Musician, Cantor, Salesman: Michael ‘Zevi’ Daniel


As a musician, Michael “Zevi” Daniel marches to the beat of his own drum.

Michael “Zevi” Daniel (Courtesy)

He’s a man of many talents. In addition to being part of the Acoustic Soul music group, which recently performed at The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore’s “The Braided Candle” event, he works as a sales manager for dental supplies by day and orchestrates services as a cantor on weekends.

Daniel, 42, lives in Baltimore with his wife and four children. He belongs to both Suburban Orthodox Congregation and Kehillas Meor HaTorah, occasionally leading services at both synagogues.

But before his roles as a musician, cantor, husband and father, Daniel said he considers himself a Jew first and foremost. He first discovered his passion for music while attending a Jewish summer camp.

“I was very shy as a child, so [performing] didn’t come easily,” he recalled. “I forget what the exact impetus was, but someone pushed me in sleepaway camp to start performing. I’m still an anxious guy, but onstage, not so much.”

Daniel and his friends first formed Acoustic Soul while attending Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Pikesville. The band first started out as an a cappella group called Aka Pella, which Daniel said experienced modest success in the Jewish community. The group drifted apart when many of its members graduated and went to college, but several members stayed in Baltimore and later reconnected to start a new band.

“I’m not sure if we’re sticking with the name Acoustic Soul, but it’s a fitting descriptor of what we do,” Daniel said. “We’re primarily acoustic now rather than a cappella, so we incorporate instruments and percussion.”

For his part, Daniel sings and occasionally plays guitar. His primary inspirations are fellow Jewish musicians like Shlomo Carlebach and Eitan Katz, though he notes that he also gets a lot of inspiration for music from his bandmates and friends.

“As hokey as it sounds, my friends really are my inspiration. We’re constantly introducing each other to new music and ideas,” he said.

Daniel took his love of Jewish music one step further in 2000, earning his bachelor of Talmudic law at Ner Israel and later becoming a cantor. He first got involved in cantorial work when his brother-in-law, who was an assistant rabbi at the time, asked if he could lead his congregation in prayers during a few holiday services. These served as a springboard for his budding career as a cantor, and Daniel has led services both close to home and in synagogues in New York and Chicago.

Balancing careers as a musician, a dental supplies sales manager and a cantor might seem like a difficult task, but Daniel manages to keep those plates spinning.

“Being a hazzan is mostly a weekend job. There is prep work, obviously — you have to know what you’re saying and be sure it flows well,” he explained. “But I’ve never found it to conflict with my other responsibilities.”

Even outside his work as a cantor, Judaism is a central part of life for Daniel and his family. Daniel attends shul two to three times a day and is part of several Talmud and Torah study groups. Following in his footsteps, his oldest son also attends Ner Israel.

“Judaism is certainly something we’re passionate about. It’s the focal point of our lives,” Daniel said. “It provides a lot of fulfillment, balance and focus to my life, and there’s a certain cohesion it provides to our family as well.”

Daniel and Acoustic Soul primarily perform at gigs, and they are hopeful that they have a bright future ahead thanks to their appearance at The Associated’s “The Braided Candle” event. The band performed at the community Havdalah service, which focused on remembering the victims of and hostages taken on Oct. 7 in Israel.

“That was a big deal for us. We were so grateful for the opportunity, and for the way it was executed,” Daniel said. “It was a super professional event, and The Gordon Center was amazing, the people there were amazing. … We’re excited to hopefully do it again with them.”

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  1. Thank you Associated for tapping into my son Zevi’s talent. I was on the Board in the 80’s representing the Jewish Union of Russian Immigrants.
    Kind regards,
    Rosalie Daniel, former President of JURI
    And teacher in Talmudical Academy

  2. Michael (aka Zevi) sang the Star Spangled Banner a few times at the opening of the Baltimore Orioles Game. He was the best I had ever heard! fA A fan of this great singer!


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