Klezmer Ensemble

Under the direction of Director of Music Performance and acclaimed clarinetist and ethnomusicologist Joel Rubin, the UVA Klezmer Ensemble is made up of both undergraduate and graduate students from across grounds, faculty, alumni and other members of the greater Central Virginia community, and is dedicated to exploring klezmer and other Jewish and eastern European musical traditions from the 18th to the 21st century. The ensemble is committed to ethnic, racial, cultural and religious diversity. Current and recent members have backgrounds from the US, FSU, China, Israel, Lebanon, Armenia, Iran, Ukraine, and India, with religious backgrounds ranging from Jewish to Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim. 

Now in its tenth year, the UVA Klezmer Ensemble has become a vital part of the musical community of Central/Northern Virginia. Besides performing in Old Cabell Hall, appearances have included: at the the Jewish Studies conference “Jewish Renaissance and Renaissances,” Southern Slavic Studies Conference, and the 1st Virginia World Music Festival at UVA; College of William & Mary (conference of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology); University of Richmond (Global Sounds Festival; conference of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology); The Haven Charlottesville (TomTom Founders Festival); Gravity Lounge; 214 Community Arts Center (former Prism Coffeehouse); WeArts Festival (McGuffey Arts Center); New Bridges (Harrisonburg); Congregation Beth Israel Charlottesville (Linden Lecture Series music festival; China Earthquake Benefit); Chabad of UVA; the Piedmont Council for the Arts’ annual Spring for the Arts; Discovery Museum (CitySpace, Charlottesville) as part of traveling Smithsonian exhibit, “New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music New Harmonies;” the Charlottesville Festival of Cultures; the Jewish Community Council (Lynchburg); as well as at numerous private celebrations.

Klezmer was brought to North America by immigrants around the turn of the last century. Since the 1970s, a dynamic revival of this tradition has been taking place in America and beyond. Klezmer’s recent popularity has brought it far from its roots in medieval minstrelsy and Jewish ritual and into the sphere of mainstream culture. The Klezmer Ensemble at UVA performs at the end of each semester, often supplemented by performances at community events.

Each year the ensemble is coached by and plays together with renowned guest artists. Guests have included: Lorin Sklamberg (The Klezmatics), Sasha Lurje and Ilya Shneyveys (Forshpil), Indie-folk singer songwriter Daniel Kahn and violinist Jake Shulman-Ment (The Painted Bird, the Brothers Nazareff), mandolinist and clarinetist Andy Statman, Alan Bern (The Other Europeans, Semer Label Reloaded, Brave Old World); Joshua Horowitz and Cookie Segelstein (Veretski Pass, Budowitz, Rubin & Horowitz); Frank London (Klezmatics); klezmer hip-hop artist Socalled (Abraham, Inc., Beyond the Pale, David Krakauer’s Klezmer Madness!); innovative composer-clarinetist Michael Winograd (Yiddish Princess, Socalled, Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars, Daniel Kahn’s Painted Bird, Shtreiml, Ayelet Rose Gottlieb); violinist-composer Steve Greenman (Khevrisa, Stempenyu’s Dream, Joel Rubin Ensemble); Alicia Svigals, co-founder of the Grammy-winning Klezmatics, trumpeter Susan Watts (Mikveh, Klez Dispensers, Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars); trombonist Dan Blacksberg (Dan Kahn’s Painted Bird, The Other Europeans, Michael Winograd Ensemble, Electric Simcha); the Kálmán Balogh/Ferenc Kovács Duo from Hungary (Other Europeans, Joel Rubin Ensemble); violinist David Chernyavsky (SF Symphony, Joel Rubin Ensemble); and tsimbl (hammered dulcimer) player Pete Rushefsky (Alicia Svigals, Steven Greenman, Joel Rubin Ensemble).


Admission by instructor permission. Audition is the first day of class in Spring, Wednesday, January 17, 7:30-9:30pm, in 113 Old Cabell, or by appointment.

This music was passed on orally from generation to generation, and many of the ornaments which are so integral to the klezmer sound can only be approximated by Western staff notation – not to mention the patterns of improvised variation which are the cornerstone of the style. There will therefore be an emphasis on learning by ear as much as possible. Sheet music with basic melodies and harmonies for each piece will be provided.

The following instruments are sought: violin, viola, cello, bass, clarinet, flute, saxophone (tenor, alto), trumpet, trombone, tuba (and other low brass), percussion (drum set, xylophone), piano, and accordion, although others will also be considered.

No previous knowledge of klezmer music is required! Instrumentalists of intermediate to advanced level should consider trying this ensemble. Restricted to instructor permission by audition.

Please contact Joel Rubin with any questions: joelerubin@virginia.edu.

Article about a recent Klezmer event:



McIntire Department of Music
112 Old Cabell Hall
P.O. Box 400176 Charlottesville, VA 22904-4176

Email: music@virginia.edu