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Ray Musiker photos by Kate Milford
photos by Kate Milford
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Circuit Productions Inc. (CPI) is supported, in part, with public funds from New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

Ray Musiker Klezmer Ensemble

Throughout his career as a professional musician, Ray Musiker has worked to preserve Klezmer, the music developed and performed by Jewish musicians in Eastern Europe.

Born in 1927 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Ray is the fourth generation in a family of Klezmer musicians. As a child, Ray learned to play Klezmer dance music at Jewish weddings. His parents, immigrants to America from Northern Russia, taught him about the wealth of Eastern European Jewish music from Russia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary.

Ray Musiker photos by Kate Milford

Ray plays saxophone, clarinet and flute. He taught music for 32 years, and recorded and performed extensively, in America and internationally. During the 50s he performed with Mickey Katz and Joel Grey in Borschtcapades. He has produced and arranged, as well as performed, on numerous Klezmer recordings, including an appearance on the Terry Gibbs Jewish Swing album. In 1992, Ray accepted a music award in the Krakow International Music Festival, where he performed his Matai [When?] album. In 1993, Musiker was featured as a clarinet soloist on the Garrison Keillor Prairie Home Companion radio show. His music has appeared in movie scores including Brighton Beach Memoirs, and he was included in the award-winning 1997 documentary Tickle of the Heart.

Ray has recorded five albums to date, including Tzena, Tzena, Jewish Wedding Dances— with Bobby Silver, and The New York Klezmer Ensemble. He is a father of three and has six grandchildren. Ray continues to perform Jewish music, jazz and swing with the Ray Musiker Klezmer Ensemble, a quintet of clarinet, trumpet, tenor saxaphone, piano and drums.