At the center of the new Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture will be an astounding collection of 78-rpm discs of historic recordings.
A $1 million endowment from Sherry Mayrent and Carol Master, via the Corners Fund for Traditional Cultures, a donor-advised fund of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, established the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture within the Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies in April.
The institute will spotlight Mayrent’s entire collection of more than 6,000 78-rpm discs, which she is donating to the University’s Mills Music Library. The library will provide online access to digitized recordings from the collection and to an information-rich database. The institute will produce publications and recording series including, but not limited to, editions and reissues from the collection.
The institute, the only one of its kind devoted to fostering an understanding of the world of Yiddish through the arts, will be directed by Henry Sapoznik, an expert on klezmer music and Yiddish and American popular culture. He is expected to join the University in January 2011.
“Ever since he started KlezKamp over 25 years ago, Henry Sapoznik’s name has been synonymous with Yiddish culture. Having him here to direct the Mayrent Institute is sure to put Madison on the map as a center for bringing an appreciation of Yiddish arts and letters to all generations,” said Pamela Potter, director of the Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies and renowned musicologist.
Mayrent’s collection of 78-rpm recordings is considered the largest and most comprehensive private collection of such period recordings in the world. At more than 6,000 discs and growing, it represents over 7,000 unique performances, and it spans the full gamut of genres commercially recorded from 1895-1955, known as the golden age of Yiddish culture: cantorial, Yiddish theater, klezmer and spoken word. The discs have all been fully cataloged, with nearly 40 percent of the recordings already meticulously transferred and digitally preserved by the Grammy award winning sound engineer Christopher King.
As director of the Mayrent Institute, Sapoznik will bring the headquarters of “KlezKamp: The Yiddish Folk Arts Program” to Madison, continuing the annual winter KlezKamp in the Catskills and adding a summer version in Madison. Plans are also afoot to hold regular conferences on Yiddish studies, including all aspects of Yiddish language, literature, history, music and folk arts; and sponsor visiting artists and scholars in the fields of Yiddish music, theater, dance, language and literature to augment the offerings in Yiddish culture provided by UW-Madison faculty.
The Mayrent Institute will also further the aims of the Center for Jewish Studies toward adding new faculty positions in Yiddish studies and laying the foundation for a Yiddish concentration within the Center’s undergraduate degree programs in Jewish Studies.
Mayrent and Master, both of Massachusetts and Hawaii, singled out UW-Madison for their gift after years of participation in and philanthropic support of KlezKamp — and in response to the resounding success of the UW-Madison’s Arts Institute’s 2009 Interdisciplinary Arts Residency of Henry Sapoznik and the concurrent symposium of the Center for Jewish Studies’s Conney Project on Jewish Arts.
“We are proud and delighted to be making this gift to the University of Wisconsin. Making this important cultural material universally accessible and ensuring the longevity of KlezKamp are two long-term dreams of mine,” said Sherry Mayrent.
Mayrent is an established teacher and performer of traditional Yiddish music. She joined the staff of KlezKamp in 1995 and became associate director in 2001. She is also a pre-eminent collector of rare Yiddish and Hebrew music. Her collection of 78-rpm recordings is the largest and most comprehensive private collection of such period recordings in the world. At more than 6,000 discs and growing, it represents over 7,000 unique performances, and spans the full gamut of genres commercially recorded from 1895-1955 considered the golden age of Yiddish culture: cantorial, Yiddish theater, klezmer and spoken word. The discs have all been fully cataloged, with nearly 40 percent of the recordings already meticulously transferred and digitally preserved by the Grammy award winning sound engineer Christopher King.
Sapoznik, a five-time Grammy Award nominee, is currently the executive director of Living Traditions; founder of KlezKamp, now in its 26th year; and creator of the Yiddish Radio Project, broadcast in a series on National Public Radio and winner of the 2002 Peabody Award.