Klezmer Workshops & Jams


Thanks to support from ACTA, the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, we held twelve klezmer workshops in 2017! In 2018 we continue this program with more workshops, some with particular themes.

For general information about our Klezmer Workshops, please read About (below). While playing by ear is favored, leaders may make sheet music and/or recordings available in our Tune Archive. This Archive also includes many popular klezmer tunes at full speed and at half-speed, to make learning by ear as easy as possible.

Open to those who are intermediate and above on their instruments.

Bring a recording device or a music stand if you want. Brass players should bring a mute.

See Klezmer Style for information about playing klezmer music in general and specific instruments.


Sunday, March 4, 2-5pm
Klezmer Kalisthenics, with Josh Horowitz
Urban Adamah
1151 Sixth St. (near Gilman St.), Berkeley
“Speed-learn" klezmer music? Josh’s new teaching method promises to open your eyes to a completely different way to approach learning a tune. By the end of the session, students will not only play, but also understand and improvise in the traditional style. Money-back guarantee anyone who got in for free. Share with friends!

Sunday, April 15, 1-4pm
Klezmer Dance Band - Adding the Lift to Klezmer Dance Tunes, with Cookie Segelstein
Jewish Community Library
1835 Ellis St. (near Pierce St.), San Francisco
Playing in a band for a klezmer dance party is a fun collaboration between dance leader, dancers and musicians. Yet it’s rare when dancers, leader and musicians seem in sync. We will cover the main dance rhythms, and explore rhythmic techniques to put the necessary lift in the music to facilitate a lively dance party. Also: how to put together a medley, when to change rhythms, when to end the set, and developing signals between band leader and dance leader.

Sunday, May 6, 3:45-6:45pm
The Sheet Music is Lying: How to Interpret Written Klezmer, with Dmitri Gaskin
We've heard that using sheet music for klezmer is sacrilegious (sinful, disrespectful). But can it be done? This class will explore the ways that written klezmer sheet music can be misleading, and provide advice for what to do when faced with a piece of music that's written down (hint: we can do more than putting it in the trash!).
Kehilla Community Synagogue
1300 Grand Ave. (near Fairview Ave., south of Oakland Ave.), Piedmont

Sunday, June 3,
The Nign: A Subway to Paradise, with Jeanette Lewicki
What is a nign? A catchy tune? A mystical formula? The source of klezmer music? What are nigunim? Songs without words—music without instruments—a subway system of the heart? We can ask these questions and more while learning to sing and play nigunim collected by folklorist Ruth Rubin in 1948. We will be working with the newly-released Ruth Rubin collection, now available through YIVO's online archive. Jeanette participated in digitizing these files and feels they represent some of the most beautiful Yiddish recordings she's ever heard. We’ll look at deceptively simple written transcriptions, and consider elements like ornamentation, phrasing, and tone that are easy to hear but awkward to write. This class will combine music-reading & ear-training; singers and players; sacred song & circus music. We’ll answer questions, question answers, and learn a spiritual drinking song. “In the next world, will there be vodka?”
Kehilla Community Synagogue
1300 Grand Ave. (at Fairview Ave., south of Oakland Ave.), Piedmont


Registration is $25/sliding scale (i.e. pay what you can) for participants. Listeners are welcome too; donation requested. Pay at session with cash or check. Light snacks are included. 

To help our planning, RSVP with date and location, your name, your instrument, and any questions to jams@klezcalifornia.org

We will add attendees to our workshops&jams mailing list for relevant notices. If you cannot attend but want to join this special mailing list, write to jams@klezcalifornia.org


We invite on any instrument to participate in our three-hour workshops — klezmer background not required — as well as people who want to dance or simply listen and enjoy. Participants of all ages are welcome! You should be at least intermediate level on any acoustic instrument. No klezmer experience needed, but it doesn't hurt! Participants may come for all or just part of each workshop. Audio recording devices encouraged!

  • The first two hours are a Klezmer Instrumental Workshop, with a skilled leader. This might include learning tunes by ear at a slow pace, learning with charts (at the instructor’s discretion), and getting familiar with klezmer techniques. Workshop leaders include Dmitri Gaskin, Joshua Horowitz, Jeanette Lewicki, Dave Rosenfeld, and Cookie Segelstein.
  • The final hour might have a special theme chosen by the teacher (announced in advance in the KlezCalifornia newsletter and emails to those on the workshops & jams list), such as the art of klezmer accompaniment, klezmer theory, group nigunim singing, klezmer improv for dummies, speed learning, how to practice, or a kIezmer jam session.
A musical jam is a gathering of musicians to learn tunes while they are played and to experience playing with other musicians. We provide a leader to guide the choice of tunes and tempos, keep the musicians together, and move on to another tune when ready. Once the session is moving along, other players can suggest tunes that they would like to play. Players of developing ability generally play along quietly until they gain more confidence. Ideally a jam session is a “safe,” comfortable, and fun way to exchange music, broaden the repertoire and stylistic skills of all participants, and meet fellow musicians. Jam participants might also suggest or present songs with Yiddish lyrics, adding singing and Yiddish language to the experience. Some participants might dance, reflecting the original context of klezmer music as Jewish wedding music.