Staff Bios

MAYRENT INSTITUTE STAFF

Henry “Hank” Sapoznik, Executive Director

Henry is an award winning author, radio and record producer and performer of traditional Yiddish and American music. He co-produced the 10 part series the “Yiddish Radio Project” for National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” in the spring of 2002 which won the prestigious Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism the same year he was nominated for an Emmy for his music score to the biographical film The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg.

A pioneering scholar and performer of klezmer music, he founded “KlezKamp: The Yiddish Folk Arts Program” in 1985, and is the Executive Director of “Living Traditions” the folk arts organization which runs it. His book, Klezmer! Jewish Music from Old World to Our World won the 2000 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for Excellence in Music Scholarship and has just released in a new paperback edition.

He is a five-time Grammy nominee, including his 2005 production of “You Ain’t Talkin’ To Me: Charlie Poole and the Roots of American Country Music” for Sony Columbia/Legacy and again in 2008 for his co-production of the 3 CD anthology “People Take Warning! Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs 1913-1938” and 2009’s “Ernest V. Stoneman: The Unsung Father of Country Music 1925-1934.”

In addition to his work with Yiddish culture, he is Vice President of Piedmont Folk Legacies the organization which runs the annual Charlie Poole Music Festival and the forthcoming National Banjo Museum and Center in Eden, North Carolina.

Scott A. Carter, Assistant Director

Scott Carter received the Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the M.A. in Jazz History and Research from Rutgers University-Newark, NJ. His interest in Yiddish music and culture stems from his academic scholarship, which focuses on U.S. popular and vernacular music of the early-twentieth century.  Winner of the 2013 Irving Lowens Article Award from the Society for American Music, his work has been published in the American Music Research Center Journal, the Encyclopedia of African American Music, and Jazz.com.

 

A Biselle KlezKamp Faculty

Kurt Bjorling, noted primarily as a clarinetist, plays several instruments and makes some of them. He is the director of the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble and has performed and recorded with Brave Old World, The Klezmatics, Itzhak Perlman’s In the Fiddler’s House, and he has composed klezmer-based works for chamber orchestra and soloists, most recently for the Amsterdam Sinfonietta. Kurt has taught klezmer music style and technique at numerous festivals and workshops worldwide and he particularly likes a good cup of tea.

Jill Gellerman is a veteran staff member of winter KlezKamp, the Yiddish Folk Arts Program in New York. She has danced, written about dance, and taught dance widely, from Western Illinois University to Yiddish Summer Weimar. As a dance ethnographer, her work is situated at the intersections of Jewish studies, gender studies, and performance studies, including folk and popular culture, music, and dance history.

Joshua Horowitz received his master’s degree in Composition and Music Theory from the Academy of Music in Graz, Austria, where he taught Music Theory and served as Research Fellow and Director of the Yiddish Music Research Project for nine years. He is the founder and director of the ensemble Budowitz, a founding member of Veretski Pass, and has performed and recorded with Itzhak Perlman, The Vienna Chamber Orchestra, Theodore Bikel, and Adrienne Cooper. His recordings have achieved international recognition and he is the recipient of more than 40 awards for his work as both composer and performer.

Miriam Isaacs specializes in Yiddish language, literature and culture. She is presently continuing her research on Jewish sociolinguistics in the context of Yiddish song, looking specifically at the topic of survivors and singing as a means of emotional and spiritual survival after WWII and its aftermath. She has recently completed the Life Reborn Fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and has been awarded a Fulbright grant to Lund University in Sweden for the fall of 2014. In the past she has explored the uses of Yiddish language among contemporary Hasidim. Dr. Isaacs retired from teaching Yiddish Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park after many years.

A familiar presence at KlezKamp since 1986, Susan Leviton brings her depth of knowledge, engaging teaching style, and infectious enthusiasm to all things Yiddish. She is an accomplished singer, recording artist, and calligraphic artist who travels as a performing artist-in-residence, sharing Yiddish culture and contemporary Jewish arts. Susan works her magic on commissioned artworks that range from greeting cards and ketubot to large scale wall art for synagogues, JCCs, and independent living centers. Whether in song or visual arts, her work is rooted in tradition and reaches forward to stretch the imagination.

Sherry Mayrent came to her first KlezKamp in 1987, an accomplished clarinetist in styles other than klezmer. Within a few years, she transitioned from student to apprentice to Staff in 1995, and in 2001, she became the Associate Director of Living Traditions and KlezKamp. Her KlezKamp experience led to her becoming the clarinetist and musical director of the Wholesale Klezmer band, the Western Massachusetts ensemble she joined in 1990. She recently left that group to concentrate her energies on the Living Traditions Online Sound Archive, of which she is co-director. She is also a record producer and a prolific composer of traditional klezmer tunes, and has published several books of klezmer charts, as well as creating a volume of traditional klezmer styles for PG Music’s auto-accompaniment program, “Band in a Box.” Her passion for traditional Yiddish culture is equaled only by her passion for traditional Hawaiian culture.

Cookie Segelstein is founder and fiddler of the trio Veretski Pass with her husband Joshua Horowitz and Stu Brotman. With a master’s degree from the Yale School of Music, Cookie played with the New Haven Symphony as Assistant Principal Viola and Orchestra New England as Principal Viola for 30 years before moving to Berkeley, CA in 2010. After familiarizing herself with the local dialect and customs, she continues her private teaching, her Apple support business and generally plays any kind of music she can to make some cash.

Author of Born to Kvetch and Just Say Nu, an overnight sensation at 52, Michael Wex has been teaching at KlezKamp longer than anyone cares to remember. Novelist, playwright, lecturer, performer, and authority on language and literature, Wex has been called “a Yiddish National Treasure” and “the finest translator around.”

Shifra Whiteman is an educator, artist, and designer who currently calls Chicago home. She was raised in the Yiddish and Klezmer worlds. Shifra uses her upbringing in social justice and Yiddishkayt and applies it to her artistic and design work by working with Fair Trade organizations and companies. Shifra loves working with children and leading workshops in language and Jewish papercut arts, both inspired by her wonderful parents.

 

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