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Junior Klezmer Orchestra
Alumni Feature: Then and Now

Matt Temkin

JKO Vintage 1990s Allison Temkins.jpeg
Matt Temkin.jpg

Matt Temkin, a 1999 JKO graduate, is a drummer/percussionist and sound engineer based in New York City.​

From 1999 to 2003, Matt studied music literature at Northeastern University in Boston, and played in the New England Conservatory of Music Jewish Music Ensemble. Before leaving the academic world behind, Matt focused on Klezmer and Yiddish Music in America after World War II, concluding with his master's thesis at Brooklyn College entitled “American Yiddish Instrumental Fusion Music in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Matt worked at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Sound Archives in New York for almost ten years. He studied and played with several renowned musicians in the world of Klezmer Music, including Pete Sokolow, Paul Pincus, Howie Less, Ray Musiker, Julie Epstein, Elaine Hoffman Watts, Hankus Netsky, Henry Sapoznik, Michael Alpert, Walter Zed Feldman, Steve Weintraub, Adrienne Cooper z”l, and David Licht.  


Matt has studied Yiddish in the “YIVO Zummer Program” and the Worker's Circle in Boston, New York, and at their summer week in Yiddish Land. When going to KlezKanada, KlezKamp, and Yiddish New York, he made sure to take a dance class when he wasn't playing in the dance bands! 


Since 2005, Matt has played in five MainStage productions and numerous fundraising benefits and concerts for the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. In February 2024, he toured with their production of "Soul to Soul" (a show which includes Maxwell Street vocalist Lisa Fishman),

a concert celebrating the music and shared experiences of the African American and Jewish communities. Matt has been the drummer and percussionist for Stephen Wise Free Synagogue since 2006.  Matt has played at Carnegie Hall, and at the birthplace of Yiddish Theatre in Bucharest, Romania, where he helped revive one of the classic early Yiddish Theatre Operettas, Goldfaden’s "The Sorceress (Di Kishefmakherin).” He has shared the stage with the late great luminaries of the Yiddish theater Bruce Adler, Mike Burstyn, Fyvush Finkel, and Theodore Bikel. 

Matt's 2008 album, Poykler's Shloft Lied, includes the tune "7:40," which has been streamed online hundreds of thousands of times worldwide. To hear on YouTube, click here.


Matt's career only exists due to his introduction to Klezmer music with the JKO, facilitated by Lori Lippitz, Alex Koffman, Steve Hawk, and the late Sam Margolis.


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