For many participants, KlezKanada’s youth scholarship programs are a life-changing experience. We feel a great sense of nakhes as we watch the participants and alumni of our program become performers, teachers, and leaders around the world. We thought it was about time that we caught up with some of our current and “graduated” scholarship students to feature their experiences of KlezKanada (and beyond).
Daniel Toretsky has attended KlezKanada as a scholarship student since 2008, with his father Jeffrey and sister Abigail, who all play together in the klezmer band Mrs. Toretsky’s Nightmare.
As an architect, Daniel pays particular attention to the importance of places and spaces. “KlezKanada gave my musical and Jewish identity a new centre, geographically, and socially. For some people their Jewish centre is Jerusalem, the Western Wall, their synagogue, or somewhere else – but without a doubt I would say KlezKanada.”
As a trombonist, Daniel has attended KlezKanada’s low brass instrumental classes taught by Dan Blacksberg and Rachel Lemisch.
“Those classes are always a treat! It’s like brass yoga in the morning, a moment to recalibrate yourself with your horn – a solid starting point for the day, un-chaotic, just you and that deep drone around you.”
Daniel also participates in the larger ensemble classes where he enjoys learning tunes by ear and connecting with the other musicians to play both new and old Jewish music. Though he is primarily an instrumentalist, Daniel participates in the diverse range of programming offered at KlezKanada. Since he often plays in dance bands, Daniel has also enjoyed opportunities to take dance classes.
As a matter of fact, what Daniel considers the highlight of his week at KlezKanada involves no instruments at all: the nigunim. After dinner on Shabbes, KlezKanadians can join Sruli Dresdner, Lisa Mayer, Jeff Warschauer, and Deborah Strauss at the Shabbes Tish. Daniel finds himself speechless trying to convey what the Tish is and why it means so much to him. “I’ve never been able to explain it to anyone who hasn’t already been there.” In a darkened room lit only by trays of candles, people gather closely, sitting shoulder to shoulder, and join together in wordless song. The room becomes filled by the warmth and joy of people connected in a timeless meditative moment, extended for hours from melody to melody. Throughout the week at KlezKanada, Daniel attends the Nigunim for Peace class led by Sruli Dresdner and Zach Mayer, learning nigunim and other Hasidic vocal melodies, which will be sung on Friday night at the Tisch. Daniel especially appreciates that the Tisch reflects KlezKanada as an inclusive community and environment. “If you look up these nigunim on Youtube, they’re sung by men in shtreimls at a wedding, while the women are somewhere unseen. We’re the heirs to this incredibly rich history, and singing it with diversity of race, gender, sexuality is really important for bringing it into the 21st century.”
For Daniel, the ubiquitous jam sessions are another high point. At KlezKanada there is always a jam happening somewhere. “I learned so much by just jamming really late into the night with professional musicians – listening to them, having them nudge me and telling me to start playing. I was able to learn from them even if we didn’t speak the same language.”
You can see more of Daniel’s work at his website www.danieltoretsky.com
Music in the embedded video is by Abraham Inc.
This post is part of a new series of interview-articles by Ari Lewis-Weigens.