After a prep school and college education preparing for life as a playwright/screenwriter, composer, and director in the “do-it-all” style of Charlie Chaplin – including attaining fluency in five languages and scholar’s use of seven more – Bruce Cohen experienced a clergy calling which moved him into religion-affiliated work.
Before moving into that new vector, he pioneered the first “theater of the deaf” production in his college’s region as his undergraduate thesis. Cohen wrote, composed, recruited, cast, produced, and directed a several week workshop and main-stage theater of the deaf production with deaf actors from the local community and mixed college faculty and student crew. His thesis was given honors, the college awarded him a special grant for the work, and the effort garnered coverage in the press. Cohen served in the non-religious sphere as a Definitions Editor and Author for Houghton-Mifflin’s American Heritage Dictionary, one of the world’s foremost dictionaries of the English language.
Once having moved into the religious work arena, he moved progressively through elementary and secondary private religious education and administration (attaining State certification for secondary and elementary levels), non-profit organizational fund-raising and administration, theological study, leadership, and institution-building (leading to ordination into the highest levels of clergy standing); authorship and editorship in periodicals and scholarly journals, and global travel as a delegated envoy or invited speaker/teacher, and serving as senior clergy in an ongoing faith-community in the heart of Manhattan’s Upper East Side in New York City.
Bruce Cohen’s writings and presence as a notable theology influence have been graced with inclusion in Harvard’s Andover Theological Library, Princeton Theological Seminary’s Library, and influential publication worldwide. His contributions and position have been cited by renowned scholars and leaders, in doctoral thesis dedications, and many other arenas. His digest of Middle Eastern theology has reached and been requested or recommended by the President or Prime Minister of no less than three of the Western world’s national governments. He served as the official envoy to North America and to four foreign nations on behalf of his American religious community’s official national alliance; and he served by invitation in the year 2000 as the Keynote Speaker at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, for the “MJASA National Millennium” Conference.”
Simultaneously living a parallel career within the religious creative arts world in music and theater, Bruce Cohen has come to be among the acknowledged “front-line” formative composers, recording artist/producers, performing instrumentalists and conductors in a nascent 20th century religious music genre now established all across the world. His music is performed and recorded/covered in many countries and languages, and has sold countless thousands of albums/downloads – and has even been used as a TV series theme song. Cohen has remarked:
Among the most amazing experiences in my life have been times I have entered auditoriums from Russia to Los Angeles, Jerusalem to Johannesburg, to find large crowds of people I have never met, singing my songs by heart during concerts, conferences, or services. I was amazed to arrive at a regional conference in the Midwest to find the entire conference was organized around one of my songs entitled, ‘You Are My Rest.’ Such opportunities to inspire are the stuff of which musicians dream, and for which they persist in their labors of love.
Cohen’s theater vocation also found expression as he was invited to direct (and at times, also design) various stage plays & productions, musical concerts and festivals, television and stage-for-video work: from Broadway’s Marriott Marquis to Moscow’s Olympic Stadium; from fully staged musicals and plays to instructional television shows and videos.
Noted singer-songwriter Marty Goetz described in 1996 seeing Bruce Cohen in action, directing an international multi-lingual music festival in Moscow Olympic Stadium:
This is the essence of Bruce Cohen! In a single moment, he was directing the show, a song he wrote and arranged was being performed onstage, and his piano-playing was in accompaniment in band-tracks from a studio record-album he had produced!
Cohen continues all the above kinds of work while serving locally as senior clergy and music director in an Upper East Side Manhattan congregation. Monograph writing, musical engraving of legacy pieces and new pieces – and also returning to devotion of some time toward non-religious projects in music, theater, and film – all are part of his current and ongoing work.