UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 04 Spring 16 Library
Lloyd Wolf

Joel Rubin - 10 years of Klezmer Music

This spring, Joel Rubin celebrated the most pleasant of surprises. The Director of Musical Performance and internationally acclaimed clarinetist and ethnomusicologist recently marked the 10th Anniversary of his UVA Klezmer Music Ensemble with a special concert at Old Cabell Hall. “When I came to UVA and started this ensemble, I really didn’t know what the trajectory would be. In the beginning, it was just an experiment,” said Rubin, who is widely considered to be one of the leading performers of Jewish instrumental Klezmer music in the world. 

Today, that experiment has become the longest known running university klezmer ensemble of its kind, and an important link in the cultural chain delivering this vitally important music to listeners around the world. Klezmer was brought to North America by immigrants around the turn of the 20th century, and has enjoyed a popular resurgence in both America and abroad that has vaulted the music from its medieval roots into mainstream culture. “Many of the world’s musical traditions were never written down,” Rubin said, “at least until recent times, so all the musical knowledge was transmitted by ear and by memory.”  Each semester, Rubin, an Associate Professor of Music as well as a member of the University’s Jewish Studies faculty, shares these traditions with his students by enlisting the help of some of the biggest names in the Klezmer world to provide unique performance experiences, including semester-closing concerts on Grounds as well as playing opportunities throughout Central Virginia and beyond.

Joel Rubin with longtime musical partner Alan Bern
(Photo: Lloyd Wolf)

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