International Yiddish Conference & Retreat

Yale Strom, Ethnomusicologist, Filmmaker, Composer, Playwright, Author; Klezmer Artist, Hot P’Stromi; San Diego, California

Yale Strom

Violinist, composer, filmmaker, writer, photographer and playwright Yale Strom was a pioneer among revivalists in conducting extensive field research in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans among the Jewish and Rom communities since the early 1981. Initially, his work focused primarily on the use and performance of klezmer music among these two groups. Gradually, his focus increased to examining all aspects of their culture, from post-World War II to the present. Over more than 2 decades and 75 such research expeditions, Strom has become one of the world’s leading scholar-ethnographer-artists of klezmer music and history.
His klezmer research was instrumental in helping form the repertoires of his klezmer band, Hot Pstromi. Since he began first band in 1981, Strom has been composing his own New Jewish music, which combines klezmer with Hasidic nigunim , Rom, jazz, classical, Balkan and Sephardic motifs. These compositions range from songs to quartets to a symphony, which premiered with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. He composed original music for the Denver Center production of Tony Kushner’s The Dybbuk. He also composed all the New Jewish music for the National Public Radio series Fiddlers, Philosophers & Fools: Jewish Short Stories from the Old World to the New, hosted by Leonard Nimoy, as well as numerous film (A Life Apart) and dance (Malashock Dance Troupe) scores. Strom is also one of the only top composers of Jewish music to carry on the tradition of writing original songs, with Yiddish lyrics, about humanitarian and social issues, as well as melodies for synagogue liturgy commissioned by synagogues like B’nai Jeshurun in New York City. His many recordings run the gamut of traditional klezmer to “new” Jewish music and have appeared on Top Ten, Year’s Best and critically acclaimed lists across North America. Strom has performed with many world renowned musicians including Andy Statman, Mark Dresser, Marty Ehrlich, Mark O’Connor, Alicia Svigals, Samir Chatterjee, Salman Ahmad, Damian Draghici, Adam del Monte, Lulo Reinhardt, Sunny Jain and many other virtuosi.

Strom is a compelling educator. During his years teaching at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Strom created a course, “Artist-Ethnographer Expeditions” that remains in the curriculum. He is an artist-in-residence in the Jewish Studies Program at San Diego State University, a position that was created for him. He was the first klezmer violinist to be invited to instruct master classes at the American String Teachers Association and is the klezmer instructor at the prestigious Mark O’Connor Fiddle Camp.

Strom’s research has also resulted in photo documentary books, documentary films, as well as CD recordings. He is the author of The Book of Klezmer: The History, The Music, The Folklore ( 2002)” is a 400 page history with original photos and sheet music gathered by Strom during his sixty-plus ethnographic trips to Central and Eastern Europe. A Wandering Feast: A Journey Through the Jewish Culture of Eastern Europe written in collaboration with his wife, Elizabeth Schwartz, is part cookbook, part travelogue (2005). He is also the author of The Absolutely Complete Klezmer Songbook (2006). His first children’s book The Wedding That Saved A Town (2008) is based upon his research in Poland and hearing this story about klezmer musicians playing at a wedding of two orphans held in a cemetery when there was a cholera epidemic. Strom the first biography on the seminal klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras. The book is called Dave Tarras: The King of Klezmer (2010). With Schwartz and Ellen Kushner, Strom co-authored (and composed the music for) the award-winning audio drama “The Witches of Lublin”.

New York ‘s Jewish Week writes: “He’s a gifted photographer and author, a talented documentary filmmaker and has his own klezmer band… Strom’s multifaceted career is a wonder, and his work schedule is downright fiendish.” He has directed six award-winning documentary films ( At the Crossroads, The Last Klezmer, and Carpati: 50 miles, 50 Years. L’Chaim Comrade Stalin! and Kl ezmer on Fish Street ) and has composed music for countless others. He was the first documentary filmmaker in history to be given his own run at Lincoln Center ‘s prestigious Walter Reade Theatre, where The Last Klezmer broke previous box office records; this record was only exceeded by Carpati’s run there. The Last Klezmer was short-listed for an Academy Award, Klezmer on Fish Street won the 2003 Palm Beach International Film festival’s Special Jury Selection award. He directed the documentary A Man from Munkacs: Gypsy Klezmer for Hungary ‘s Duna Television, and is in production on the documentary film Eugene Victor Debs: American Socialist.

His solo photo exhibit The Rom of Ridgewood , about Gypsy communities in Queens , New York ,was mounted at the Queens Museum of Art; he has had numerous solo and group photo exhibits (depicting Jewish and Rom life) throughout the U.S. and Europe . His photos are part of many collections including Beth Hatefusoth, The Skirball Museum, The Jewish Museum of NYC, The Frankfurt Jewish Museum and the The Museum of Photographic Arts .

Strom ‘s original stage play . . . from man. . . to beast… to crawling thing , was given a fully-staged workshop in June of 2001 by the Streisand Festival ( La Jolla , California ). His new play Verdigis was workshopped by the San Diego Rep, North Coast Rep as well as in New York City , Connecticut and Los Angeles. Strom’s latest play is a radio drama he co-wrote with Elizabeth Schwartz and Ellen Kushner called The Witches of Lublin which stars Tovah Feldshue. Yale was featured in the May 31, 2004 issue of Time Magazine for this play, and the scholarship behind it.

Strom has lectured extensively throughout the Untied States and Europe and taught at NYU for the 4 years, where he created the course “Artist-Ethnographer Expeditions”. He is on the advisory board of the Center for Jewish Creativity, based in Los Angeles . At present he is Artist-in-Residence in the Jewish Studies Program at San Diego State University .

Strom is the guest curator for the Eldridge Street Project’s A Great Day on Eldridge Street– a musical and photographic celebration of the newly restored Eldridge Street Synagogue that took take place in October 12-14, 2007 with a parade, a historic archival photo shoot, numerous panels and performances and a New York statewide tour. The historic photo is now available as a poster from the Eldridge Street Synagogue in NYC.

MUSIC:

Yale Strom’s klezmer field research helped form the base for the repertoires of his two klezmer bands, Hot Pstromi in New York and Klazzj in San Diego. Since Yale’s first band began in 1981, he has been composing his own New Jewish music, which combines klezmer with Hasidic nigunim, Rom, jazz, classical, Balkan and Sephardic motifs. These compositions range from quartets to a symphony, which premiered with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. He composed original music for the Denver Center production of Tony Kushner’s “The Dybbuk”. He also composed all the New Jewish music for the National Public Radio series “Fiddlers, Philosophers & Fools: Jewish Short Stories From the Old World to the New”, hosted by Leonard Nimoy, as well as numerous film scores. Strom is also one of the only top composers of Jewish music to carry on the tradition of writing original songs, with Yiddish lyrics, about humanitarian and social issues. His CD, “Garden of Yidn”, debuted in the Top 20 on Canada’s major music critic’s poll (Mundial) and has been hailed by Sing Out! Magazine as “a landmark in modern Yiddish song.” His CD, “Klezmer: Café Jew Zoo” was released by Naxos World Records in June of 2003 to international acclaim. In autumn 2005 he will have a new CD out on the Global Village Music label called “DVEYKES.” This cd will feature Yale’s new klezmer/jazz/improvisational compositions with world renown jazz musicians Mark Dresser and Marty Ehrlich.

Yale’s violin has been heard on numerous recordings and soundtracks. He was the first klezmer violinist in history to be invited to instruct master classes at both the American String Teachers Association and the Mark O’Connor Fiddle Camp.

Yale has been hailed as “a commanding bandleader and composer” (Pulse! Magazine), “one of the best klezmer musicians in the country” (Houston Public News) and “an all-around musical visionary” (Seth Rogovoy). Dirty Linen sums it up most concisely: “Yale Strom is a Jewish roots trip unto himself”.

BOOKS:

Strom’s research has also resulted in nine books (including “The Last Jews of Eastern Europe” and “Uncertain Roads: Searching for the Gypsies”. He was the first photographer since Roman Vishniac to publish photographs of Jews in the Eastern Bloc countries. His “The Book of Klezmer: The History, The Music, The Folklore”, a 400-page history with original photos and sheet music gathered by Yale during his 60+ ethnographic trips to Central and Eastern Europe, was published by A Cappella Books in September, 2002; this was soon followed by the publication of the world’s first “Music Minus One” Instructional Guide to Klezmer (Universal Edition, Vienna Austria, April 2004). Strom’s most recent book, written in collaboration with his wife, Elizabeth Schwartz, is “A Wandering Feast: A Journey Through the Jewish Culture of Eastern Europe” (Jossey-Bass Publishers, January 2005). Strom’s newest book “The Absolute Complete Klezmer Songbook will be published Nov. 2005 by Transcontinental Music.

FILM:

Strom has directed five award-winning documentary films (“At the Crossroads”, “The Last Klezmer,” “Carpati: 50 Miles, 50 Years”, “L’Chayim, Comrade Stalin!” and “Klezmer on Fish Street”) and has composed music for countless others. He was the first documentary filmmaker in history to be given his own run at Lincoln Center’s prestigious Walter Reade Theatre, where “The Last Klezmer” broke previous box office records; this record was only exceeded by “Carpati”’s run there. Both films went on to strong theatrical runs both in the U.S. and abroad, and were featured on major Top Ten Lists (The Last Klezmer on the N.Y. Post’s for 1994, and Carpati on the San Diego Union Tribune’s for 1997). “The Last Klezmer” was short-listed for an Academy Award. “Klezmer on Fish Street” won the 2003 Palm Beach International Film Festival’s Special Jury Selection award. He has just completed the documentary “A Man From Munkacs:The Gypsy Klezmer ” for a German-Hungarian production company, and is in pre-production on the feature film “Canary” and the documentary “Detroit: In Black & White”.

PHOTO EXHIBITS:

Strom’s solo photo exhibit, “The Rom of Ridgewood”, about Gypsy communities in Queens, New York, was mounted at the Queens Museum of Art; he has had numerous solo exhibits throughout the U.S. and Europe (complete exhibition list upon request). His solo exhibit of portraits of klezmer musicians in Bessarabia, “Klezmorim”, is currently touring throughout Europe.

PLAYS:

Strom’s original stage play, “…from man… to beast… to crawling thing…”, was given a fully-staged workshop in June of 2001 by the Streisand Festival (La Jolla, California) and has been optioned for production. His new play, “Verdigris” (formally Yiske Labushnik) was workshopped by the San Diego Rep, North Coast Rep as well as in New York City, Connecticut and Los Angeles. Yale was featured in the 5/31/04 issue of Time Magazine for this play, and the scholarship behind it.

Yale Strom is one of the world’s leading ethnographer-artist of klezmer and Roma music and history. Since his first expedition to the Eastern Bloc in 1981, he has made over 100 such ethnographer research trips around the world. This research has comprised the foundation for his art, including new klezmer and classical compositions, which have been performed by orchestras and music groups in the US and abroad, as well as by his own ensemble, Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi. He has composed for radio, film and television and has released 13 award-winning CD’s. As a collaborator Strom has had numerous world-renowned partners, including Andy Statman, Mark Dresser, Marty Ehrlich, Mark O’Connor, Alicia Svigals, Joel Rubin, Hankus Netsky, Peter Sprague, Samir Chatterjee, Salman Ahmad, Gavin Rossdale, Damian Draghici and Kalman Balogh, to name but a few. With Salman Ahmad, Strom is cofounder of the world music ensemble Common Chords and together performed at the United Nations General Assembly in the recent “Concert for Pakistan”. He is also the first klezmer violinist to be invited to instruct master classes at the Mark O’Connor Fiddle Camps. Yale has been profiled in numerous publications, including the May 31, 2004 issue of Time Magazine.

Strom has also directed seven award-winning documentary films and published nine books. As a photographer, he has had numerous solo and group photo exhibits (depicting Jewish and Roma life) throughout the U.S. and Europe. His photos are part of many collections including Beth Hatefusoth, The Skirball Museum, The Jewish Museum of NYC, The Frankfurt Jewish Museum and the The Museum of Photographic Arts . Strom conceived the idea for “A Great Day on Eldridge Street”, a musical and photographic celebration of the newly restored landmarked Eldridge Street Synagogue in October 12-14, 2007 with a parade, a historic archival photo shoot, numerous panels and performances and a New York state-wide tour. A dedicated educator, he has lectured extensively all over the world. Since 2006 he has been artist-in-residence in the Jewish Studies Program at San Diego State University, a position created for him.