Elaine Hoffman Watts wins National Endowment for the Arts, National Heritage Fellowship
The Jewish Music WebCenter already knew how great Elaine is, having conducted an extensive interview with her at KlezKanada a few years ago, not to mention hearing all those concerts with her. Now she’s getting a national honor… nice!
The NEA writes about Elaine:
“Elaine Hoffman Watts’ family came to the United States from a town near Odessa in the former Soviet Union. Her father, Jacob Hoffman, was a prominent member of a klezmer band that was recorded in the 1920s. Elaine received training from her father and uncles in the family’s repertoire of polkas, freilachs, mazurkas, shers, and other tunes of Eastern European Jewish musical tradition. She became the first woman graduate in percussion from the Curtis Institute of Music. With many opportunities before her, Watts chose to maintain the three-generation family tradition of playing klezmer music at weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other social events. She points out that being a woman and a drummer often was a barrier in her career but as one klezmer scholar observes, “Elaine is an important role-model to young players who otherwise would have no clue that women were indeed a part of traditional Yiddish music. Because those of us who study traditional Yiddish culture have no homeland in Europe to which we can return, we rely heavily on the 78-rpm recordings that were made during the early years of the 20th century. The vast majority of musicians on those recordings were men, and Elaine’s presence is critical in redressing this imbalance.”