The Classic Klezmer

Building on more than a decade of study and work with Ezekiel’s Wheels Klezmer Band and at festivals, reading groups, jam sessions, and in the practice room, I've created the classes that I always wished I could take as I was learning about klezmer music.


Each is roughly equivalent to an undergraduate course and is designed for advanced students or for serious amateur or professional musicians looking for a deeper grounding in klezmer.


Each course runs weekly for 11 Wednesdays between June 9th and August 18th. Attending the full sequence will give you the most complete educational experience, but you may elect to sign up for specific sessions on the registration form.


All classes will take place over Zoom and are open to interested learners from anywhere in the world. I’ll be limiting the class size so we can maintain a proper workshop atmosphere, so sign up early to confirm your spot.



The Classic Klezmer

The Classic Klezmer is a semester-long introduction to klezmer music. We review the history of our music, key musicians, recordings, and readings you need to know, and learn some of the core repertoire you’ll use for concert or simcha performances. We also cover the basic music theory of klezmer, including modes, cadences, time feel, and ornamentation. By the end of the course, you’ll be prepared to perform with a traditional klezmer band, or maybe even start your own!


Price: $300/semester or $35/individual class for live participation. $200 for semi-synchronous

Dates: June 9th through August 18th, 2021

Time: Wednesdays from 5:00 - 6:00 pm EDT (Boston time) or semi-synchronous

(Time doesn't work for you? Consider filling out a new course request form and we'll do our best to accommodate your schedule!)

Who Should Take This Class?

Anyone is welcome to sign up, but the Classic Klezmer is designed for advanced students or for serious amateur or professional musicians looking for a thorough grounding in klezmer music.


Why Should You Take This Course?

Okay, so there are a lot of “introduction to klezmer” classes, workshops, and youtube videos out there. Why take this one?


  1. Your knowledge will grow cumulatively as you engage with the music over time. Instead of unrelated, one-off experiences, each week of The Classic Klezmer builds on the previous classes to help you learn more, faster.

  2. People learn better in communities, and you’ll be a part of an intimate learning community through this weekly seminar-style class.

  3. While no one-semester introductory course can claim to be comprehensive, you will be exposed to many of the major dance and listening forms, the music theory, history, major figures, and important readings through this course.


Course Goals

By the end of this course, you’ll be prepared to perform with a traditional klezmer kapelye, study klezmer at an advanced level, and maybe even start your own band.


Specifically, we’ll start with an introduction to klezmer music, Yiddish culture, and the Jewish wedding. Then, we’ll explore a different dance or listening form each week through key recordings, major figures, and readings. We’ll learn the basic dance steps, where appropriate, and understand the place the music occupied in traditional Yiddish culture. And all the while, we’ll keep our focus on the musical components - the modes, ornamentation, time feel, and structures - that make klezmer sound like… well, klezmer.


Schedule

Date Topic

Jun 9 Introduction and intention setting. What is klezmer music and why are we here?

Jun 16 Cultural roots of klezmer.

Jun 23 Introduction to the Jewish wedding.

Jun 30 Basic theory. Modes, cadences, ornamentation, and time feel.

Jul 7 The Freylekhs.

Jul 14 The Bulgar.

Jul 21 The Khosidl.

Jul 28 The Zhok.

Aug 4 The Doina and the Khale Bazetsn

Aug 11 The Russian Sher.

Aug 18 Final project day. Digital transcriptions for the KMDMP or articles and reviews for Wikipedia.


Semi-synchronous learners

We've added a semi-synchronous for learners who are unable to attend the course during class time. Here's how it works.

- You receive the class videos and any supplemental materials each week by Thursday afternoon.

- You schedule 3 20-minute check-ins with the instructor at mutually agreed upon times, once near the beginning, once near the middle, and once near the end of the course.

Available only for full semester.


Course expectations

Each session will combine listening and discussion with performance. Joining with your instrument will help you get the most out of the experience, but you should feel comfortable attending even if you are unable to play along during class time. All instruments, including voice and instruments that aren’t “traditionally” found in klezmer, are welcome and encouraged!


We learn best when we engage critically with the course materials and with each other. Asking questions, addressing points of confusion, or disagreeing with the instructor or your peers: these will help all of us learn together. It is incumbent upon you to let us know when you don’t understand something, whether in class or by email afterwards. That’s how we’ll know to continue discussing a particular concept or to revisit it later.


The classroom is a safe place to make mistakes and to expose all of our gaps in knowledge and understanding. Doing so will help us all grow.


Finally, while readings, listenings, and projects are not required, putting in the time outside of class to prepare will help you get more out of our discussions.


About the instructor

Nat Seelen is co-founder and clarinetist of the internationally acclaimed Ezekiel’s Wheels Klezmer Band. He has performed at major venues across the United States and Europe, including the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Rockport Music, Tanglewood, Het Compagnietheater, the St. Louis International Festival, and City Winery, among many others.


Nat is the winner of the Bubbe Award for Best New Klezmer Tune at the 2020 IMJ Brazil Kleztival, the 2015 Klezmer Company Orchestra Composition Competition, and with Ezekiel’s Wheels Klezmer Band won the Audience Prize and the City Winery Prize for Best Klezmer Band at the International Jewish Music Festival and the inaugural Klezmer Idol competition at the Boston Jewish Music Festival.


Outside of his private studio, Nat has led workshops and masterclasses at Tufts University, Community Music Works Providence, Milton Academy, and at K-12 schools across Massachusetts through Young Audiences of Massachusetts.


Accessibility

The New Klezmer is committed to full inclusion of all interested students. With the understanding that Zoom is not always the optimal modality for providing accessible experiences, we will always do our best to make this class accessible to you. All New Klezmer courses are taught in English and assume at least an intermediate (B1) level of English comprehension. Students whose primary language is not English may find the post-class written transcripts useful and should contact the instructor in advance if concerned about their level.


Built-in accommodations include:

  • Live and post-class written transcripts available via Otter.AI.

  • Recordings available post-class on the course website.


Please inform the instructor as early as possible if you have any conditions that might require accommodations or further modification of the course procedures.


Refunds

Withdrawing prior to 1 week in advance of the course start date entitles you to a full refund of course tuition, minus any processing fees. If you have to withdraw between 1 week prior the course date and the second class, you can apply the rest of your tuition toward another course. There are no refunds after the second class.


A/V release

By signing up for a course, you agree that the instructor may record any or all sessions of that course, including your participation in it. We record courses so that we can send you recordings afterward each class or if you are unable to attend a given class, and may use edited recordings from classes in promotional or educational materials. If you are not comfortable appearing in a class recording, please notify the instructor prior to the first class so we can plan accordingly.