Growing up in Tel Aviv as the daughter of two famous Israeli actors, Ayala Asherov was naturally drawn to the arts.
Although she first began writing songs as a teenager, Asherov initially seemed destined to follow her parents – Misha Asherov and Dalia Friedland – onto the stage.
But music ultimately became her primary creative focus, and to the benefit of College of Charleston music students and fans of her songs, Asherov has thrived as a professional recording artist.
Asherov will celebrate the release of her latest CD, Colors & Shapes, with a performance at Woolfe Street Playhouse (34 Woolfe St., Charleston, S.C.) at 7 p.m. on Sept. 2, 2015.
An adjunct instructor of songwriting in the School of the Arts’ Department of Music, Asherov studied at the Rimon School of Music in Tel Aviv before receiving a bachelor’s degree in music composition and film scoring from Berklee College of Music in Boston. She earned a master’s degree in film scoring from the University of North Carolina in 2000.
In the following Q&A Asherov discusses her musical influences, her stint in the Israel Defense Force, her passion for music education, and her recent music collaboration with Hootie & the Blowfish’s Mark Bryan, an adjunct faculty member in the College’s Arts Management program. Quentin Baxter ’98, a jazz percussionist and adjunct faculty member at the College, is also featured on the new CD.
Q: How did being born and raised in an artistic family in Israel influence your development as a musician and performer?
A: I didn’t know anything different. Stage, music, dance, rehearsals, memorizing lines, is all I knew growing up. However, it was also clear, that the important thing was knowing and polishing your craft, working on your skills of how to become a better artist everyday. Being famous was not important.
Q: Is it true that you served as an entertainer with the Israel Defense Force? What were your duties, and what did you take away from that whole experience?
A: Every citizen has to serve in Israel in some way or another. I, naturally, tried my luck with the entertainment troops, which can be very valuable to the soldiers. We used to come to them, sing, do skits, bring laughter, (create) fun moments and make them forget about the army for a little bit. We’ve gotten to go to interesting places, visit with many soldiers and worked with first class directors and writers.
Q: With your busy professional career, why do you feel it is important to make time to teach at the College?
A: Students are like a reality check – you get a better sense of what is going on out there. Their questions make you have to think about answers that make you realize things about your own creativity and path. Teaching is like a good workout to the creative mind!
Q: What are some of the most important pieces of advice you give to your songwriting students?
A: Keep writing, would be my first advice. The more you write, the more attempts you have at a good song. Play it out loud to friends, feel their reaction. It will help you know if it’s a good song. And most important, work on the song, revise it, don’t fall in love with what you have written, try to make it better!
Q: How did the inspiration and concept for your new album Colors & Shapes evolve?
A: I have been doing a lot of classical composing and underscoring in the last seven years that resulted in my album Cycles of the Moon. But I really missed getting back to expressing myself as songwriter. About two years ago, I started teaching a songwriting class at the College, thanks to former music chair Steve Rosenberg. I was also asked to write about eight songs for a singer from Israel, who had brought me her own lyrics. The combination of needing to write songs for another with teaching and exploring songs with my students started the process of writing my own songs again – this time in English.
There is no question in my mind that listening to my students and listening to other songs made the creative process much easier. They are a great inspiration and they challenge me when I hear great songs they bring to class.
Listen below to the single “Here I Stay” from Asherov’s new album Colors & Shapes.
Q: How did you wind up collaborating with Mark Bryan on this album, and how did your styles and musical backgrounds mesh?
A: Mark heard me perform at the College. He liked my songs, and I liked the fact that he has much experience being a successful songwriter himself and knowing what a well-produced song needs. We come from very different musical and personal backgrounds, however, we both felt it would only elevate the songs, which I think it did. Our understanding of what is “right” for the songs was the same, only maybe with a different approach. His guidance for my singing was also very valuable, and I believe he succeeded in directing me in the right direction.
Q: How would you describe the album’s songs, and what sorts of musical tastes will they appeal to?
A: I would say they fall into the Folk category, however I think the musical interaction with Mark has made them more pop. It’s for an audience that likes to hear new songs, new personal moments that come from the heart and enjoys good melodies and a fun beat. I was fortunate to have wonderful musicians contributing to some of the tracks, especially Quentin Baxter, whose magic touched every song. I am excited to have it on iTunes and hope all people that love a good song will give them a chance.
Q: Tell us about your work in music education initiatives.
A: I am very passionate about musical education. I believe it’s important to keep good and complex music alive. I think kids are our (writers, composers, performers) future. Without them knowing and loving music, no one will listen to what we do. I also believe the world is a better place with more people involved in music.
“Music Tells the Story” is a project I started about two years ago to expose kids to the fact that music, all around us, is telling us things – in movies, plays, even ads on TV. And if we are aware of it, we will better understand music and it can inspire us to be writing our own stories. I think music, stories and children are a great combination! For more information about this program, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org