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Kaila Flexer collaborating with The Crowden School
Award:  $35,000 Performing Arts grant awarded in 2005
Presented:  Performances at the Crowden School (Berkeley; Swedish American Hall (San Francisco); and First Unitarian Church (Oakland), in February 2006

Composer, violinist, and producer Kaila Flexer, together with musicians Nicolai Prisacar (accordion), Michele Simon (tupan, Bulgarian bass drum/vocals), Gari Hegedus (oud, saz, tambura, lauto), and Balkan dancer Lisa Liepman,collaborated with outstanding young musicians at The Crowden School on The Xylem Folkestra Project. Together they created a body of new music that incorporated the meters of Balkan folk music with classical and contemporary classical devices. The project culminated with concerts featuring one set for a listening audience, and one for Balkan folk dancing.

Beginning in fall 2005, Flexer, Prisacar, Simon, and Hegedus joined Crowden music faculty to begin work with 76 Crowden students who learned a body of traditional Balkan folk songs entirely by ear. In addition, 13 highly-motivated students (The Xylem Folkestra) met weekly with Flexer to develop and master a body of both traditional Balkan and original material by Flexer that was later performed at the school and in community settings.

The Crowden School is an accredited 4th-8th grade school serving 70-80 students per year. Founded in Berkeley, California in 1983, it teaches stringed instrument technique, ensemble, orchestra, music history, music theory, and composition, as well as academic subjects.

The great-granddaughter of Polish Klezmer musicians, violinist Kaila Flexer has been recording, performing, and producing events in the Bay Area for more than 20 years. She is well known for her productions of the Bay Area’s annual Jewish music festival Klezmer Mania!  As a bandleader, she has been at the helm of new folk music ensembles Kaila Flexer’s Fieldharmonik, Next Village, and Third Ear—all of which played her original compositions.