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From the shtetls of Eastern Europe, through the emigration to America, from the jazz clubs of cities and the stages of Yiddish theater comes the music of the KLEZMER CONSERVATORY BAND. Klezmer music began in medieval Europe, where bands of itinerant Jewish musicians went from town to town playing for Jewish festivals and special events. By the 19th century, klezmer music had become a well-developed musical style, taking its inspiration not only from the synagogue, but from the non-Jewish culture that surrounded it. In America, immigrant Jewish musicians adapted this music to the new rhythms and instruments they found, creating new klezmer forms. Until the 1940s, klezmer orchestras flourished, but with the new styles of music, and the immigrant Jews’ desire to appear “American,” the klezmer tradition faded. Today, however, a klezmer revival is in full swing, with the Klezmer Conservatory Band playing a prominent role. Fueled by a desire to return to his roots, and the inherent appeal of the music, Hankus Netsky, the Band’s founder, discovered that both a grandfather and an uncle were in Philadelphia klezmer orchestras in the 1920s. In 1980, while he was an instructor at the New England Conservatory of Music, he formed the Band.
For over 20 years, the Band has performed concerts from coast to coast, and has the following recordings: Yiddishe Renaissance, Klez, and A Touch of Klez on the Vanguard label; Oy Chanukah, A Jumpin’ Night in the Garden of Eden, Old World Beat, Live! The Thirteenth Anniversary Album, Dancing in the Aisles, and the highly acclaimed Dance Me to the End of Love on Rounder Records. Their tenth album, A Taste of Paradise, was released in October. The band was featured in the 1988 documentary film, A Jumpin’ Night in the Garden of Eden, and was also featured in the film Enemies, A Love Story. The KCB filmed a children’s video for Rabbit Ears Productions entitled “The Fool and the Flying Ship,” with narration by Robin Williams and an original score composed by Hankus Netsky, which aired nationwide on Showtime Cable Network. The band was also featured in Joel Grey’s Yiddish music revue, “Borschtcapades ’94,” for which Hankus Netsky served as musical director and arranger. In April of 1990, the Klezmer Conservatory Band made its debut tour abroad, performing several concerts in Germany and giving a remarkable performance at the first-ever International Yiddish Festival in Krakow, Poland. The band now regularly tours Europe, and has also appeared at Australia’s Adelaide Festival, New Zealand’s International Festival of the Arts, and the Dranouter Folk Festival in Belgium.
The Band appeared in a PBS special with renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman called In the Fiddler’s House, filmed in Krakow, Poland and New York. The program traced the Klezmer roots of Perlman’s artistry and featured the soulful sounds of the KCB. A joint recording on EMI was released in the fall of 1995 (live version was released in the fall of 1996), and “In the Fiddler’s House” concerts were performed in major venues, including Wolftrap, Great Woods, Radio City Music Hall, the Ravinia Festival, the Saratoga Music Festival, the Hollywood Bowl, and the Mann Music Center (Philadelphia). In November of 1995, the band appeared on Minnesota Public Radio’s A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor. In December of 2002 the Klezmer Conservatory Band presented a concert of orchestral arrangements of klezmer and Yiddish vocal music with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
HANKUS NETSKY, a multi-instrumentalist and composer, is an instructor in jazz and contemporary improvisation at the New England Conservatory in Boston, where he has taught for 23 years (serving ten years as chairman of Jazz Studies). He is founder and director of the internationally renowned Yiddish music ensemble Klezmer Conservatory Band and serves as research director of the Klezmer Conservatory Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to research in and perpetuation of Yiddish music. Netsky has taught Yiddish Music at Hebrew College, New England Conservatory, and Wesleyan University, and lectured extensively on the subject in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. His film credits include The Fool and the Flying Ship, a Rabbit Ears children’s video narrated by Robin Williams, The Forward From Immigrants to Americans, and The Double Burden: Three Generations of Working Women. He adapted and composed the score to the musical Shlemiel the First (produced by the American Repertory Theater and American Music Theater Festival) and composed the incidental music for the NPR radio series, “Jewish Stories From Eastern Europe and Beyond” (produced by the National Yiddish Book Center). Other significant recent compositions include “The Trees Of The Dancing Goats,” for Rabbit Ears Radio (PRI) and his Suite for Mandolin and Strings, commissioned by the New Sinfonietta of Amsterdam. He also served as musical director and arranger for Joel Grey’s “Borshtcapades ’94,” collaborated with violinist Itzhak Perlman on “In The Fiddler’s House,” a klezmer music video, recording, and touring project, and was artistic director for “A Taste of Passover,” and “A Taste of Chanukah,” two PBS and PRI concert productions featuring Theodore Bikel, taped at New England Conservatory. He was a consultant, arranger, and featured performer on “To Life! America Celebrates Israel’s 50th,” broadcast internationally by CBS. He has produced numerous recordings including nine Klezmer Conservatory Band CDs. Hankus Netsky has received numerous awards for his work, including an Outstanding Alumni award and the 1998 Lawrence Lesser award for excellence in teaching from New England Conservatory. He holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from New England Conservatory in composition and is completing a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicol-ogy at Wesleyan University.
Cornetist SCOTT ARUDA is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music. He is a versatile musician who has worked with pop star James Taylor and blues singer Tony Lynn Washington.
In addition to performing with the Klezmer Conservatory Band, pianist ART BAILEY has been an active participant in the New England jazz scene for several years, performing in many jazz venues in the Boston area, including Ryle’s, The Willow, Zachary’s Piano Bar, Connolly’s Historic Jazz Bar, The Wonderbar, and the Acton Jazz Café. Bailey also performed in the 1994 International Association of Jazz Educators Conference and was a performer and clinician at the University of Maine, Farmington Summer Jazz Camp. He has performed throughout New England with many well-respected jazz musicians, including Dick Johnson, Mike Turk, John Wheatley, John Lockwood, Joe Hunt, Grover Mooney, Jim Porcella, Dick Whetmore, and Shawn Monteiro. Bailey has been the pianist and accordionist with the KCB, performing in concert venues all over the globe. With the Klezmer Conservatory Band, Art has also appeared on national TV and performed with violinist Itzhak Perlman.
In addition to playing flute and piccolo, FRANYA BERKMAN is a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology. She is currently completing her thesis dissertation on the life and music of Alice Coltrane.
Born and raised in Brooklyn and Queens, New York, JUDY BRESSLER is a third generation performer whose family includes such Yiddish theater luminaries as Menashe Skulnick and Lucy Gehrman. She is a founding and current member of the Boston-based Klezmer Conservatory Band. She is the featured vocalist heard on all of the band’s recordings. She is heard with Itzhak Perlman on his recordings, “In The Fiddler’s House” and “Live In The Fiddler’s House,” and in the Emmy award-winning PBS special by the same name. Bressler was featured with the KCB in both Joel Grey’s vaudeville review, “Borschtcapades ’94,” and in the documentary film, “A Jumpin’ Night In The Garden Of Eden.” Her voice has inspired choreographer Bill T. Jones to create new Boston Ballet repertoire. She has performed throughout the Northeast with a smaller ensemble in her own act, “Judy Bressler’s Klezmer Kabaret.” In addition, Bressler teaches and leads Yiddish song and dance, and also plays tambourine and a traditional style drum and cymbal called a ‘poyk.’ Singer, actress, comedienne Judy Bressler has performed extensively and internationally, acclaimed by audiences and critics alike.
For the past 30 years JIM GUTTMANN has performed in a range of venues from smoky dives to Carnegie Hall. He has worked in a variety of musical settings including blues, R&B, and ethnic music bands, cabaret, symphony orchestras, and jazz combos. He joined the Klezmer Conservatory Band at its inception, and as a member of the band has performed and recorded with Itzhak Perlman and Joel Grey. He is a founding member of the Really Eclectic String Quartet and has worked with performers such as Eartha Kitt, Mark Murphy, Johnny Shines, Matt Glaser, Russ Barenberg, and the Artie Shaw Band. He has performed with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and has played principal bass with the Harvard-Radcliff Orchestra and the Wellesley Symphony. In 1999 he premiered Gunther Schuller’s work for trumpet and contrabass, “Fantastical Colloquy.” Guttmann also served as the musical director and bassist of Tufts University Jazz Festival’s Soul to Soul: A Tribute to Aretha Franklin.
Guttmann began playing bass while completing his Master’s degree in Mass Communications at Emerson College. He has studied performance with Edwin Barker and Dave Holland, harmony with Richard Cornell, and techniques for improvisation with Charlie Banacos. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant to study the arco solo tradition in jazz bass playing.
Jim Guttmann serves as Managing Director of the Klezmer Conservatory Band and the President of the Klezmer Conservatory Foundation.
MARK HAMILTON has been a member of the Klezmer Conservatory Band since 1985. As the only trombone player “In the Fiddler’s House,” he appeared, with Itzhak Perlman, on The Late Show with David Letterman. A talented educator, Hamilton is on the jazz faculty at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan. He is the former Instrumental Music Director at Applewild School in central Massachusetts, where his bands consistently won top honors at the International Association of Jazz Educators festivals. Both an arranger and composer, he specializes in klezmer and jazz music for concert bands and other ensembles. He created HamilTunes in order to publish this music and make it available for school and adult bands. Mark is a busy freelancer (even though he plays the trombone) and has performed with Joe Williams, Victor Borge, Robin Williams, and Joel Grey, among others. A proud graduate of New England Conservatory and the University of Delaware, he is also a founding member of the ensembles Brass Planet and ¡Klezperanto!
Violinist YAEKO MIRANDA ELMALEH grew up in Cambridge, MA, and has played the violin since she was three. She was a finalist in the Boston Symphony Orchestra youth competition and first prize winner in the Arlington Philharmonic compeition. She graduated from New England Conservatory in 2002, having studied and performed in the Jewish Music Ensemble under the direction of Hankus Netsky. She currently performs and freelances in the Boston area.
Audio engineer DANA PARSONS mixes KCB’s stage monitors. In addition to working KCB, he has mixed monitors for B. B. King, Arturo Sandoval, and Taj Mahal.
Banjo, mandolin, and guitar player BRANDON SEABROOK is a
graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music. In addition
to his work with the Klezmer Conservatory Band he has worked in a wide range of idioms, including traditional blues with the Ron Levy Blues Band and his own modern jazz trio.
Percussionist and audio engineer/producer JOHN SERVIES, a Pensacola, Florida native, currently lives in Arlington, Massachusetts. He has been a music industry professional since 1974, working with both major and independent clients for local, national, and international productions. John is the sound designer for and tours regularly with the internationally acclaimed Klezmer Conservatory Band. He served as co-producer and recording engineer for the band’s latest album, A Taste of Paradise.
GRANT SMITH has studied drum set with Alan Dawson, Arabic drums with Jamie Haddad, tabla with Shashi Nayak, Afro-Cuban percussion with Enrique Pla, and Handance with Glen Velez. He has toured extensively, including Thailand, Australia, and Europe. He is also a part of many world music, jazz, classical, orthodox, deconstructed, and free projects. Theater and dance credits include the American Repertory Theater’s production of The King Stag, featuring a solo multi-percussion score (with staging and costumes by Julie Taymor), and movement works with Shakti Smith, Jane Wang, and Liz Roncka, as well as his own choreography known as hogginsho. Despite such high-profile gigs as timpani with Itzhak Perlman, borscht drums with Joel Grey, and tabla with the Violent Femmes, Grant still insists that his biggest gig was the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with Kermit the Frog and Big Bird. Fave color: green. Fave food: Jane’s cookies. Vegetarian.
ILENE STAHL has been the featured clarinet soloist with the Klezmer Conservatory Band since 1987, performing on their last four albums and on both of Itzhak Perlman’s klezmer music albums. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hampshire College, where she completed her Division Three Thesis, “Special Oy-fects, The Art of Klezmer Clarinet.” With the band she has toured extensively in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and throughout North America, performing at klezmer concerts and world music festivals as well as performances on national and international radio and television. Ilene was the solo clarinetist in the pit orchestra and on stage for the world premiere of the American Repertory Theatre production Shlemiel the First, which received rave reviews. Ilene lives and teaches clarinet in the Boston area.