The centuries-old tradition of klezmer music, originally played by itinerant Jewish musicians in eastern Europe, is extended by saxophonist, pianist and composer Hankus Netsky and his group, the Klezmer Conservatory Band. With songs sung in Yiddish, the band incorporates a wide range of influences into their Jewish dance music.
The Klezmer Conservatory Band was formed by Netsky, chairman of the jazz studies department at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston in 1980. The grandson and nephew of klezmer musicians of the 1920s, Netsky was inspired by informal jam sessions of Irish music to attempt something similar with klezmer music. Although the Klezmer Conservatory Band was originally intended for a one-time concert, the response to their performance was so favorable that the group became a permanent ensemble. Many of the band members were recruited from the New England Conservatory of Music's Third Stream department. While New York-born lead vocalist Judy Bressler was a third-generation performer of Jewish music, most of the musicians came from a background of jazz or folk music.
The Klezmer Conservatory Band was featured in a documentary film on klezmer music, A Jumpin' Night in the Garden of Eden, in 1988. They later provided the music for the film Enemies, A Love Story, Joel Grey's Yiddish music revue Berschtcapades '94, and a children's video, The Fool and the Flying Ship, featuring the narration of Robin Williams. The Klezmer Conservatory Band recently collaborated with the American Repertory Theater and the American Music Theater Festival on a musical, Shlemiel the First, based on a play by I.B. Singer.
In addition to directing the Klezmer Conservatory Band and teaching classes at the New England Conservatory of Music, Netsky is a member of the Yiddish Folk Arts Institute faculty and has taught Yiddish music at Hebrew College. ~ Craig Harris, Rovi
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