May 18, 2022

MSM Spotlight:
Meet 2022 Commencement Student Speaker Shimon Gambourg (MM ’22)

Shimon Gambourg (MM ’22) is graduating with a Master’s in jazz composition and is this year’s Student Speaker at MSM’s Commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 19. He tells us about his time at MSM, graduation, and what’s next for him.

Each year, the MSM graduating class votes on a student to represent them at graduation. The Dean of Students and Director of Student Engagement interview the three students receiving the most nominations, and makes its selection with input from the MSM Student Government.


Shimon Gambourg is a bassist and composer from Israel, currently based in Brooklyn, New York. He’s the recipient of two ASCAP awards as well as several American-Israel Cultural Foundation scholarships, and has been profiled by the Jerusalem Post. Shimon moved to the U.S. in 2016 to study film scoring at Berklee College of Music on a full scholarship. His bass teachers included John Patitucci and James Genus, and he has performed with jazz luminaries including Billy Cobham, Mark Whitfield, and Israeli jazz giant Mordy Ferber.

Shimon studied for his Master’s degree in jazz composition at Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Mike Holober and Miguel Zenón.

Shimon Gambourg (MM '22) conducting the Jazz Big Band Student Composers Concert in Neidorff-Karpati Hall at MSM

How do you feel about being named this year’s Student Speaker at Commencement?

Shimon: More than just an incredible honor, I am trying to approach it as yet another opportunity to engage with an audience. As musicians, we tend to preoccupy ourselves with the “how” at the expense of the “why”. Music, being a very technical art, keeps us in the shed for a longer-than-comfortable share of our path upwards. Having this rare chance to try and resonate with as many people as possible, especially in a medium slightly removed from music, is a blessing for me.

What are your highlights from this past school year?

Shimon: As restrictions were gradually eased, I found myself involved in several large ensemble projects – a view almost entirely absent from my first year of graduate school. Certainly, the most rewarding experiences among those were writing for and conducting the MSM Jazz Orchestra for the Mingus centennial at Dizzy’s, as well as arranging some of Mary Lou Williams’ yet-unheard music. It is an ambitious project and it had to be shelved for a more appropriate time. It never hurts to recognize that some scores have to wait for a little while before they may bloom.

Shimon Gambourg (MM '22) at Dizzy's Club with Interim Dean of Jazz Arts Ingrid Jensen on trumpet

Tell us about your MSM journey over the past two years.

Shimon: There is one particular thing that’s shared by all 2022 graduates, I believe. That goes especially for those Master’s students who like myself had to start their degree under the auspices of one-person room limits and half-hour ventilation breaks. It feels, at times, as if that first year was merely a dream, or rather a prelude for the second year. I had only known half of my graduating classmates through Zoom until a few months ago: the music for my first-year jury was produced entirely at home, on a laptop. This gradual, yet still somewhat sudden in feel return to in-person music making has led to a heightened appetite for collaboration and a more profound sense of community. These are the things that I hope to preserve as I carry on, beyond MSM.

What is your favorite MSM memory?

Shimon: During the very first week of school in the fall of 2020, we all felt extremely lucky to be able to play in ensembles and other performance-based classes, while most institutions were still fully online. This is also part of the reason I chose MSM over other college programs in New York. I happened to run into a new classmate of mine right after my ensemble was done and hers was starting, and somehow she didn’t have a bass to play that night. I offered her mine, but she refused; luckily, she did agree to a date! Almost two years later, we’re living together and graduating from MSM together.

This gradual, yet still somewhat sudden return to in-person music making, has led to a heightened appetite for collaboration and a more profound sense of community. These are the things that I hope to preserve as I carry on, beyond MSM.

What’s next for you? Any exciting summer plans?

Shimon:  I’m very much looking forward to what’s out there. The professional world of a jazz composer is as fascinating as it is monotonous – you more or less live inside your notation software, and arranging work is all about the tiny details that you manage to hide under the surface of a tune. The only way out is to stay curious, engage with other types of music and the arts, and to stay true to your gift of invention, it will always come in handy when you’re looking for a particular turn of phrase but can’t find it right away. As for myself, I’ll be sure to keep on writing in earnest… and you should too!

WATCH! Shimon’s Commencement Speech

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