Virtual Live Edition
Sunday, Jan. 16 | 5 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 20 | 5 p.m.
Sunday, March 20 | 4 p.m.
(Times listed are Arizona times. Find the time in your time zone here.)
The East Valley JCC is proud to present the third annual Klezmer Fest, which will include three live virtual concerts featuring Naqshon’s Leap, live from Royal Studios in Memphis, as well as a Q&A with the artists.
Jan. 16: Origin Story
Learn about the history of Klezmer music and meet the members of Naqshon’s Leap as they perform traditional Klezmer music and original songs. Includes a tribute to Martin Luther King. Jr. to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. Featured guest is Cantor Ricky Kampf of Baron Hirsch Congregation in Memphis.
Feb. 20: Music & Mysticism
Discover the mission behind The Universal Language Room and Beit Abulafia, which demonstrates the beauty of improvisational music for all people, through performances of Klezmer music and original songs.
March 20: Spiritual World Traditions
Meet musicians through their world spiritual traditions, who will be performing their own music and playing with Naqshon’s Leap.
How to watch
There is no charge to watch Klezmer Fest 2022. Come back to this page on the day of the concert to watch. If you’d like to receive a reminder the day before the concert or watch a recording of the concert after the March 20 conclusion of the series, please sign up here.
Meet Naqshon’s Leap
To read the band members’ bios, select the icon next to their name.
Jason Caplan is an entrepreneur, financial adviser and musician.
He created the Universal Language Room and started The Bridge Institute, 501c3 to support the idea. Jason is dedicated to teaching music as a universal language to promote dialogue, cooperation, and collaboration amongst all people. Jason also created Beit Abulafia to spread the teachings of Kabbalist – Rabbi Abraham Abulafia. This project led him to an intensive study of Carl Jung, which Jason pursues in Memphis. Jason is married to Michal Caplan and they have two daughters.
Jason was a featured guest on a recent episode of the Conversation with the Rabbi podcast, where he spoke to Rabbi Beyo, EVJCC CEO, about creating the Universal Language Room, his spiritual journey through Torah and music, and the writings of Rabbi Abulafia. Listen to the conversation here.
Dalion "Thunderarms" Russell
My name is Dalion Russell , or as some people call me, ”Thunderarms.”
I was born in Memphis to Gwendolyn Labattes Richmond my (mom) and David Dawson my (dad). I my two siblings, and mom lived on the south side of the Memphis area, in White Haven where we went to church at Bountiful Blessings, where the late great G.E. Patterson Pastored. At, age 3, I began my drum journey, by me joining the youth choir the little sunshine choir and band. But, my mom said I started playing in womb , and when I was first born, there I gain the knowledge, how to be in a structured group learning how to play with others.
I got in with the older group of children, because my mom was over the group “special privileges huh, ” she would always push me even when I didn’t want to in music and life. So, at age 5 me my mom and siblings, moved to West Memphis, Arkansas this where my mom was from, so we where raise in Arkansas for the majority of our lives. There, we join Pilgrim Rest M.B church where Pastor Ronnie Reel preside, my moms home church and now ours.
My mom put me right to work, playing at the church but, I didn’t understand the style of the music because it was more of a quartet style singing, but I got the hang of it. At, the age of 10 my mom, siblings and I, did our first recording with a known saxophone player in St. Louis ,MO that was my first taste of ever being in the spot light as a drummer.
By, the age of 12, I started playing for a group that my mom was in called (Kieth Whitfield and company Chorale) a community choir that was formed for the entire city and there, I learned a lot about timing, structured songs and how to be creative on the drums. Also we’re I made my first pay check. Boy did that fell good, the greatest feeling in the world , I also traveled a lot , so was exciting. By, the age of 15, the group was preparing for there first recording, and I was terrified, I had never played a 12-song recording before, so I called my mentor Jeremiah “Munchy “ Turner and he coached me thru the recording process and he also played on the recording and we made it thru thank God. But, the part about is that’s when I got the greatest opportunity to play in my first studio session for over dubs. I even had to over dub some of my mentors playing, I learned how song structure works, how to setup songs for beginnings and endings, the most exciting part I got my first job as a studio drummer, the studio producers asked me if I wanted to be there studio drummer and of course I said yes who wouldn’t.
So, this is when I began learning different time signatures, tuning, different styles of music I must have played on at least 30 songs with in a weeks time. And in my downtime, they taught me how to run the mixing board and the structure of how to record others , and that’s where I feel in love with recording and I knew that’s what I’ll be doing the rest of my life.
At, age 19 I got married to the love of my life Tammy Russell, right after high school and we’re still going strong 15 years later, and later we joined a non-denominational church, Dominion World Outreach Min. under the leadership of Dr. Sharon R. Nesbitt,where we now reside this where, I started playing for gospel artists, to name a few Brian Cortney Wilson, Sherri Jones Moffett, Vanessa Bell Armstrong. By, age 21 I get a call to play for a singer (Ben Kirk )and with him I recorded my for CCM style album and out of that I gain a relationship with CCM based church’s, I played for them for four years while playing at Baptist, Methodist, Seventh-Day Adventist, and Cogic church’s. In, 2010 I recorded with saxophone local artist (Aisha DuBose) on her jazz gospel album, in 2018 I was ask to play on (Candice Luther) live recording. And I have produce songs; for artist (Clarence Smith) song title “He made alright” that’s playing nationwide, And I’ve produced for other local artist that are currently playing on the radio locally in Arkansas, Tennessee and surrounding areas.
I later began to play with party bands and jazz bands. Now I play for a band call Blind Mississippi Morris and the crew, where I play on bill street with four times a week, also Naqshon’s Leap, universal music.
Raishene Webb, 46, has been playing professionally since he was 12 years old. “I started out playing the drums in church when I was 6 years old, had my first TV appearance at age 10, and played my first club gig at 14. I love all types of music and have been blessed to play all genres of music and travel doing what I love.”
Gilbert Smith (Feb. 20 performance)
Gilbert Smith, co-founder and co-writer of Naqshon’s Leap, will perform in the Feb. 20 program. He was born in Tennessee and grew up in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. He now lives in NYC and is working as an administrator at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. A committment to community service has led him to work in public health. Gilbert is a founding member of the Universal Language Room. He has written dozens of poems and songs beginning in childhood and continuing through the present. He is working with other to launch the Global Alliance for Indigenous People, Gender Justice, Peace, and Equality.
Eric Pierce has been performing professionally since he was 16. Coming from a musically talented family, he has worked with many of the local musicians in Memphis Tennessee. Eric spent years on the southern soul scene as a backup singer and opening act. His most recent album is a testament to his skills as a songwriter.
After receiving his baccalaureate at Kenyon College, Ohio, Stephen Wachtel served eight years as a jet pilot in the U.S. Air Force, and went on to earn a doctorate in Medical Genetics at the University of Pennsylvania. He held joint appointments at the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research and the Cornell University Weill Medical College in New York. He authored 200 scientific articles and chapters and four books.
A man of many interests, Wachtel regularly plays jazz and blues. He has appeared weekly with Joyce Cobb and Elmo and the Shades and the Daddy Mack Blues Band for 25 years. He played with the Fieldstones for Vice President Al Gore. He performed classical music as clarinetist with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and more recently, with members of the Memphis Symphony.
Wachtel also paints in oils. His canvases hang in the Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art in Memphis, the Guardsmark Collection in New York and in private collections around the world. Visit his website SHOELART.com
He’s a member of Baron Hirsch Congregation and Young Israel of Memphis. An accomplished Baal Koreh and Baal Tefilah, he blows the shofar on Rosh Hashanah.
Cecil McDaniel is a veteran bassist, born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, home of the Blues, R & B, Staxx and so much more. After having played multiple instruments in bands all of his life, he decided in the 70s and 80s that he would focus on a formal education, a natural progression from his training throughout his middle school and high school training. Touch by the lyrical content of all kinds of songs, from all genres of music Cecil decided to become a songwriter like his influences Stevie Wonder, John Lennon, Ray Charles, Carole King and a host of others.
At a young age of15 or so hanging out with an older cousin who was a drummer, Cecil was heard by many artists such as Joe Simon and his musical director, Bowlegs Miller, well known Memphis Artist, and even in the church and ask if he could travel on the road with them once they heard him perform but his parents would not permit it saying “he has to stay in school and get an education and besides you are too young.” With flair for playing and the most he could out any instrument this guitarist turned bassist found his expression in woodwinds instruments, percussion and some brass throughout middle and high school. Although his roots are firmly placed in mainstream blues, Gospel and R&B, he found himself just as “at home” withmany different kinds of music. His bass influences are Ron Brown, Oscar Pettiford (“most melodic bassist I ever heard”), Stanley Clark, Rufus Reed, Charlie Mingus, James Jamerson, Nathan Watts, Chuck Rainey and Willie Weeks to name only a few.
Music is was an inescapable destiny, a passion for Cecil however: after playing the guitar for most his early years, Cecil was asked to play bass for a talent show because a musical group in middle school needed a strong bassist for the songs they were performing. Thus the bass career began at the tender age of 14: “I remember a very very young age taking laundry detergent boxes and rubber bands to make my first guitar. Any and everything that made a sound around the house was used to make music before I even picked up the guitar!” he says jokingly. But it wasn’t until joining local bands as as a singer/bass guitarist as a young teen, that he decided there was no turning back, this is it. The early training on piano at an early age, the woodwind training in middle, high school and college opened the doors to a rich and rewarding musical career. “Playing with local acts locally nationally and internationally in jazz ensembles, orchestras, rock bands, R&B groups, church choirs both as a bassist and vocalist gave me the depth of understanding of how it was all put together: that and going to college and majoring in musical education and minor in business.” Playing off Broadway gigs such as Dream Girls, The Wiz, Don’t Bother me I can’t Cope” and others gave him that background in theathre. Studying, playing the Classics in College and hours upon hours of listening, practicing and loving every moment. provides the musical sound scape known as the Cecil Bass Groove.
Legally blind since birth, poor and black created as excellent platform for the blues, which Cecil was first known for, thanks to his Dad who taught him to play not only the guitar but the harmonica as well. Once he got over the shock and amazement that his father was not only a musician but a very good one. Learning of his roots as Johnson, Hooker, McDaniel and seeing for the first time uncles who were totally blind who had perform as members of the Blind Boys of Alabama and Five Blind Boys of Mississippi and told of his ties to some well known blues and rock and roll greats was “the icing on the cake.” Recording came natural. Cecil has recorded on numerous blues, gospel, hip-hop, pop, jazz and R&B, to name a few. Studying Djimbeand other drums from West Africa with a master drummer for three plus years was also life changing and a connection to even deeper roots than before. Cecil recently toured with world renowned Jazz guitarist Fareed Haque, the world renowned musician / composer Dr. Herman Green.
Host and Special Guests
Host: Felicia Peat
Felicia Peat, WKNO Education & Outreach Manager, Kids Channel 24/7, portrays the local children’s character, Teacher-Teacher, and holds a BS degree in social work from LeMoyne-Owen College and a master’s degree in business administration. She develops and implements reading, math, and science programming for families with early learners for WKNO’s social media platforms & coordinates and leads Literacy Education and STEM focused workshops with Prek-5 educators and parent & child workshops with families in the Mid-South.
She co-authored “Inventing Mystery Machines: Collaborating to Improve Teacher STEM Preparation” (2015); Shape, Bake, and Grow! Taking to the Outdoors in Urban Settings Encourages Plant Knowledge and Healthy Lifestyles” (2020) in Science & Children, and co-authored a chapter published in the book, Bringing STEM to the Elementary Classroom and “Creating Access and Opportunity: Preparing African American Male Students for STEM Trajectories Pre-K – 12th” published in the Journal for Multicultural Education. She has led and partnered at workshops all over the U.S. for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), National Science Teaching Association (NSTA),International Association of Laboratory Schools (IALS), The Association of Childhood Education Institute (ACEI), Tennessee Association of Museums (TAM), and the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM).
Cantor Ricky Kampf (Jan. 16 performance)
Cantor Ricky Kampf of Baron Hirsch Congregation has been associated with the Memphis synagogue since 1989. In his first years, he served the congregation as the assistant Shalich Tzibur and executive director. He received his cantorial degree from the Belz School of Jewish Music, and currently serves as the congregation’s cantor.
Cantor Ricky’s melodious voice is a highlight of all the congregation’s Shabbat and holiday services. His Kabbalat Shabbat service every Friday night fills the synagogue with excitement and energy, and his holiday work with both our Men’s and Boys’ Choirs make the High Holy Days very meaningful. He also is a master bar mitzvah teacher, who has taught Torah reading and davening to countless boys throughout Memphis.