Stempenyu’s Dream

From Feb ’09 Spotlight: I received a wonderful Chanukah gift last year, a two-disc set of “new Klezmer” called Stempenyu’s Dream. After listening to it several times, entranced, I called composer Steven Greenman at home in Cleveland to learn more.

“I was born in December 1966, so the whole Fiddler on the Roof thing was really big then, and when the movie came out, my parents bought the record, and I kept asking them to play it over and over again. I wanted to play violin because of that,” said the 42-year-old musician. “I’ve gone quite a ways away from Broadway since, but that was my start.”

“Stempenyu was a famous Jewish violinist from Berdichev, Ukraine. Sholem Aleichem wrote a story about him. Stempenyu composed and played his own pieces. I intend to create a Jewish soulful spiritual connection—to compose and play Jewish music just like he did, to share my ethnicity, my ancestry, my pride in the old Yiddish culture that was really special and important.”

“I’ve written so much stuff that’s just terrible and really banal, but I’ve also written stuff that’s special and unique, and now I want to share it with everybody. I’ve gone to nursing homes where I’ve played some of these pieces, and people were blown away, but one of my colleagues, a year or two ago, he told me that he was walking in the New York subway, and he heard a young girl playing one of my tunes on the violin, like it was the Jewish Hey Jude.”

To read the rest of my chat with Steve, visit my website:

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