Up-and-Coming YouTube Star, Reviewer, and Music Producer
Jeremy Katz ’14YC (with a BA in music) is one busy music man.
He just added the upright bass, the shakuhachi (a Japanese flute) and the Xaphoon (known as the “pocket sax”) to his repertoire, bringing the number of instruments he can play to 16. His YouTube channel and website, www.jeremykatzmusic.com, feature Katz in full performance mode.
When he’s not teaching music and giving private lessons, he’s producing musical-cover videos where he plays all the instruments (20 so far – check out Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” and Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”). He also has eight review videos of musical gear and two corporate promotional videos (for a Shell Oil safety campaign and Campus Pursuit’s scavenger hunts).
He attributes his musical passions to his upbringing. “You could say music was in my genes from early on. I grew up in a home in Teaneck, New Jersey, where music was always a part of everything we did,” he said. “My paternal grandmother was a graduate of a prestigious music school and played six instruments, and my maternal grandfather was a chazzan [cantor].” High school was also formative for Katz. “My brothers and I formed a band and cut a few CDs, one of which sold well enough to hit #17 on the CD Baby Indy charts.”
Katz attended Yeshiva College “because I wanted to go to a school that had a large Jewish presence, and what better place than YU?” It also helped that his brother (Jordan Katz ’09SB) and cousin (David New ’08SB) also attended YU. He worked with Dr. Noyes Bartholomew, professor emeritus of music, to create the musical learning experiences he wanted, “but I loved all my classes at Yeshiva College,” he noted, “especially biblical archaeology.” He relished attending a Dead Sea scrolls exhibit and a behind-the-scenes tour of the Yeshiva University Museum, where the students were able to handle some of the artifacts. “Because of what I found at YU, I was able to graduate with my music degree and with an associate arts degree in Jewish studies, two areas I really love.”
His gear reviews have garnered a lot of positive notice from both followers and companies. For example, when he discovered the Xaphoon, an instrument made by American saxophone player Brian Wittman, he mastered it in a couple of months and then posted an extensive review of it on YouTube. Soon after, Wittman’s representatives contacted him for permission to post the review on the Xaphoon’s website.
“Of course, I was flattered and said yes,” Katz said. “It wasn’t until later that we both discovered that his web traffic for sales had increased dramatically due to my video.” Other instrument manufacturers have contacted him about doing gear reviews, which he intends to pursue when time allows.
His corporate videos have also brought him recognition. At a conference he was attending, he had the luck to talk to a Shell Oil representative about Shell’s campaign to reduce accidents, called “Goal Zero.” Katz suggested using a music video to do the training. He described how a combination of employees lip-syncing revised lyrics to the song “All About That Bass” (repurposed here as “All About That Goal”) and Katz’s dubbing in the music and voice-over to their lip-syncing would do the trick.
And it did. Though the video was done over a year ago, Shell still uses it as an introductory piece at their group meetings.
His most recent corporate effort was for Campus Pursuit, which does product promotions through scavenger hunts on college campuses. To recruit students, Campus Pursuit’s brand ambassadors wrote parody lyrics to One Direction’s “Perfect.” Using these lyrics, Katz performed and recorded a soundtrack for the new production, and gave the ambassadors instructions on how to record their own lip-sync videos. He then edited his audio with the ambassadors’ individual videos, and the resulting clip –featured on the Campus Pursuit website – is now an integral part of the company’s recruiting efforts for ambassadors at new campuses.
His plan for the next three to five years is pretty straightforward: “I want to grow my channel. I would love to get more subscribers. I would also love to collaborate with some other YouTubers.” He also wants to expand “the corporate video side of my business to help companies achieve their internal company goals or marketing and to help human resources departments with employee team-building.”
Yet with all of this activity, he hasn’t forgotten where he has come from. One of the important grounding principles he took from YU was that “I have a greater sense of community.” He presently runs a youth group at his shul, and recently joined an organization called the Community Security Service, a volunteer security service for shuls and Jewish events. “There is always a bigger picture in life that each individual searches for,” he said, “and YU helped me find mine.”