Bios for Omaha, NE Performance 9/18/22

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Lori Lippitz

Founder, Artistic and Musical Director, Vocalist, Guitarist

Lori has devoted herself to restoring the “joy of klez” to the Chicago Jewish community by founding the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band in 1983.  Under the auspices of the Klezmer Music Foundation, Lori founded the Junior Klezmer Orchestra in 1994, mentoring young people in klezmer music and Yiddish songs.  She also founded the Salaam-Shalom Music Project (an interfaith orchestra combining members of Maxwell Street and members of the Chicago Muslim musical community), as well as several congregational klezmer bands.  A graduate of the University of Michigan, Lori is also a freelance Cantorial Soloist.

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Lisa Fishman

Vocals

Singer, actress, songwriter, and recording artist Lisa Fishman has performed throughout the U.S. and Europe in a diverse career that has spanned from Klezmer music and Yiddish Theater to musical theater and children’s television to singing pop, rock, jazz and blues and her own original music. Lisa is the featured vocalist on Maxwell Street Klezmer Band’s You Should Be So Lucky! album. As a concert artist of Jewish music, Lisa has shared the stage with many musical luminaries including Itzhak Perlman, Mandy Patinkin, Theodore Bikel, Claire Barry of The Barry Sisters, Zalmen Mlotek, Fyvush Finkel, Seymour Rechzeit, Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, & Mary, and members of Brave Old World and of The Klezmer Conservatory Band. Lisa has sung backup for the legendary Jewish singer-songwriter Debbie Friedman, in concert at Carnegie Hall. In 2018-2020, Lisa was featured Off-Broadway in "Fiddler on the Roof” in Yiddish, "Bruce Adler, A, B, C," and starred alongside Broadway and film star Mike Burstyn in “On Second Avenue.” She has performed in numerous shows produced by New York’s National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. A songwriter in her own right, Lisa created and performs in an original one-woman show.

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Cantor Pavel Roytman

Vocals

Hailing from Nikolaev, Ukraine, Cantor Pavel Roytman (Beth Hillel Bnai Emunah) earned a degree in piano and conducting at a Russia-based conservatory, and toured as a vocalist throughout Russia, Finland, Norway, and Sweden.  Immigrating to the U.S. in the 1990s, he obtained his Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance and Master of Music in Musicology. He is a member of the American Conference of Cantors and the Cantors Assembly. In addition to singing with the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band since the mid-1990s, Cantor Roytman has performed in festivals from Chicago to Israel. In 2004 he won the first prize in the Jewish Arts contest in Berlin. In 2018 he performed in Paris with Kol Zimrah Jewish Community Singers. He has appeared on stage, solo and with distinguished musicians and ensembles including Chicago Acapella, members of Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Howard Levy, and Corky Siegal and Chamber Blues. His creative work includes liturgical and secular compositions for voice and choir. In 2017, he wrote and produced “The Singing Yid," a musical show based on his journey from the USSR to Chicago and the Cantorate.  He also hosts the Junior Klezmer Orchestra and sponsors the Wilmetsky Orchestra (a congregational band) at Beth Hillel Bnai Emunah. Learn more about Cantor Pavel Roytman in this article.

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Alex Koffman

Artistic and Musical Director, Violin, Vocalist

Alex was born in Minsk, USSR in a musical family where his grandfather taught him Jewish folk music.  Alex received his Master’s Degree from the Conservatory of Minsk, and, when drafted into the Red Army, conducted a military orchestra. After immigrating to America in 1990, Alex studied with Albert Igolnikov of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He then joined Maxwell Street Klezmer Band and soon became its violinist, Musical Director, and arranger.

 

Alex’s creative arrangements and compositions combine the traditional klezmer style with classical, jazz and contemporary influences. Since the 1990s, Alex has recorded five CDs and performed across the world with Maxwell Street, with highlights including Carnegie Hall, the Barbican Theatre in London, and the Vienna Mozart Hall. In 2008, Alex was the featured soloist in the world premiere of “Klezmer Rhapsody'' by Ilya Levinson, which he reprised in Symphony Center in 2014 with Chicago Sinfonietta.  In 2015, Alex was a featured performer in Lyric Opera of the first klezmer opera, “The Property.” In 2019, Alex was Musical Director of "The Dybbuk," an original setting of a folktale, at DePaul Theatre School. As an educator, Alex teaches klezmer musicians of all ages and levels, Alex conducts three grassroots synagogue bands and mentors young musicians in the Junior Klezmer Orchestra. 

 

In 2019, Alex was featured as a soloist and teacher at “Litvak Klezmer Festival,” Minsk’s International Jewish music festival.   In 2020, during the Covid-19 Pandemic, Alex was selected as a soloist in a virtual worldwide event, “Beregovski's Musical Treasures: 35 Klezmer Fiddlers: 12 Countries, 158 Nigunim.”  

 

Alex’s other musical credits include the Chicago Music Consortium, the David Rothstein Orchestra, the Bill Porter Orchestra, the Steppenwolf Theater, and movie and commercial soundtracks.  

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Shelley Yoelin

Clarinet, Tenor Sax, Flute, Arranger, Composer

Shelley Yoelin (tenor 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. Shelley leads jazz bands in Chicago and Palm Springs, California.

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Bartek Warkoczyński

Clarinet, Piano, Composer

Bartek (Bartosz) Warkoczyński 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 Wałbrzych, 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.  

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Ivo Braun

Trumpet

Ivo Braun, a native of Prague, Czech Republic, grew up in Skokie, Illinois. He has played with Maxwell Street since 1993, including performances at Carnegie Hall and the Barbican Center in London, several European tours, and can be heard on three of the band's recordings. Ivo received his B.A. in Trumpet Performance from the University of Illinois and his M.M. from the University of North Texas where he was a member of the school's award-winning Two O'Clock Lab Band. Ivo's performance experience includes Ringling Bros./Barnum & Bailey Circus, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the Irving Symphony in Dallas and cruise ships for both Carnival and Royal Cruise Lines. In addition to performing, Ivo has also enjoyed teaching music appreciation at Triton College in River Grove, Illinois as well as serving as the trumpet instructor for several schools in the Chicagoland area.  In his spare time, Ivo enjoys studying and performing improvisational comedy and is a graduate of both Second City's Training Center and the Improv Olympic Theater in Chicago. 

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Bob Samborski

Trombone

Bob Samborski is a native of Chicago and has played and recorded with Maxwell Street since 2007.  Bob studied trombone with Robert Gray and Tom Senff at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education. While at college, he played lead trombone with the famous U of I Jazz Band as well as with the Symphonic Band under Dr. Harry Begian. Bob was honored as Best Soloist at the Governors State University Jazz Festival. Before joining Max, Bob performed professionally with many notables including such greats as Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell, Mel Tormé, Cab Calloway, Sonny & Cher, Les Elgart, Roger Pauly, Jack Kramer, Anita O’Day, Si Zentner, Warren Covington, Pat Boone, Gloria Morgan, The Temptations, and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. He is also a highly skilled pianist and percussionist, and is comfortable playing in virtually all musical genres including Jazz, Classical, Latin, Pop, Swing, Dixieland, Rock, Bluegrass, and, of course, Klezmer.

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Gail Mangurten

Piano

Gail Mangurten 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.” She 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.

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Jim Cox

String Bass

Jim Cox graduated from the University of Illinois in 1979 and has played and recorded with Maxwell Street since 1993. He toured with Earl "Fatha" Hines from 1979-82 and played with Marian McPartland for almost 20 years. Jim is equally comfortable playing jazz, klezmer, bluegrass, pop, cabaret, and classical genres. Some of the artists he has played and recorded with include Rosemary Clooney, Michael Feinstein, Debbie Boone, Liza Minelli, Ann Hampton Callaway, Christine Ebersol, Wesla Whitfield, Phil Woods, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Chicago Sinfonietta, and jazz mandolinist Don Stiernberg, among others. He currently teaches at Lake Forest College and North Park University in Chicago.

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Justin Kramer

Percussion

Justin has a degree in Percussion Performance from the University of Illinois (1992). He went on to play in many ensembles around the Chicago-land area including The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band (since 1993) and the progressive Jazz group Spazztet, including guitarist Aaron Weistrop and violinist Zach Brock. After a two-year stint in New York City, Justin returned to Chicago and currently enjoys playing with many ensembles, especially Maxwell Street, and teaching high school English in the western suburbs.