Cantor Rollin Simmons joined the Emanu El clergy team in 2017. Cantor Simmons grew up in Milton, Massachusetts, and attended Temple Israel of Boston. She graduated cum laude in 2001 from Vassar College in New York with a major in Art History and a minor in Italian. She then earned an M.Ed in Special Education from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. From 2001-2005, she sang with the Zamir Chorale of Boston, performing locally and internationally, as well as a cantorial soloist serving congregations in the Boston area when she decided to pursue cantorial school.
During her five years studying at The Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, Cantor Simmons served as Student Cantor at Temple Emanu-El of Dallas alongside Rabbi Oren Hayon and Cantor Richard Cohn; Hebrew Tabernacle in Washington Heights in New York City; and The Community Synagogue in Port Washington. Cantor Simmons served as a Hospital and Hospice chaplain intern at Evergreen Healthcare near Seattle, and as the cantorial intern at Temple Israel Boston. During the first year of cantorial school in Jerusalem, Cantor Simmons met rabbinical student, David Segal; and they were married in 2009.
After being ordained in 2010, Cantor Simmons and Rabbi Segal moved to Aspen, Colorado, where they served as co-clergy for seven years at the Aspen Jewish Congregation. Cantor Simmons also served as director of the Aspen Jewish Congregation’s Religious School from 2013-2017, which occupied multiple locations across the Roaring Fork Valley. During her time in Aspen, Cantor Simmons produced, directed and performed in six summer concerts, which served as the main yearly fundraiser for the congregation. These concerts were a highlight of her time in the mountains, and included a concert team of some of the most talented Jewish musicians in the country.
In 2013, Cantor Simmons was featured as a soloist on Noah Aronson’s album The Left Side of the Page. In 2014, she was the featured soloist in the Aspen Choral Society’s performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. In 2016, Cantor Simmons and her Aspen concert team were invited to open for Itzhak Perlman in Denver, CO. Here in Houston, Cantor Simmons has led programming for the Rothko Chapel, Jewish Family Services, and consulted on musical projects for ReelAbilities. In the spring of 2021, Cantor Simmons was a featured panelist for Religare: Music, a series hosted by Houston Grand Opera and the Institute for Spirituality and Health.
At Emanu El, her roles include music director, worship leader, teacher, pastor, life cycle officiant, youth choir director, concert producer, and conversion mentor. She is grateful to work with an inspiring clergy team and staff to enrich the lives of the Jewish community and beyond.
In her free time, she enjoys art projects with her kids Levi and Bea, eating delicious treats baked by her husband, Rabbi David Segal, and walks with their dog, Olive.