Ask a person what their first language was and they may tell you English. Or Yiddish. Or any one of dozens of other languages. But ask Mendy Hershkowitz his first language and the answer will be quite different: Music.
Growing up in Kiryas Joel, Mendy’s inborn love for music was evident even before his first birthday, when instead of cars, trucks or blocks, he could be found playing with a tape recorder. Mendy was drumming by age five and his talents were so readily apparent by the time he hit his teenage years that several people approached his parents and advised them to start Mendy on keyboard lessons. Begging a friend to teach him to read music at age fourteen, Mendy found himself hooked as new musical vistas began to unfold for him and he also began writing original compositions.
With music an integral part of any Jewish upbringing, Mendy often found himself immersed in music and would wake up long before dawn in order to be able to fit in practice time on the keyboard before heading off to yeshiva for the day.
“I don’t know what drove me,” said Mendy. “It was just something I had to do.”
Mendy joined forces with drummer Avrumi Schreiber and the two began playing together as a team in 2006, officially incorporating Freilach Band in 2008. More than just showing up to play at simchas and other events, the two shared a common vision for their music, taking their talents seriously and giving 110 percent at every performance. Their reputation as a band that was a cut above caught the attention of Lipa Schmeltzer and they began touring together, with Mendy both playing keyboard and writing musical arrangements.
The exposure that Freilach received with Lipa served as a springboard for Freilach’s rise to fame and the group used their innate talents to prove themselves in a very crowded musical field, winning the respect of Jewish music lovers with every note they played.
“We took our music seriously, almost religiously,” recalled Mendy. “We weren’t focused on making it big; there was just an incredible excitement about not just doing music, but about doing music right.”
That same passion for excellence drives Mendy in every aspect of his life. His quest for personal growth is a crucial component of his personality and his analytic abilities have contributed to his success both in music and in other aspects of his life.
“I love learning,” said Mendy, who is also involved in both business and real estate. “I can’t go to sleep until I know something I didn’t know yesterday.”
Having traveled the world with Freilach, Mendy has had the privilege of interacting with literally every big name in the Jewish music scene and over time he has been privileged to wear many hats, playing the keyboard, writing, producing and arranging music for the brightest talents in the industry. Yossi Green has publicly stated that he arranges his family weddings around Freilach’s availability and Mendy serves as Mordechai Ben David’s musical director for live shows. He also works closely with Benny Friedman, Avraham Fried and many others.
In addition to being able to recognize patterns in both music and business, Mendy discovered yet one more common thread that runs throughout his life: a divine presence that has guided him on every step he has taken.
“I have always felt that G-d is trying to show me something and everywhere I go I ask myself ‘what is the One Above trying to teach me here?’” said Mendy. “That has been the driving force behind everything I do. I believe that everything happens for a reason and whether it is a wedding in Mexico or a weekend in another far off location, I never believe that I ended up in a particular place by chance.”
Always eager to embrace another challenge, Mendy sold Freilach in 2014, staying on through June 2016 as musical director, while also focusing more heavily on full scale, live production and freelance musical direction. Taking those efforts one step further, Mendy has embarked on yet another exciting chapter of his career, using his creativity and analytical abilities to create an artist management firm together with Chesky Breuer, a well known name in the Shira Choir. Their joint endeavor, Sonic Duo, offers a full range of services including production, marketing, branding and business management to a wide array of talented individuals at an unprecedented level, and leverages their enormous wealth of contacts in the music business to benefit their clients.
“We have access to just about everyone in the Jewish music business and we look forward to making those connecting for our artists,” explained Mendy. “Every day brings with it another opportunity to learn new things and having been given so much in my career, I look forward to being able to give back to others and to helping our clients realize their fullest potential.”