Alicia Jo Rabins is a writer, musician and performer based in Portland, Oregon. In interdisciplinary work that fuses poetry, music composition and performance, Alicia uses words, violin and electronics to uncover beauty, vulnerability, and the intersection of spirituality and everyday life.
A classically trained violinist since the age of three, Alicia's original piece “A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff,” a chamber rock opera about the spiritual implications of the financial collapse, premiered at Joe's Pub in New York City, toured to DC, Berkeley and Portland Oregon, where it was named one of 2015's best theatre pieces by Portland's Willamette Week.
Rabins' poetry book, Divinity School, was selected by C.D. Wright for the 2015 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize. Her poems appear in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Ploughshares, 6x6, Court Green, anthologies from NYU Press and Knopf, and a chapbook from Artscape Press (selected by Mary Oliver). She is the recipient of the 2013 Matt Clark Poetry Prize and the 2012 Sarah Verdone Writing Award from Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.
Alicia is the songwriter and bandleader of Girls in Trouble, an art-pop song cycle about the complicated lives of women in Torah, which tours internationally, has released two albums, and garnered critical praise from Huffington Post, the New Yorker, and LA Weekly. Girls in Trouble was awarded a 2014 RACC Grant from to partially fund recording of their third album. More about Girls in Trouble below.
For eight years Alicia was the fiddle player in pioneering klezmer-punk band Golem, and she has received grants and scholarships from Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Bread Loaf Writers Conference, the Six Points Fellowship, and the LABA Fellowship at the 14th St Y. She has also served as a cultural ambassador for the US State Department, performing American fiddle music in Central America and Kuwait.
More about Girls in Trouble:
Exploring themes of desire, betrayal, invisibility, and hope, Girls in Trouble is an original art-pop song cycle from composer, poet and Torah scholar Alicia Jo Rabins. Each song interweaves musical influences ranging from Appalachian ballads to orchestral indie rock, invoking the spirit of Leonard Cohen and Joanna Newsom, bringing to life Biblical women including Lilith, Yael, Yiftach's daughter, and Eve.
Thematically, Girls in Trouble focuses on the darker moments in the women's stories--because, Rabins explains, "rather than portraying a perfect world, and making us feel bad about our lives, these stories reflect the complexity, challenges, and sometimes heartbreak we all encounter."
The songs reflect Rabins' wide-ranging musical and poetic education: Suzuki violin studies begun at age three in Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory; avant-garde composition lessons in high school, as well as playing rock violin in local bands; and extensive study of Appalachian and klezmer fiddle traditions. The album's classical string arrangements, written and performed by Rabins, are alternately buoyed by rock drums and acoustic folk guitar; above the music soar powerful lyrics (Rabins holds a MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson.)
Originally begun as Rabins' thesis for a Masters in Jewish Womens' Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, the project took on a life of its own and was signed to Jdub Records shortly after her graduation. Their 2009 self-titled debut album was called "one of the year's best" by Largeheartedboy.com; the New York Times praised Rabins' "gorgeous voice," and NBC.com lauded the band's "melodic, spare gorgeousness." They have been featured on CBC Radio and the BBC.
Rabins continues her work as a Jewish educator with hybrid performance-teaching sessions about the process of midrash, and the often-overlooked stories of Biblical women. In 2014 she was awarded a prestigious Covenant Grant to create The Complicated Lives of Biblical Women, a curriculum about women in Torah through Girls in Trouble songs and other artistic representations.