Member of Music Teachers Association of California • National Association of Teachers of Singing

In my last blog, I wrote about wanting to attend a Jewish sleepaway camp and how my parents told me they could not afford it. Something I failed to mention though, is that my child-like persistence continued and I soon tried another approach.   “Can I go to music camp instead?”  Again, their response was the same, “We are saving that money for your college education”.

In August of 2018, at the age of 67, one of my childhood wishes was granted.  My first sleepaway camp experience at KlezKanada was going to include music classes and opportunities to perform! (And if you know me, you know how much I love any chance to perform.)  

I really did not know what to expect for the week. I just knew that I wanted to have the opportunity to fine-tune my existing  program, “Tears, Joy, and Hope:  Yiddish Songs written in the Jewish Ghetto” for future performances.  And although I had an expert Yiddish tutor and a wonderful voice teacher back in Long Beach, I had never actually studied with an accomplished singer of Yiddish or other renowned Yiddish singers and musicians…that is, until I arrived at KlezKanada.

When I arrived at the Jewish Community center in Montreal, Canada, adult campers of all ages were waiting for the bus that would transport us to Lantier, Quebec in the Laurentian Mountains. I scanned the luggage looking for both cello and accordion cases because these were the two instruments I had chosen to accompany me for my April concert. I was determined to find musicians who would be willing to collaborate with me once we arrived.

After I read the list of classes and found out who would be teaching I got very excited. Judy Bressler, who was a founding member of The Klezmer Conservatory Band was teaching a “Performance Master Class” and I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of it. Her class ended up being extremely beneficial for me. She helped me approach one of the Yiddish songs in my program, ‘Dos Elnte Kind’, with new insights and helped me breathe fresh life into my interpretation of the song.   

Another class was taught by Joanna Borts, who at the time had been performing in the off-Broadway Yiddish version of Fiddler on the Roof in New York City. Her class was on helping singers learn how to communicate with their accompanists. This was perfect timing for me, because I needed guidance on how to communicate my musical needs to the ensemble I was working with on my concert. Pianist Marilyn Lerner also shared her years of experience as an accompanist for singers giving the class practical, concrete yet gentle ways for a singer to communicate with their accompanists. Borts’ suggestion of giving ‘clear directions stated kindly’ is a mantra I try to remember when working with instrumentalists to this day.  

On the last night of KlezKanada, during a concert finale, all the performance classes could be heard demonstrating what they had learned all week.  I had found a small pool of accordionists and cellists earlier in the week willing to work with me and had the opportunity to perform ‘Dos Elnte Kind’ for all the participants in the camp. 

Click here to listen to the recording my roommate made for me on my cell phone of Kaczerginski’s ‘Dos Elnte Kind’ (The Lonely Child) with Adam Matlock accompanying me on accordion.   

My next blog will be all about the music that has changed the direction of my life.

With Judy Bressler backstage at Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa, CA after she performed with Itzhak Perlman’s “In the Fiddler’s House” Jan. 19, 2019.  My Yiddish coach from KlezKanada.

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