Alex Koffman

Band Director, Violin

Alex Koffman received his Master’s Degree in classical music from the Conservatory of Minsk. In 1990, after immigrating to America, Alex studied with Albert Igolnikov of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The same year, he joined Maxwell Street Klezmer Band and soon thereafter became its Musical Director and arranger. In 2008, Alex was the featured soloist in the world premiere of “Klezmer Rhapsody” by Ilya Levinson at the Chicago Cultural Center (which he performed again in Symphony Hall in 2014 with Chicago Sinfonietta). In 2015, Alex was featured in Lyric Opera of the first ever klezmer opera, “The Property.” In 2019, Alex was Musical Director of "The Dybbuk" at DePaul Theatre School. Alex’s creative arrangements and compositions combine the traditional klezmer style with classical, jazz and contemporary influences. Alex conducts two grassroots community bands as well as the Junior Klezmer Orchestra.

Lori Lippitz

Founder, Manager, Vocalist, Guitarist

Lori Lippitz is the founder and manager of the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, which has toured the US and Europe and recorded six CDs. After studying Slavic Languages and Literature at the Universities of Michigan and Chicago, she devoted herself to restoring the “joy of klez” to the Chicago Jewish community. Under the auspices of the Klezmer Music Foundation, Lori started the Junior Klezmer Orchestra, mentoring young people in klezmer music and Yiddish songs. Among her other current Klezmer Music Foundation projects, she manages three congregational klezmer bands as well as the Salaam-Shalom Music Project, an interfaith orchestra combining members of Maxwell Street and members of the Chicago Muslim musical community. Lori also serves as a Cantorial Soloist at several congregations including the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation (Evanston and Ahavat Olam (Glenview).

Etel Melamed


Etel Melamed is also a professional composer, pianist and dancer.  Etel comes from a musical family in Odessa, Ukraine, where she graduated from the Odessa Conservatory of Music with an MA.  After arriving to the US in 2001, Etel has led her own ensemble, “The Melamed Band,” which had been touring the US and Europe for 13 years, and with whom she has recorded four CDs.  She has been singing and leading dancing with the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band since 2014.

Bibi Marcell



Bibi has been performing music throughout the world for many years, spending most of her time in the Chicago area. She began her singing career with her father and later joined the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble. 

In addition to performing extensively on her own, Bibi is celebrating her 11th year as a vocalist with the Maxwell Street Klezmer band. Between singing engagements, Bibi works as a cantorial soloist and Religious School Director at Congregation Hakafa and cares for her three beautiful children.

Lisa Fishman



Singer, actress, songwriter, and recording artist Lisa Fishman has performed throughout the U.S. and Europe. Lisa starred alongside Broadway stars Mike Burstyn on Off-Broadway (“On Second Avenue.”) She is a regular in New York’s National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene's Motl Didner and Di Goldene Kalleh (The Golden Bride) at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York in 2016. Other theater credits include Sally Bowles in “Cabaret,” Nancy in “Oliver,” Fanny Brice & Emma Goldman in “Tintypes,” the suffering Chanteuse in "Ghetto Cabaret," and Yente in "Shlemiel the First." Lisa is the featured vocalist on Maxwell Street Klezmer Band’s popular recording “You Should Be So Lucky!” (Shanachie Entertainment), and appeared with the band on Public Television’s "World Stage Chicago" and "Artbeat.” Lisa is also a vocalist with The Modern Klezmer Quartet." As a concert artist of Jewish music, Lisa has shared the stage with the legendary Claire Barry of The Barry Sisters, Theodore Bikel, Mandy Patinkin, Jerry Stiller, Fyvush Finkel, Seymour Rechzeit, Mike Burstyn, Bruce Adler, Adrienne Cooper, and Eleanor Reissa. Lisa sings a Yiddish song in the 2003 film, "Dummy," and New York City’s “Jewish Entertainment Hour.”

Available for national and international tours.

Pavel Roytman


Cantor at Congregation Beth Hillel Bnai Emunah in Wilmette


Hailing from Nikolaev, Ukraine, Cantor Pavel Roytman earned a degree in piano and conducting at a Russia-based conservatory, and toured as a vocalist throughout Russia, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, blossoming into the music career he started at age seven when he began studying piano. Immigrating to the U.S. in the 1990’s, he obtained his Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance and Master of Music in Musicology. After winning first prize for Voice/Cantorial Singing in Berlin (2004), he was certified as a Cantor in 2006 and is a full-fledged member of the Cantor’s Assembly. 

In addition to singing with the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band since the mid-1990s, he has performed in festivals from Chicago to Israel. Cantor Roytman has appeared on stage, solo and with distinguished musicians and ensembles including Chicago Acapella, Renovo Strings, Lincolnwood Chamber Orchestra, members of Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Corky Siegal and Chamber Blues, B’hai Temple Choir and many others. Cantor Roytman is a member of the American Conference of Cantors and Chicago-Milwaukee Association of Synagogue Music. Cantor Roytman’s creative work includes liturgical and secular compositions for voice and choir. Recently, he wrote and produced “The Singing Yid," a musical show based on his life and experience. 

Natasha Bodansky



Natasha Bodansky, who came to the US from Ukraine in 1995, holds a BA in Choral Conducting from Kharkov State Institute of the Arts, a Master of Music Degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Ilinois in Urbana-Champaign, and an MA in Learning Behavior (2018). Natasha’s performance credits include singing with UIUC Opera Theater, The Savoy-Aires, and Northwestern University Music Academy Chorus. Natasha has served as a Cantorial Soloist with UIC Hillel Foundation and sings with North Suburban Synagogue Beth El professional choir. In addition to Maxwell Street, Natasha is a soloist in the Chicago-area Russian-Ukrainian folk group, The Chicago Cossacks. Natasha has taught Jewish music and led singing at several congregational schools and directed four children Jewish choral groups and a band. She is devoted to the revival of Jewish music, and especially in introducing it to the American Russian-Jewish community. She is devoted to the revival of Jewish music, and especially to introducing Yiddishkeit to the local Russian-Jewish community.

Sandra Bowen



Sandra Bowen graduated with her MS from DePaul University, and has performed throughout the United States and Europe. Her greatest musical moments include performing with Gladys Knight and on the Jay Leno Show.

Gerald McClendon


From Sinatra and Smokey Robinson, to R & B and Motown classics that bring the house down and mellow soul, Chicago singer Gerald McClendon has earned the name “The Soulkeeper.”  His most recent album, “Can’t Stop Me Now,” was released in 2020 to universal praise:


"From Sinatra and Smokey Robinson, to R & B and Motown classics that bring the house down and mellow soul, Chicago singer Gerald McClendon has earned the name “The Soulkeeper.”  His most recent album, “Can’t Stop Me Now,” was released in 2020 to universal praise:“ - Jim Hynes, Glide Magazine


“Gerald McClendon: A Chicago Classic! This man puts class back into the classics. The heart and soul back into the rhythm and blues and a smooth sense of style into jazz. He is everything that is missing from music today.” - Nick Taylor, Chicago Loop News

Donald Jacobs

Arranger, Clarinet, and Saxophone

Donald Jacobs (Clarinet and Saxophone) has played with Maxwell Street from its founding in 1983. Don recorded on three of Maxwell Street’s CDs, and performed with other Maxwell Street musicians in the first klezmer opera, “The Property,” in Lyric Opera of Chicago's production. He has also arranged many pieces for the band. Don's touring career has included two trips to Jewish festivals in London, Vienna and Germany with Maxwell Street, three Danish tours, and many festivals in the U.S. and Canada. He graduated cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis, and has studied with clarinet masters Sid Beckerman, Richard Corpolongo, George Silfies and James Stoynoff. Now a resident of Houston, Texas, Don is the assistant band director at Lanier Middle School. He plays with “The Best Little Klezmer Band in Texas,” and also plays gypsy jazz and Balkan music. He enjoys returning to Chicago to play with Maxwell Street and others ensembles.

Shelley Yoelin

Saxophone, Clarinet and Flute

Shelley Yoelin (saxophone, clarinet and flute) is one of the original founding members of the band. Formerly Chair of the Fine Arts Department and Director of Bands at Triton College in River Grove, Illinois, Shelley has been playing with Maxwell Street since 1983. Shelley regularly performs in the Palm Springs area and was nominated in the Coachella Valley Weekly magazine for Best Jazz Instrumentalist.  He is a long time instructor at the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshop and with the International Federation of Jazz in London. A familiar face at jazz clubs around town, Shelley leads jazz bands in Chicago and Palm Springs, California.  

​Bartek Warkoczynski

Clarinetist, Pianist, Composer


Bartek (Bartosz) Warkoczynski graduated from the Music University in Lodz, Poland in 2002. The city and its rich Jewish history had a significant influence on Bartek’s future musical path.   After playing clarinet and piano in the Sudecka Symphony in Walbrzych, Bartek became entranced with klezmer music and founded the band “Klezmerado,” which entertained throughout Poland.   He has also played with Anashim (“People”) in Poland and with the Supertonic Orchestra  in Dublin, Ireland.  As a conductor and composer, Bartek conducted two woodwind orchestras in Strzegom and Zarow and composed music for a children’s theater in Walbrzych.  On his way to Chicago, Bartek performed on the Asuka II, a Japanese cruise ship, and with the Las Vegas Philharmonic. Besides being Maxwell Street’s newest musician, he plays in the Chicago City Wide Symphony Orchestra.  

Jeff Jeziorski


Jeff has been playing with Maxwell Street since 1987. His Bachelor of Music Degree in Music History and Theory is from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has played and recorded since the 1960's with Balkan ensembles at folk festivals and at venues such as Old Town Restaurant in Milwaukee, and founded the group Festival European. He has also performed with Skylight Opera. He has written the scores for musical theater productions. Jeff is featured on the band's most recent CD and has performed twice with Maxwell Street in Europe. Jeff, Elizabeth, and sons Adam and Gregory live just outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Ivo Braun



Ivo Braun is a native of Prague and has been with Maxwell Street since 1993. He received his BA in trumpet performance from the University of Illinois and his MM from the University of North Texas where he performed with the school's award-winning Two O'Clock Jazz Band. Ivo's performance experience includes Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, the Irving Symphony in Dallas and the Symphonic Pops Orchestra of Chicago. In addition to performing, Ivo has enjoyed teaching music appreciation at the college level and he graduated from Chicago's famous Second City Training Center. Ivo currently resides in Skokie, Illinois.

Bob Samborski


Bob Samborski has a love love of music which is contagious in his performing style. Not only is he comfortable playing trombone in virtually all musical styles - including Jazz, Classical, Latin, Pop, Swing, Dixieland, and Klezmer - but Bob is one of the most multi-talented and versatile musicians around and is a highly-skilled pianist and percussionist. After studying music at the University of Illinois, Bob embarked on a professional career which included stints of varying lengths with such notable performing artists as Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell, Mel Tormé, Cab Calloway, Sonny & Cher, and the Glenn Miller Orchestra - to name a few. Bob has been performing with the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band since January 2007, a musical match he feels was made in Heaven.

Dana Legg



A native of Marshalltown, IA, Dana Legg played his first gig at the age of 15. He studied music at Southwestern Community College and The University Of Northern Iowa. Dana has been a member of the music faculty at Glenbard South High School, Marshalltown Community College, Harper College and Loyola University, and has performed with such notable artists as Bruce Adler, Louie Bellson, Randy Brecker and The Mills Brothers, and toured with the Guy Lombardo and Buddy Rich Orchestras. Dana has served as clinician, guest soloist, and composer/arranger for many school jazz ensembles of all levels, as well as his own professional big band. He is proud to be part of the Maxwell Street family since 1998.

​Gail Mangurten



Gail Mangurten (Piano) is musical director of many professional and community ensembles and accompanist of musicals. Gail is on the teaching staff at Virtuoso Performing Arts and accompanies services at several congregations. A master of many styles, she is in demand as an accompanist of musicals, wedding ceremonies and synagogue and church services.. She has made four recordings with Maxwell Street and is composer and arranger of the show, "Jewish Songbirds of Tin Pan Alley.”  graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington, where she honed her classical and jazz skills. Gail was the musical director at “Tuxedo Junction", a 1940's ensemble, when Maxwell Street discovered her in the 1990s. Since then, Gail has toured with Maxwell Street  Klezmer Band, including in Europe and Carnegie Hall.

​Jim Cox

Double Bass


Jim Cox received his BA in double bass performance from the the University of Illinois. Jim toured with legendary jazz pianist Earl "Fatha" Hines, and with pianist Marian McPartland for 20 years. He has also had the pleasure of playing with Rosemary Clooney, Michael Feinstein, Debbie Boone, and is a staple at Chicago jazz festivals. He recently recorded a CD with jazz mandolinist Don Stiernberg. Jim has recorded over 150 CDs in various styles of music including jazz, folk, bluegrass, klezmer and cabaret. In his other hat, he is an educator for special needs children.

Dan Anderson

Bass, Tuba


Dan Anderson currently resides in Batavia with his wife Irene and their two sons, August and Dixon. His interest in music emerged at the age of nine with the discovery of his uncle's trumpet in the attic. Dan subsequently started playing the tuba in the fifth grade band and also enjoyed playing the baritone and trombone during his earlier years. He studied further at the Interlochen Arts Academy, University of Illinois and Northwestern University. Before finishing college, Dan spent two years living in Germany. There, his freelance work took him from the Octoberfest Bands to the Nuernberg Philharmonic. In addition to the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, he plays string bass with the Chicago Brass Quintet , Von Freeman Quintet and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble. On occasion Dan is also a guest with the Chicago Symphony and many other musical organizations in Chicagoland. He teaches jazz bass at Columbia College Chicago and tuba and euphonium at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. Dan always tries to bring relaxed spontaneity and positive energy to every performance and views his playing as a lifelong endeavor.

Mark Ponarovsky



Mark Ponarovsky was born in Kiev, Ukraine, and received his BA from the Kiev College of Music.  He toured with various show orchestras in the former Soviet Union and became the percussionist of the Kiev State Circus Big Band.  After his immigration in 1989, Mark performed in Milwaukee until relocating to Chicago in 1991, when he joined Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. He has recorded four CDs with Maxwell Street.  Mark and Lilya live in Northbrook, Illinois.

Steve Hawk



Stephen attended the Berklee College of Music, Northwestern University, and Vandercook College of Music, and earned advanced performance and education degrees from each of these schools. His formal music education also includes playing timpani and percussion in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.

Currently Stephen plays drums with the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, Brass Tracks Orchestra, the Swing Shift Orchestra at the Green Mill, the Outcasts Jazz Band, Event Horizon Quartet, and is the timpanist for the Highland Park String Orchestra. Stephen also teaches band, percussion ensemble, and general music in the Elmwood Park, Illinois public schools.

Honorary Member: Ralph Wilder


Ralph Wilder began as clarinetist in the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band in 1989. He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he played principal clarinet in all performing ensembles. His playing with Maxwell Street can be heard on the albums entitled "Sweet Early Years", "You Should Be So Lucky", and "Old Roots, New World". Along with Ralph's love for Klezmer music, he has led his own "party band" called The Ralph Wilder Orchestra, taught clarinet and saxophone at North Park University, directed the "The Northwest Concert Band", and played Principal Clarinet with the Evanston Symphony Orchestra. Ralph offers many styles including orchestral, ballet, Broadway musicals, rock, pop, jazz, Dixieland, New Age, and, of course, Klezmer, and is proud to have been a member of the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band for 18 years.

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