In late spring 1999, nine-year-old fraternal twins Jonathan and David Zaidins were at a Bat Mitzvah and didn’t like the music. Jonathan, who was just starting the violin, and David, who had taken up the alto saxophone, asked if they could play their instruments at their own b’nei mitzvah in 2003. Their dad suggested that they learn klezmer.
Jonathan and David gathered five friends and the search was on to find a klezmer music teacher. In the winter of the 2000-2001 school year, Lisa Mayer, a world-renowned klezmer violinist and the co-founder of Oy Vey Klezmer, was hired. The original band members called themselves “KlezKidz” and decided that playing for nursing homes would be a great mitzvah project for their bar/bat mitzvahs.
Well-known family music leader Kenny Green took over as Musical Director for the 2001-2002 school year. By the end of the second year, the program had grown to 16 youth and four adult musicians. Today, over 50 musicians participate in the Bedford/Mount Kisco and Tarrytown bands, performing at nursing homes, programs for the developmentally disabled, and local synagogues, and community venues.
In 2005 the program was incorporated as the Westchester Klezmer Program, Inc. and received its 501(c)(3) status as a not-for-profit organization and in 2011 we moved our web site from klezkidz.org to our new home at westchesterklez.org. The change was made to better reflect the intergenerational nature of the music program.
From 2002 through 2004, the program was supported in part by a grant from UJA-Federation of New York. Today, the program is self-sustaining, thanks to the seed money provided by UJA and from the ongoing generosity of people like you.