August 27, 2015

Jewish Music Series Comes to Sonoma State

Heather Klein

The Jewish Studies program at Sonoma State University, in conjunction with the Department of Music, is presenting a free concert series, open to the public, and devoted exclusively to music that reflects the broad spectrum of the Jewish experience.

The seven-concert series is part of a music course entitled Survey of Jewish Musics led by Dr. Francesco Spagnolo, curator of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life and lecturer in the music department at the University of California, Berkeley. The class meets Thursday evenings in Schroeder Hall and the 6:30 pm concerts are held on selected Thursdays from September 3 to December 3.

Supported by an academic integration grant from the Green Music Center, the series will include music from Yiddish theatre, classical and folk songs, Eastern European klezmer, Jewish-influenced classical works, and songs about social justice from American religious communities, among others.

Seating is available on a first-come, first serve basis. Call 707-664-2324 or click here for more information.

Schroeder Hall is located at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center, located two miles east of Highway 101 on Rohnert Park Expressway, near the intersection with Petaluma Hill Road.


9/3       Veretski Pass
9/24     The Big Galut(e)
10/8     Sharon Bernstein
10/22   The Bridge Players  
11/5     The Book of J: Jeremiah Lockwood and Jewlia Eisenberg; also Scott Gerber, “The Singing Jewish Cowboy”
11/19   Safra with John Erlich
12/3     Heather Klein

Sign up here to reserve seating.

Veretski Pass (September 3)

Taking its name from the mountain pass through which Magyar tribes crossed into the Carpathian basin to settle what later became the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Veretski Pass offers a unique and exciting combination of virtuosic musicianship and raw energy that has excited concertgoers across the world.

COOKIE SEGELSTEIN, violin and viola, received her Masters degree in Viola from The Yale School of Music in 1984. Until moving to California in 2010, she was principal violist in Orchestra New England and assistant principal in The New Haven Symphony, as well as on the music faculty at Southern Connecticut State University. She is the founder and director of Veretski Pass, a member of Budowitz, The Youngers of Zion with Henry Sapoznik, has performed with Kapelye, The Klezmatics, Frank London, Klezmer Fats and Swing with Pete Sokolow and the late Howie Leess, Margot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys, and The Klezmer Conservatory Band.

STUART BROTMAN performs on bass, basy (cello), tilinca and baraban, and has been an accomplished performer, arranger and recording artist in the ethnic music field for over 50 years. A founding member of Los Angeles' Ellis Island Band, he has been a moving force in the klezmer revival since its beginning, and has defined klezmer bass. (“It’s a large instrument that plays really low and has an accent.”) He holds a BA in Music with a concentration in Ethnomusicology from the University of California at Los Angeles, and has taught at KlezKamp, Buffalo on the Roof, the Balkan Music and Dance Workshops, Klezkanada, KlezCalifornia, and numerous European festivals and institutes.

JOSHUA HOROWITZ, chromatic button accordion, cimbalom and piano, received his Masters 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 eight 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, Ben Goldberg, Rubin and Horowitz, Brave Old World, Adrienne Cooper and Ruth Yaakov.


The Big Galut(e) (September 24)

Big Galut(e) blends history, passion, energy and humor in its performances of a wide-ranging repertoire of works from the Yiddish traditions of the Old and New World, Italian Baroque, Spain, and Turkey.  In addition to the music their concerts include stories and humor inspired by the Yiddish Theater.



I.L. Peretz, (1852-1915) The Tale of Monish

“The Tale of Monish”, for narrator and small ensemble, is a seminal work in the history of Yiddish literature. (Peretz, who died one hundred years ago this year, was himself one of the patriarchs of that literature.) The poem begins by comparing life to a river, people to fish, and the devil to a fisherman. It then goes on to relate a case study in temptation, involving young Polish Jew Monish and the devil’s wife, Lilith. The poem’s imagery is startlingly modern and cosmopolitan: the devil smokes, demon bands in Hell play the can-can, Monish has a good angel and a bad angel on his shoulders attempting to sway his actions.  The text and the music were done by Sasha Margolis and Sanford Margolis respectively.

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), excerpt from Symphony #1, arr. Sasha Margolis

Gustav Mahler grew up as part of a Jewish minority among a German-speaking minority in Czech-speaking Bohemia. His career then took him to Hamburg, Vienna, and New York. Later in life, he would write that he felt himself “thrice homeless – as a native of Bohemia in Austria, as an Austrian among Germans, and as a Jew throughout the world  Always an intruder, never welcomed.” Shortly before his death, Mahler went for a psychoanalytic consultation with Sigmund Freud, during which he remembered an incident from childhood: as his parents were arguing Mahler ran out into the street, where an organ-grinder was playing a popular tune, the sound of which transfixed him. To this incident, he attributed a need to undermine his melodies, at climactic emotional moments, with what amount to non-Classical elements.  One can hear the influence of  traditional folk music  (Frere Jacques in a minor key) and Jewish klezmer in this excerpt from one of  Mahler’s greatest works.

Salamone Rossi (1570-1630) Sonata a Tre, arr. Sasha Margolis
Salamone Rossi was a violinist and court composer in Mantua during the Italian Renaissance.   He is one of only a handful of Jewish musicians contributing to the tradition of European art music before the 19th century.  Our selection features the theorbo—a member of the lute family—and illustrates its importance in this style of music.

ROBIN SELETSKY is a classically trained clarinetist who grew up listening to her father, Harold Seletsky, “The Prez of Klez,” but it wasn't until the midst of the klezmer revival that she began her own exploration into this style of music. As founder of the Catskill Klezmorim, she has recorded two albums and performed scores of concerts around the country. Residing in upstate New York, Robin is principal clarinetist with the Glimmerglass Festival Opera Orchestra and Binghamton Philharmonic. 

SASHA MARGOLIS, violinist, author, composer, arranger, and sometimes-singer, is well versed in classical, klezmer, new, early, and jazz music. Praised by the Washington Post for his “incisive, vibrato-rich tone,” he has performed chamber music in Italy, Japan, and throughout the US. He was concertmaster at Spoleto Festival USA for the US premieres of little-known operas by Janacek, Bellini and Donizetti. Sasha’s klezmer-themed novel The Tsimbalist will be published shortly, and he is co-creator of the musical theater piece, The Tale of Monish

MICHAEL LEOPOLD performs on lute and theorbo, both as soloist and accompanist. In addition to his work with Ars Lyrica, the Catacoustic Consort and other American period-instrument ensembles, he has played with a number of leading Italian early music groups, including Concerto Italiano, La Risonanza, La Venexiana and La Pieta` de’ Turchini. He has also collaborated with several orchestras and opera companies, including Orchestra Verdi di Milano, Opera Australia and San Francisco Opera.

MARK RUBINSTEIN’s wide range of interests, insatiable curiosity, and the unusual scope of his abilities have combined to generate a unique and diverse musical career. Mark’s main instrument is piano, but he has played drums in punk bands,
electric bass in salsa groups, and accordion in settings ranging from symphony orchestras to avant-garde theatre pieces. Currently the Audio Engineer for the School of Music at Ohio State University, Mark’s work as a recording engineer has led to Grammy nominations and platinum records.

RICHARD SOSINSKY, double bass, is active as a chamber musician, orchestral player, and with cutting-edge jazz and new music groups. He has performed with Newband (custodians of the Harry Partch collection of instruments), Washington Square Chamber Music Society and New York Philomusica. In Martha Clarke’s KAOS, he played bass, mandocello, banjo, jaw harp and percussion. As an orchestral player, he is a member of the American Composers Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic and Riverside Symphony.

Sharon Bernstein (October 8)
Yiddish and Israeli Song

SHARON BERNSTEIN is a singer, pianist, composer and Cantor, exploring resonances between text, image and music, inner and outer, friend and stranger, tradition and innovation. Her work is built on rhythms, melodies, and harmonies from across the Jewish spectrum, including Yiddish songs, Hassidic niggunim, Italian Jewish musical traditions, and original compositions and arrangements. 

Sharon lived in New York, Jerusalem and Italy before returning home to the Bay Area. An intriguing new voice of Yiddish song, she has performed in Europe, Israel and the US, in venues including the Ancona Jewish Music Festival, RAI National Italian Radio, Habimah Theatre Jerusalem, Berkeley Jewish Music Festival, World Congress of Jewish Studies, Makor, Center for Jewish History, and the 92nd Street Y, often performing in a piano bar version, notably at the Yung YiDish club in Jerusalem. She has taught Yiddish song in Jerusalem, Vilna (as part of the Vilnius Summer Yiddish Program), and KlezCalifornia. Her repertoire comprises less known or never performed songs, such as those kept in the manuscripts of the Noy Collection (Jerusalem) or the new compositions of Beyle Schaechter Gottesman, organized according to subtle and captivating thematic threads. Her work has been featured on radio and TV in Israel, Italy and the US. Her "delightfully clear voice" (J. Pinnolis, can be heard in Af Di Gasn Fun Der Shtot (“On the streets of the city”), a new collection of Yiddish songs written by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (2003), and she will soon be releasing her first solo album.

Since 2007, it has been her delight and honor to serve as the Cantor for Congregation Sha’ar Zahav of San Francisco.


The Bridge Players (October 22)
Piano Trio, Music from The Camps

RANDALL WEISS made his solo violin debut performing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto as winner of the Victoria, B.C. Concerto Competition. Serving as Assistant Concertmaster of the San Jose Symphony for 17 years, he is currently Assistant Concertmaster of Symphony Silicon Valley and has also appeared with the San Francisco Opera and Ballet Orchestras. In 1999, Mr. Weiss founded Music in the Mishkan, a chamber music series at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco. He is an avid runner, hiker, skier and swimmer, and has completed three marathons.

MICHAEL GRAHAM, cello, has been hailed by the San Francisco Classical Voice for his “almost painfully pretty …expressive richness.” A member of the Oakland Symphony, Mr. Graham appears regularly with the Grammy-nominated New Century Chamber Orchestra. He is committed to exploring music within and beyond the classical genre, and has performed and recorded with artists ranging from Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg to John Densmore of the Doors. He can be heard on New Century’s latest recordings, Live and Together, and on Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks Live from Hollywood Bowl.
MARILYN THOMPSON has given countless recitals in the United States and abroad, having performed the solo concerti of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Gershwin, Martinu, Hindemith and Barber. She has performed virtually the entire standard chamber music repertoire and has recorded the Thomas Beversdorf Cello Sonata, the Brahms Trio Op.87, and Ravel’s Violin-Piano Sonate. Director of Piano and Chamber Music at Sonoma State, Ms. Thompson is co-founder of ensemble-in-residence Navarro Trio which performs throughout the Bay Area.

Zikmund Schul (1916-1944) – Chasidic Dance                                            
Aaron Copland (1900-1990) – Vitebsk                                        
Brian S. Wilson (b. 1962) – Sentiments                              
Gideon Klein (1919-1945) – Duo For Violin And Cello               
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) – Piano Trio In C Minor, Op. 66


Scott Gerber (November 5)

SCOTT GERBER is the real thing: a working Jewish cowboy who plays guitar and sings Yiddish folksongs and the left-wing ballads his bubbe and mom taught him while growing up on a Petaluma chicken ranch. Today, Gerber herds cattle in Sonoma, writes original songs and performs traditional Yiddish melodies such as Partizaner Lid, Bulbes and Bin Ich Mir a Shnayder (I'm a Little Tailor). Scott is the subject of the 2002 Bonnie Burt documentary, Song of a Jewish Cowboy, which focuses on the perceptions of others to the differences between Scott's appearance and the music he sings.


Jeremiah Lockwood & Jewlia Eisenberg
The Book of J

Fervor, faith and action! Book of J is where old-time religion meets radical politics: songs that started life in Black and White religious communities and were later adopted by organizers for racial, economic and social justice. In the tradition of the Hebrew prophets, the songs ask for devotion and righteousness and offer power beyond what one still small voice can effect.  Expect angels and demons, workers and bosses, hard times resolved and destiny fulfilled.

JEREMIAH LOCKWOOD Son of composer Larry Lockwood and the grandson of the legendary Cantor Jacob Konigsberg, Jeremiah Lockwood began his musical career playing on the streets and subways of Manhattan performing with Piedmont Blues master Carolina Slim. Jeremiah is the front man for The Sway Machinery, a band with a unique focus on mining atavisms and cultural memory to create new and exciting music. In 2010 The Sway Machinery performed at the legendary Festival of the Desert in Mali and recorded an album, The House of Friendly Ghosts Vol. 1, which features collaborations with legendaryMalian artists like Khaira Arby and Djelimady Tounkara. Visit Jeremiah at

JEWLIA EISENBERG is a composer, extended-technique vocalist, lay cantor, and the founder of Charming Hostess. She is interested in the particular emotional, erotic and spiritual terrains that the voice can traverse. Her work explores the intersection of text and the sounding body, pushing for translation strategies between verbal and non-verbal languages. Her collaborators include anarcholits Fantom Slobode, choreographer Jo Kreiter, and filmmaker Lynn Sachs.


Safra with John Erlich (November 19)
Johanna Bronk, lead vocals
John Erlich, oud & background vocals
Debbie Fier, percussion
Bouchaib Abdelhadi (special guest), percussion, violin & vocals

East Bay-based Safra (which means “dawn” in Jewish Aramaic and "journey" or "discovery" in Arabic) performs traditional Jewish music from the Middle East and North Africa; it is one of only a handful of such ensembles in North America.  The music combines sacred Jewish Hebrew poetry with Arabic and Turkish tonalities (“maqam”) and the driving rhythms of the Middle East and North Africa.  Performed on traditional stringed instruments and percussion, Safra’s music highlights the body of culture shared between Jews and Arabs, and among Jews, Christians and Muslims of the Middle East and North Africa.

JOHANNA BRONK (lead singer): Johanna is a versatile singer who performs genres ranging from Middle Eastern to chamber music and opera. She maintains a special passion for Baroque, Classical, German Romantic, and early-mid 20th century repertoire. Recent performance credits include "Telemaco" in Monteverdi's Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria with West Edge Opera, and a solo recital at the Carmel Bach Festival, Music from Bohemia, which included Jewish composer Pavel Haas' 7 Songs in Folk Tone.  Johanna grew up singing Jewish music and has acted cantor for Shabbat and High Holiday services in San Francisco, Boston, New York, and Oberlin, Ohio. She is a member of the San Francisco Opera extra chorus and will be performing this season in Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg. Johanna holds degrees from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Oberlin Conservatory.

JOHN ERLICH ('Ud [Arabic lute] and background vocals) -  Former musical director of the ensemble "Za'atar: Music of the Jews of Arab & Muslim Lands" (1997-2008), John was a jazz guitarist/composer before turning his attention to Middle Eastern music.  He is an amateur ethnomusicologist, and has performed with the Sephardic ensemble Estreya D'Oro and violinist Be’eri Moallem, and recorded with Cantor Richard Kaplan.  Much of John’s inspiration for Za’atar and Safra came during a half-year volunteer work/study placement in the early 1990s in Akko (Acre), Israel, where he lived among Arabs and Jews with roots in North Africa and Central Asia.  John studied 'ud with Necati Çelik, Haig Manoukian, and Naser Musa.

DEBBIE FIER (Middle Eastern percussion) - Debbie has over 35 years of experience as a performing vocalist, drummer, pianist, composer, percussionist and teacher. She performs regularly with a variety of music groups, dancers and poets, in educational, musical and spiritual settings.  Over the past 10 years, she has found a home at Kehilla Community Synagogue as a spiritual leader through drumming, where she has been named the ‘Heartbeat of the Service’. More info:

BOUCHAIB ABDELHADI (Middle Eastern percussion, violin and vocals) - Bouchaib, a native of Casablanca, Morocco, has had a distinguished musical career on both sides of the Atlantic. As leader of the Orchestre Abdelhadi, he performed throughout the Kingdom of Morocco in the 1980s. Since coming to the United States in the early 1990s, Abdelhadi has been much sought out as a multi-instrumentalist (oud, Moroccan violin, percussion) and as a vocalist in Middle Eastern and North African traditions such as al-Ÿqa (Andalusian), Gnawa (Sufi trance), and Chaabi ("popular"). Bouchaib has performed and recorded with a diverse array of artists, including TheMo’Rockin Project, DJ Cheb-i-Sabah, N. Carolina Dance Theater, LINES Ballet, and jazz musicians Pharaoh Sanders and Omar Sosa.  A practicing Muslim with ties to the Naqshbandi Sufi Order, he is very familiar with Jewish music of the Middle East and North Africa from his extensive work with Jewish ensembles Za’atar and Qadim, as well as Safra.

Heather Klein (December 3)
Yiddish Art Song

Heather Klein's Inextinguishable Trio performs Yiddish classical songs from their 2nd acclaimed album Shifreles Portret and other classical pieces by Jewish composers.

American soprano and Yiddish chanteuseHEATHER KLEINfollows her passion of painting pictures with her voice. Heather is a classically trained singer in Las Vegas and San Francisco and performs opera, new music, Yiddish classical song, cantorial music, theater and folk music, as well as other styles. For the past decade, she has performed across the U.S., Canada and Europe as a soloist and as part of various musical groups, musicals and opera companies.

Pianist and educator ALLA GLADYSHEVA is currently on the Theory and Musicianship faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and is an active performer and collaborator in the San Francisco Bay Area. A graduate of the Leningrad State Conservatory, she has extensive experience in a variety of genres.

BE'ERI MOALEM was born in Jerusalem, Israel, and lives in Palo Alto, California.  He has performed as violinist and violist in various chamber ensembles, Jewish music bands, and full-scale symphony orchestras. As a composer Be'eri's original works have been performed in North America, Italy, Turkey, and Israel. He also writes concert reviews for San Francisco Classical Voice.  





Media Contact

Ruth Wilson
Lecturer in Horn
Music Department Publicity
Sonoma State University
1801 East Cotati Avenue
Rohnert Park, CA 94928