Elaine Hoffman Watts is a klezmer drummer who has been performing since the early 1990s. She has played with some of the most well-known klezmer bands, including The Klezmatics and The Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band. Elaine’s drumming style is based on traditional klezmer rhythms, but she also incorporates elements of jazz and rock.
Beginning in 1998, Elaine Hoffman Watts was a percussion teacher at KlezKamp, and she has taught percussion in the Philadelphia area since the mid-1960s. She was a recipient of a 2007 National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which is the United States’ highest honour in the folk and traditional arts.
Elaine Hoffman-Watts Childhood
Hoffman Watts grew up as a klezmer aristocrat, the next generation in the family. Her father, Jacob Hoffman, was a renowned xylophone and percussionist who was a mainstay of Philadelphia music for decades. Elaine initially studied under her father’s tutelage playing drums in the basement of their home at 63rd and Ludlow. When
After that, she began to play in public, she was quickly recruited by the Philadelphia-based band The Klezmatics. Hoffman Watts has been playing klezmer music ever since.
Elaine was a very talented, very talented person, from her extraordinary talent, she was accepted into the Curtis Institute of Music and became the first woman to be allowed into the percussion department there. When she graduated in 1954, she was immediately hired as a timpanist at the New Orleans Symphony.
A Set of Elaine Hoffman Watts Klezmer Projects
The Elaine Hoffman-Watts Quartet released its debut CD, “Klezmer Nights”, in 2006. The album features original compositions by Hoffman-Watts, as well as traditional klezmer tunes. The quartet has performed at festivals and concerts throughout the United States, Europe, and Israel.
In some of her performances, Watts often appears with his daughter Susan Lankin-Watts who is also a klezmer singer, and trumpet player. In 2004, the duo released the album I Remember Klezmer: The Art of Klezmer Drumming. The album features traditional klezmer tunes, as well as original compositions by Hoffman-Watts.
Elaine Hoffman-Watts has been a featured performer at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the New York Klezmer Series, and the Jewish Music Festival. She has also been a guest artist with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Elaine Hoffman-Watts has received many awards for her contributions to klezmer music as one of the best female drummers ever. In 2006, she was awarded the Klezmer Pioneer Award by the International Jewish Music Festival. In 2007, she received the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, which is the United States’ highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.
Hoffman-Watts was also inducted into the Philadelphia Music Alliance’s Walk of Fame in 2010. She was also honored with a Leeway Foundation Transformation Award in 2007. The documentary film Eatala: A Life in Klezmer (2009), was produced by Philadelphia Folklore Project.
Outside as a musician, she was a teacher who took on thousands upon thousands of students over the decades, both at home and in a number of schools around the region. By all accounts, she was an excellent and rather no-nonsense teacher.