Klezmer Ensemble

The Klezmer Ensemble is not being taught in Fall 2021.

Under the direction of Director of Music Performance and acclaimed clarinetist and ethnomusicologist Joel Rubin, the UVA Klezmer Ensemble has been 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, Armenia, Bangladesh, Croatia, India, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, People’s Republic of China, Russia, South Korea, and Ukraine, with religious backgrounds ranging from Jewish to Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim. 

Now in its fifteenth 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, bringing the music far from its roots in Eastern Europe 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. Our Spring 2021 guests will be the acclaimed duo of Svetlana Kundish (voice) and Patrick Farrel (accordion and compositions) from Berlin, Germany (https://www.pattysounds.com/sveta-kundish--patrick-farrell.html).  Other guests have included: trumpeter-composer and multidisciplinary artist Paul Brody (Sadawi, The Other Europeans, Semer Ensemble, The Painted Bird); the Strauss/Warschauer Duo from Brooklyn, NY; Lorin Sklamberg (The Klezmatics, Sklamberg and the Shepherds); Sasha Lurje (Lebedik!, Forshpil, Semer Ensemble, You Shouldn’t Know From It, Sasha Lurje and Litvakus) and Ilya Shneyveys (Forshpil, Dobranotch, Alpen Klezmer); Indie-folk singer songwriter Daniel Kahn (The Painted Bird, the Brothers Nazareff, and violinist Jake Shulman-Ment (Midwood, The Painted Bird, the Brothers Nazareff); mandolinist and clarinetist Andy Statman; accordionist and composer Alan Bern (The Other Europeans, Semer Ensemble, Brave Old World, Rubin-Bern Duo); Veretski Pass (Cookie Segelstein and Joshua Horowitz); Frank London (Klezmatics, Klezmer Brass All-Stars); klezmer hip-hop artist Socalled (Abraham, Inc., David Krakauer’s Klezmer Madness!); innovative composer-clarinetist Michael Winograd (Sandaraa, Tarras Band, Yiddish Princess, Socalled, Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars); violinist-composer Steve Greenman (Khevrisa, Stempenyu’s Dream, Joel Rubin Ensemble, R2G); Alicia Svigals (ex-Klezmatics), trumpeter Susan Watts (Mikveh, Klez Dispensers); trombonist Dan Blacksberg (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 (Di Tsvey, R2G, Joel Rubin Ensemble).


Admission is by instructor permission. Due to Covid-19, auditions for Fall 2020 will be held online. Please submit an audio or video recording of up to 5 minutes in length (any style that you feel represents you best) by Wednesday, August 26, 2020 to klezmerauditions@collab.its.virginia.edu or arrange for an in person Zoom audition with joelerubin@virginia.edu. See also auditions page for more information.


This music was passed on orally from generation to generation, and many of the ornaments and other aspects of phrasing 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 or experience with klezmer music is required! Instrumentalists of intermediate to advanced level should consider trying this ensemble. You do not have to have previously learned or worked by ear. Students can audition with any manner of piece to show their ability.

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

Articles about Joel Rubin and the UVA Klezmer Ensemble:



UVA Klezmer Ensemble recording project “Let’s Dance”:


Upcoming dates

There will be no in-person concert in Fall 2020, but the group has prepared an online project for viewing

Spring residency: April 25–29, 2021 with Svetlana Kundish and Patrick Farrell

Spring concert: Thursday, April 29, 2021, 8 pm, Old Cabell Hall Auditorium



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

Email: music@virginia.edu