Torjman Thomas
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music

Ph.D., City University of New York-Graduate Center (2014, Ethnomusicology)

M.A., City University of New York (2008, Music)

B.M., Berklee College of Music (2000, Performance)

B.M., Berklee College of Music (1998, Jazz Composition)


Dr. Samuel Torjman Thomas teaches ethnomusicology, jazz studies, Sephardic (Jewish) studies, and interdisciplinary studies at the City University of New York (John Jay College and Hunter College). He is a professional multi-instrumentalist (saxophone, oud, vocals, nay, clarinet, percussion), composer, and bandleader. As an artist-scholar, his work centers on musics of the Middle East and North Africa, worldwide Jewish musical traditions, jazz traditions, American popular music, and social justice movements and music. Dr. Torjman Thomas is bandleader of ASEFA, ASEFA-Jazz, and Traveling in Pairs, as well as artistic director of the New York Andalus Ensemble – a multiethnic large ensemble featuring a choir and instrumentalists performing traditional musics of North Africa and Spain, in Hebrew, Arabic, and Spanish.

Dr. Samuel Torjman Thomas is also a faculty member in both the ALEPH and Academy of Jewish Religion Cantorial Programs, as well as Director of Musical Arts at Brooklyn’s Sephardic Community Center (JCC). He is a frequent guest speaker and facilitator in ecumenical spaces, cultural institutions, and music and spiritual retreats worldwide.

JJC Affiliations
Art and Music
Courses Taught

Carrent courses
American Popular Music HIstory • Fight the Powers That Be: Social Activism in Music • World Music • Piano • Hebraic Culture and Thought in the World of Islam • Immigrant NYC

Previous courses
Global Music in America: Migration and Diaspora • Become the Sound: Music in Spirituality • Music and Gender: A Cross-Cultural Perspective • Uninhibited Self: Avante-Garde Jazz, Race, and Gender in 1960s America • Contemporary Jewish Music in Diaspora • Cross-cultural Approaches to Improvisation • Jazz and Contemporary Music Theory • Jazz Improvisation Techniques • Jazz Composition and Arranging Level I and II • Basic Piano Skills I and II • Cross-Cultural Approaches to Melodic Theory • Cantorial Skills in Maqam • Incorporating Basic Music in Early Education • Individuals in Conflict with Society [multi-disciplinary core course] • Sacred Music, Spiritual Sound [with philosophy] • Ritual, Gender, and Performance [with performance studies] • Hearing History: A Global Perspective [with history] • Harlem Renaissance [with literature] • Sociologies of Violence [with sociology] • Performing Mediterranean Cultures [with ethnic studies] • History of North African Jewry • Contemporary Jewish Music in Diaspora


Professional Memberships

American Musicological Society • Society for Ethnomusicology • College Music Society • Jazz Education Network • American Anthropological Association • Association for Jewish Studies • Middle Eastern Studies Association • American Society for Jewish Music

Hebrew (speak, read, perform), Arabic (speak, read, perform), French (speak and read)
Scholarly Work

Print Publications
2016 “
The Virtues of the Shleuḥ: Celebrating the Amazigh Contribution to Jewish Music and Identity.” Sephardi Ideas Monthly. April.

2015 “Seeking the Saint, Finding Community: Celebrating the Hillula of Baba Sali.” Chapter in

Religious Diversity Today: Experiencing Religion in the Contemporary World. Volume Two: Ritual and Pilgrimage. Anastasia Panagakos, editor. Praeger Publishers: Santa Barbara.

2013 “Kriat ha-Torah in the Maroka’i Synagogues of Brooklyn: Negotiating New Boundaries of Diaspora Identity” Journal of Synagogue Music (38) 146-162.

2012 “Mediterranean Israeli Music and the Politics of the Aesthetic.” Book Review, Sephardic Horizons Online (2/1).

2010 “Maqām and Liturgy: Ritual, Music, and Aesthetics of Syrian Jews in Brooklyn.” Book Review, Oral History Review (37/2) 328-330.

2010 “Salim Halali” and “Martial Solal.” The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Leiden:Brill.

2011 ASEFA, Resonance. Bended Ear Records 0329
2005 Samuel Thomas.
Asefa. Compact disc. Bended Ear Records 0906
2001 FourMinusOne.
Split Decision. Compact disc. Bended Ear Records 0700
1999 FourMinusOne.
Live!. Compact disc. Bended Ear Records 0599
1997 FourMinusOne.
At Any Given Moment. Compact disc. Bended Ear Records 0396

Honors and Awards

American Sephardi Federation - Young Scholars Fellowship in Sephardic Studies (2018-2020)
PSC-CUNY Research Grant (2014, 2016, 2018)

Brandeis University, Schusterman Center Certificate in Israel Studies (2015)
David Blanksteen Research Fellowship in Jewish Studies (2005-2012)
Baisley Powell Elebash PhD Research Fellowship in Music (2004-2009)
City University of New York “Writing-Across-Curriculum” Fellow (2010-2011)
Berklee College of Music, WST Full-Tuition Scholarship (1994-2001)

Research Summary

Samuel Torjman Thomas is an ethnomusicologist who studies ways in which music, a powerful means of personal and cultural expression, contributes to negotiating communal identities, societal relations, memory, and artistic work. He has worked with numerous students at CUNY, in an advisorial role as well as in the classroom, to address contemporary issues in social justice education and interfaith, intercultural exchange.