Klezmer Workshops & Jams

In 2018, KlezCalifornia is bringing you seven klezmer workshops. For general information, 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. RSVP to jams@klezcalifornia.org with your name, instrument, and county in which you live. Pay the fee of $25 (or whatever you can pay) in cash or check on-site only.

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, December 9, 2018, 3:30-6:30 pm
KlezCalifornia Klezmer Workshop, with Cookie Segelstein
Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave. (S of Oakland Ave.), Piedmont

Whether or not you are in a band, the skills we need to play with other people enrich our musical experience. This class is for any instrumentalist who is intermediate level (on your instrument), or ensembles that come together. We will cover on the spot arrangement, and dealing with musical emergencies on the band stand. I will provide music at least four weeks before the date that must be learned ahead of time by ear, and we will “field test” common issues and breakdowns. It’s fun, like learning to put out Freygish Fires, Mishebeyrakh Mass wrecks with Minor miracles.


Sunday, November 11, 2018, 3:30-6:30 pm
Chasing the Changes, with Jeanette Lewicki
Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave. (S of Oakland Ave.), Piedmont
More info

Each klezmer mode has some typical chord progressions that usually "work." We'll explore chord changes for the klezmer modes called freygish and misheberakh. How can you hear chord changes coming and make an educated guess about what they will be? Does every tune have just one set of "right" changes or are there alternatives? Who decides? How do we solve disagreements? We'll also survey some klezmer forms and rhythm patterns, see how the chords support the melody, and learn ways to switch between melody and rhythm. People who "usually" play melody will get more comfortable with the underlying structure of the tune, and rhythm players will learn to support and join in melodies. Everybody will get more comfortable playing by ear and feel more ready to jump into a jam session, march around on the dance floor, or tackle new tunes.

This will be primarily an "ear" class. That is, we will be playing by ear, listening to tunes, and trying to catch the chord changes. We will analyze some written music, and you will go home with some written music as well. If you'd like to break free from little dots on a page...if you're not sure how to jump in and out of the tune...if you want to keep up with the changes...this may be the class for you!

Sunday, October 21, 2018, 1-4 pm
Cracking The Code: The Fun Way to Practice, with Josh Horowitz
Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, 290 Dolores (at 16th St.), San Francisco

If you’ve ever wondered how your favorite musicians got really good at what they do, the answer is: Creative and Fun Practicing. Yes, Practicing can be as creative and exciting as playing polished versions of tunes!
This workshop deals with super creative ways to develop skills that emerge directly from the tunes you’re playing, so the application is already there. Forget Scales and Arpeggios (unless they occur in the tunes you're playing of course). Each tune presents its own set of characteristics that can be spun into exercises that not only solve technical problems, but can also be used within the tunes right away. The main thing Josh will show is how to develop your own practicing tools that can be applied in each circumstance you encounter, including:
1. Creating patterns and sequences that come from the melodies you are playing
2. Isolating fragments that repeat in the tune and spinning them round and round
3. Strategizing how to navigate the most difficult parts of the piece
4. Developing emergency exits from parts of the tune where you might stumble
And much, much more. This may be the most useful workshop you’ll ever attend, with dividends paid out for years to come.

Sunday, June 3, 2018, 3:45-6:45 pm
The Nign: A Subway to Paradise, with Jeanette Lewicki
Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave. (S of Oakland Ave.), Piedmont

FOR SINGERS AND INSTRUMENTALISTS! 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?” 

Sunday, May 6, 
2018, 3:45-6:45 pm
The Sheet Music is Lying: How to Interpret Written Klezmer, with Dmitri Gaskin
Kehilla Community Synagogue1300 Grand Ave. (S of Oakland Ave.), Piedmont

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 recycling!).

Sunday, April 15, 2018, 1-4 pm Klezmer Dance Band: Adding the Lift to Klezmer Dance Tunes, with Cookie Segelstein
Jewish Community Library1835 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, March 4, 2018, 2-5 pm
Klezmer Kalisthenics, with Josh Horowitz
Urban Adamah, 1151 Sixth St. (N of 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.


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.