Our Musicians

Rob Heller is an Associate Professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Tennessee. He specializes in photojournalism and graphic design. As a member of Tennessee Schmaltz, Rob plays clarinet and washtub bass. Although the washtub bass is not typically associated with klezmer music (it has closer ties with Appalachian old style string bands), it provides a percussive bottom to the band and “it’s a lot cheaper than an upright bass.” Trained as a clarinetist, Heller enjoys playing klezmer because it reminds him of his New York Jewish roots and he likes the combination of jazz, swing, folk and classical genres that are evident in this style of music

Manny Herz was born at an early age in Berlin, Germany. He got out of there by the skin of his 18 months old neck (thanks a lot to Adolf). He studied the piano from age 4 and when it came to making a living he decided to become an architect (a financial mistake). Being a part of Tennessee Schmaltz has allowed him to revisit his youth, take up the keyboard a little more seriously and learn more about his Jewish heritage.

Lawrence Hoffman began as a classical clarinetist but switched to klezmer because nobody would get up and dance to his music! He has now been performing klezmer music to happy, dancing audiences for a quarter of a century. Hoffman joined Tennessee Schmaltz in 2004. When he is not playing clarinet you can find him in the kitchen as chef/owner of Everyday Epicurean, a catering company.

Dan Shapira, a native of Israel, picked up the squeeze box (accordion) at age 12. Moved to the US from Israel in 1969 to attend graduate school at Yale University. Vocation: Scientist, Hobby: Music - "I just enjoy hearing it, generating my own noise! and Klezmer music sounds much like music back home in the old country".

Carolyn Silver-Alford is a native East Tennessean. She is currently Education Director at Heska Amuna Synagogue. She has worked as a vocalist in many different genres and is thrilled to finally find her way to the music of her heart and of her people. She is honored to be part of Tennessee Schmaltz. “Working with these incredible musicians is a dream come true. The band’s faith in me has been an incredible musical experience as well as a spiritual journey.”

PAST MEMBERS (included in our recordings)

Tennessee Schmaltz founder, Judy Megibow, has been a major player in the growth and evolvement of Tennessee Schmaltz. She plays flute and piccolo, back-up vocals, castanets and spoons. Judy has played flute from childhood, and has bachelor degrees in Music Education and Music Therapy, and masters degrees in Special Education and Flute Performance. Judy, who attended several “KlezKamps” held in the Catskill Mountains, became totally turned on to this addictive music, contacted local musicians, and in 1995 started the group "Tennessee Schmaltz." Judy moved to Boulder, CO in 2005 where she already is involved with the music community.

Efrat Shapira, a violinist, was a member of the group. She is Dan's little baby... Efrath studied music in Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington. She studied with Yuval Yaron, Henryk Kowalski, and Steven Bow. Efrath, who also played with local Symphonies while working on her graduate degree in music under Marek Zelmanovich at UT Knoxville, has now moved to New York where she has her own Jazz/Country/Klez music band, performs solo, writes and arranges music, and is busy teaching music.

Ken Brown, Aaron Feldman, and Leslie Urso are also past members of the group.