Arrivals: From Madison, Wisconsin, to Jerusalem

Nothing succeeds like success. Bradley Fish, a musician of considerable fame back in Madison, Wisconsin, calls it luck.

Bradley Fish 88 298 (photo credit: Yocheved Miriam Russo)
Bradley Fish 88 298
(photo credit: Yocheved Miriam Russo)
Bradley Fish, 36 - From Madison, Wisconsin, to Jerusalem Nothing succeeds like success. Bradley Fish, a musician of considerable fame back in Madison, Wisconsin, calls it luck. And in the 18 months the rocker has been in Israel, he is doing it again. And to think at least some of it came about just because he wanted to meet a few girls. "I was brand new in Tel Aviv," he says. "I've always been a performer, either in bands or solo. So I decided performing was a quick way to meet people. I joined up with a couple of Israelis I'd just met, and we decided to play some gigs at Mike's Place - really, my main reason was to meet girls. "But we were really lucky - we thought there'd just be a regular bar crowd, but before long, it was standing room only, and all kinds of famous producers were showing up. We ended up playing with some major Israeli stars - Rami Kleinstein, Yehuda Poliker. It was a heady experience - especially since I was so new." FAMILY BACKGROUND "My family is three-quarters Litvak and one quarter German," he says. "They were all in the US by the early 1900s. I was born in Bethesda, Maryland, but when I was three we moved to the Midwest. I grew up in Chicago, got my BA from DeKalb majoring in Jazz Guitar, emphasis on World Music. "My parents aren't especially musical - my father is an electrical engineer, my mother a social worker. My Dad taught me the basic notes. I really wasn't into music at all until my bar mitzva when I got a synthesizer. After that, you couldn't stop me. I started taking every kind of music lesson. I've been in a zillion bands - rock, blues, folk, metal and of course jazz and classical. I was the token Jewish white guy with an African band for awhile - I had dreadlocks, we played Reggae. "I toured with several bands, so I've done my share of traveling. It was when I was doing my fifth gig at the University of North Dakota that I finally stopped and asked myself, 'What on earth am I doing?' I refocused, started to do more teaching, and began to make other plans." BEFORE ALIYA "Why did I make aliya? About half of it was for traditional reasons - I'm a Zionist. I'm proud of our country, plus I love the weather, the people and the land. But the other half is that I want to marry a Jewish girl - and that not easy when you're in Wisconsin. Fish began with the "Artist in Residence" program of the World Union of Jewish Students. "I spent 6 months at WUJS, and loved it, in spite of the intifada. At the end, I decided to go back to the States, work and save money, and then return for good. It took me about 15 months. I applied to Nefesh B'Nefesh, and they helped considerably." Still, he says the decision wasn't easy. "I had a thriving business in Madison," Fish says. "I had a huge house, enormous studio, a lot of talented students and all the work I could handle. I have my own recording studio, so I write and produce my own music, but I also do backup work for others, like songwriters who have lyrics but no music. I was working for Sony, too, looping for some of their music product. I had a good life in Madison, so leaving was a big jump. "The last three weeks I spent in a hotel, near my mother who had been diagnosed with leukemia and was in Barnes Medical Center. She's totally recovered - no trace of the disease, thank God. But those weeks were really intense - I was also finishing a big project for Sony." UPON ARRIVAL "I had a job waiting in Tel Aviv, with a musical hi-tech company that's doing interesting things. That was lucky. They're easily comparable to anything happening in LA or New York. The downside was I was working as soon as I arrived, putting in a lot of hours just sitting in my apartment, working. I needed a break. Part of the reason I made aliya was to find a social group, and by working so much, I was still alone. So first I cut down on my work hours, then I decided I'd rather live in Jerusalem. "Tel Aviv was great - we had a great band, it was good. But I just fell in love with Jerusalem. Hey, I'm a Wisconsin kid - I like cool, and Tel Aviv was too warm. I still work for my Tel Aviv company - they've been great. We just have a different contractual arrangement now. LIVING ENVIRONMENT "I saw an ad on-line - it said penthouse. I was wondering what that could be, in downtown Jerusalem." It turned out to be the top two floors in a newly-constructed building. Sunflower-yellow outside and situated just a few steps away from the Mahane Yehuda shuk, the location is perfect for a guy who likes to cook. "The two balconies make the place," Fish says. The top floor balcony features an exotic pyramid door that could grace the pages of Architectural Digest. Musical instruments are everywhere, on stands, in every corner, in all rooms, one of which is a soundproofed recording studio. ROUTINE "I teach a lot of students, many are Americans studying at a yeshiva. But I have several little Israeli kids, too. I've got one student I teach both guitar and English - he's probably the only kid in Jerusalem who begs for more English lessons. I work with serious musicians, too, providing recording or backup music. One of my clients is a lady who's working on a great kid's album. And of course I write and record my own music, too, so I'm busy all day. CIRCLE "My circle of friends is expanding - I've only been in Jerusalem for a few months, so I'm still getting acquainted here. But now I have a girlfriend - that helps." FINANCES "I've been lucky - I had a job waiting for me when I arrived. And I'm still working for Sony, just like in the States. Now, I'm starting to get some of my Wisconsin clients back, too - after all, if you need someone who plays a Chinese Zither or a dulcimer, you don't have a lot of options. The Internet makes it easy - or sometimes we just mail disks back and forth. It's not hard." IDENTIFICATION "I'm one of those crazy Americans who decided to live in Israel. I love it here. It was a great life change for me." LANGUAGE "I had 10 hours of ulpan - but they were a good 10 hours. Ulpan just didn't work for me. But I'm using all sorts of other ways to learn the language. I'm an auditory guy, so I like using disks, listening to the language and repeating it back. Of course, it's a little limiting - how often do you really need to say, "I want to sit in the no smoking section? But it's okay, I can get by." FAITH "I grew up in a non-religious household, although after I left, my parents started to become more religious. I'm Jewish, and I'm slowly moving in the direction of observance." PLANS "I'm working on my own album - what style? Rock. I'll play all the instruments. I want to teach more, I want to do more producing. I'm doing some shows, and I'm on my third CD for Sony. It's all coming together." To propose an immigrant for an 'Arrivals' profile, please send a brief e-mail to: