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Dr. Bob Rosenberg
Dr. Bob Rosenberg, a retired optometrist and professor of behavioral science, has turned his long time love of Al Jolson into a second career in the Philadelphia area.

How did this tall, slim, dark-haired man begin his most beloved avocation? It started with a Victrola in his parent's home. At a very young age, he listened to the only record in the household, which was Jolson singing. Later on, at a summer camp, located in Oxford, Pa., he participated in a staff show. The owner's wife played Jolson songs on the piano, and he sang along. "What a hit that was!" Rosenberg remembered. About 400 people attended. This marked his first public appearance. Many years later, at another summer camp, he met his future wife, Geri. They married in 1961 and have two sons Larry, a 35-year-old lawyer, who lives in Washington, D.C. with his physician wife, Debra; and Ron, a digital film editor in Los Angeles, California.

The next step in Rosenberg's Jolson career occurred in the early 1990s when he met Ilene Arno, who featured Jolson tunes on the piano. After listening to her playing, Rosenberg approached her and said, "Your music sounds as if it were in my key." She acquiesced, and told him that she had accompanied her father, Aaron Palat, a showman, who sang Al Jolson songs with arrangements based on the Decca releases. After meeting Arno, the duo appeared together at many venues in the area, particularly apartments and residences for senior citizens.

Rosenberg describes his singing technique to achieve the Jolson sound by noting that his lips form a vertical oval. This leads to round pear-shaped tones. "If I'm doing a high note," Rosenberg continued, "I switch automatically, almost by instinct, to an extremely open-throated stance, singing more from the top of my head through the sinuses." Another "secret" is the singing of low notes, such as in the "Anniversary Song," which is extremely open-throated with the larynx low. This results in a deep, rich baritone.

With the assistance of his wife as producer and musical director, Dr. Rosenberg continues to entertain groups in the Philadelphia area, all the while singing the songs he loves to sing.

Watch this video clip of Dr. Bob Rosenberg performing the Jolson classic "My Mammy"

Thanks to Helen Appell Oxman for this story and photo of Dr. Rosenberg

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This listing and material Copyright © 2003 Marc I. Leavey, M.D. Baltimore, Maryland
Updated 28 Sep 03