlman for a sold out crowd.
In 2013, Cantor Simmons was featured as a soloist on Noah Aronson's album The Left Side of the Page. She was the featured soloist in the Aspen Choral Society's performance of Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms.
Cantor Simmons is looking forward to her move to Houston with her husband, David, their two children, Levi and Bea, and their dog, Olive.
MESSAGE FROM PRESIDENT JEFF BASEN-ENGQUIST
I am very pleased to inform you that, following the completion of the Cantorial Search Committee's hard work, Rabbi Hayon has selected Cantor Rollin Simmons for this key role in our congregation. She will serve as a full member of the clergy team in all aspects of worship, education, and pastoral care. I am delighted to report that Cantor Simmons has accepted the position enthusiastically.
Cantor Simmons has served as the Aspen Jewish Congregation's cantor since July 2010. Prior to that post, she served as Student Cantor at Hebrew Tabernacle Congregation in New York and at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, where she worked with Rabbi Hayon during his tenure there. Cantor Simmons was ordained as Cantor and earned her Masters of Sacred Music at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion's School of Sacred Music in New York in May 2010.
Due to her present contract status, Cantor Simmons will begin her tenure at Emanu El on July 1, 2017. She will spend three weekend visits with us over the coming year as a part of her transition to Houston. Rabbi Hayon has already begun working with HUC-JIR's School of Sacred Music and the American Conference of Cantors to ensure that Emanu El's tradition of excellence in our music program will remain solidly in place until Cantor Simmons assumes her full-time duties next year. We hope to share news about musical leadership at next year's Shabbat and High Holy Day services very soon; in addition to our regular schedule of worship accompanists, we expect that additional musicians will be enlisted to augment our programs and ensure continuity of service to our congregants. More information will be shared as schedules are confirmed.
I am very grateful to the Cantorial Search Committee for its diligence and dedication. I look forward to joining you in welcoming Congregation Emanu El's outstanding new cantor.
President, Congregation Emanu El