Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Eliane Hoffman Watts wins NEA Heritage Fellowship

From the NEA Heritiage Fellowship Awards website:

"In 1982 the National Endowment for the Arts established the NEA National Heritage Awards as a way of honoring American folk artists for their contributions to our national cultural mosaic. Modelled after the Japanese "National Living Treasures" concept, the idea began with Bess Lomax Hawes, then director of the Folk Arts Program. Since its inception, over 300 artists have received the Heritage Award"

NEA's Bio for Watts :
"Elaine Hoffman Watts' family came to the United States from a town near Odessa in the former Soviet Union. Her father, Jacob Hoffman, was a prominent member of a klezmer band that was recorded in the 1920s. Elaine received training from her father and uncles in the family's repertoire of polkas, freilachs, mazurkas, shers, and other tunes of Eastern European Jewish musical tradition. She became the first woman graduate in percussion from the Curtis Institute of Music. With many opportunities before her, Watts chose to maintain the three-generation family tradition of playing klezmer music at weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other social events. She points out that being a woman and a drummer often was a barrier in her career but as one klezmer scholar observes, "Elaine is an important role-model to young players who otherwise would have no clue that women were indeed a part of traditional Yiddish music. Because those of us who study traditional Yiddish culture have no homeland in Europe to which we can return, we rely heavily on the 78-rpm recordings that were made during the early years of the 20th century. The vast majority of musicians on those recordings were men, and Elaine's presence is critical in redressing this imbalance."
The NEA bio page has a few music samples. Great stuff. You can also pick up her album 'I remember Klezmer, the Art of Klezmer Drumming' at CDBaby.

hat/tip to the Shamash.Org Jewish Music Mailing List

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