Sid Beckerman, z"l
One of my fondest memories of my first visit to KlezKamp occurred when I found myself awoken one morning by a group of clarinets practicing in my room—classrooms were aparently scarce, so one of my roommates had invited Sid Beckerman and the class to our place. It was just about the best possible way to wake up—in the middle of a class/jam session, with Sid at the helm.
Sid passed away on April 4, 2007. There will be a memorial event on Monday, May 21 at 8pm at the Congress for Jewish Culture, 25 E. 21st St. ground floor, Manhattan.
From KlezKamp co-founder, Henry Sapoznik:Sid Beckerman, son of legendary klezmer musician Shloimke Beckerman and himself a inspiration to a new generation of klezmer clarinet players died on April 4 at a hospice in Marboro, New Jersey. He was 87. The cause of death was listed as Alzheimer's.
Sid Beckerman was born in the Bronx in 1919 into an illustrious family of professional musicians. His father Shloimke ("Sam") was a pioneering recording klezmer soloist and a member of Paul Whiteman's Orchestra at New York's Little Club in the 1920s. Shloimke became Sid's first and only teacher and Sid honed his craft playing Jewish weddings and at Catskill hotels throughout the 1930s. During the Second World War he served in the U.S. Army's forward communication divisions in Italy.
After the war, Sid returned to a New York where the Jewish music scene had diminished and so took a job with the U.S. Postal Service only playing occasional weekend jobs.
Not long after retiring from the Post Office in 1982 musician Pete Sokolow plucked Sid Beckerman from obscurity and introduced him to the emerging klezmer revival as a member of the "Klezmer Plus! Orchestra" which Sokolow had just started with partner Henry Sapoznik. Sid Beckerman's earthy, physical old time sound and lush deeply knowing playing was the first introduction many people had to the vibrant musical presence klezmer enjoyed in a previous era. A founding staff member of "KlezKamp: The Yiddish Folk Arts Program" Sid was a generous and giving teacher, imparting his sound and repertoire to many young players.
The 1989 recording of "Klezmer Plus! Featuring Sid Beckerman and Howie Leess" was named an Outstanding Folk Recording by the Library of Congress and the publication of the book in 1991 solidified Sid's influence as a major important link to the classic style of repertoire of traditional klezmer.,/p>
Sid continued to play until the early stages of Alzheimer's forced him to quit in 2001.
He is survived by his wife Mae and sons Bruce and Lloyd.
A generous and deeply humble man, Sid Beckerman always accepted his modest fame and the enthusiastic accolades of his numerous students and fans with warmth, grace and good humor.