Performers for the 2018 National Folk Festival

Klezmer is the traditional celebratory music of the Eastern European Jewish diaspora. With roots that pre-date the Middle Ages, klezmer incorporates cantorial melody, ancient folk tunes, Yiddish poetry, Hebraic ritual, and Greek and Ottoman influences. By the 1880s, klezmer was firmly established as the secular, vernacular music of the community, and arrived in the United States with the wave of Jewish immigration around the turn of the century. In the 1970s, a klezmer revival began that has produced a new generation of master musicians. The all-star lineup of Michael Winograd & the Honorable Mentshn is leading this revival into the 21st century. 

The band—whose name plays on the plural form of the Yiddish approbation “mentsh,” meaning a person of integrity—is the brainchild of Brooklyn clarinet virtuoso Michael Winograd. A graduate of the New England Conservatory, Winograd has become a leader in the modern renaissance of klezmer, a musical style he has played since childhood. One of today’s premier klezmer clarinetists, Winograd works at the forefront of cultural preservation, having co-founded Yiddish New York in 2015, and serving as the artistic director of KlezKanada, one of the world’s largest hubs for Klezmer and Yiddish education and cultural transmission.  

Pioneers of modern klezmer often looked to early recordings to learn from previous generations; among the most coveted were those made by Mentshn member Susan Watts’s grandfather and great-grandfather. A fourth generation klezmorim, Watts is not only a brilliant singer and trumpet player, she is also the keeper of a unique Philadelphia klezmer style passed down to her by her mother, National Heritage Fellow Elaine Hoffman Watts. ​

The band is rounded out by a veritable who's who of klezmer. Dan Blacksberg is a highly regarded jazz trombonist who is also one of the premier brass players in the world of klezmer. Bass and tuba player Mark Rubin is one of traditional music’s most versatile and in-demand sidemen, playing everything from klezmer to conjunto. Fiddler Cookie Segelstein is both a classical violist and a founder of the stellar klezmer ensemble The Youngers of Zion. On drums is Dave Licht, whose many credits include being a founding member of the Klezmatics. Accordionist Christina Crowder brings a haunting klezmer sound reflecting her years of researching and performing traditional Jewish music in Hungary and Romania. 

Also appearing with the Honorable Mentshn is Steve Weintraub, who trained with modern dance legend Alvin Ailey before becoming an internationally recognized Yiddish dance instructor. He will call and lead traditional Jewish dances for all to join in.