"Susan Watts, the phenomenal trumpeter, has clearly internalized the cantorial voice and found unique ways to replicate them on her instrument. Watts’ playing was the revelation of the evening…" — Seth Rogovoy
Susan Hoffman Watts represents the youngest generation of an important klezmer dynasty that reaches back to the Jewish Ukraine of the 19th century, beginning with her great-grandfather, musician, composer, cornet-player, and poet, Joseph Hoffman. Susan is the sole living purveyor of the family’s traditional klezmer-style trumpet sounds which electrified audiences for decades. Susan and the Hoffman family are the features of several televised documentaries.
In addition to playing with a variety of noted klezmer musicians from around the world. Watts has recorded, performed and sang with, Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars, Henkus Netsky, Klezmer Concervatory Band, The Klezmatics, So-Called, Claire Barry, Mandy Pitankin, Dudu Fischer, Mikveh, Shtreimel, The Klez Dispensers,. Susan also has performed with her mother, the great klezmer drummer Elaine Hoffman Watts, in their Philadelphia-based group, the Fabulous Shpielkehs.
Watts is a composer and arranger. Her repertoire is filled with Hoffman family repertoire: generations of klezmer compositions from her great grandfather, grandfather and now Susan’s additions to the family cannon. She has been commissioned to compose klezmer for Amsterdam’s Fiddle Kapelye and the American Composer’s Forum. As one of the leading klezmer trumpet players of the modern klezmer scene, Susan has taught at klezmer festivals in New York, France, Canada and London.
Susan is a 2015 Pew Fellow and the recipient of two Leeway Foundation Grants. Both projects are centered on using klezmer as a social change agent. Susan's concept is the focus of a Pew Fellowship Project Grant granted to the Philadelphia Folklore Project. The Project is entitled, Soul Songs: Inspiring Women of Klezmer. This projects brings together 12 of the top Klezmer instrumentalists in North America (whom all happen to be women) to perform new Klezmer compositions all penned by women. This event, directed by Watts is the blueprint by which modern klezmer can take its cue.
Susan Watts’ contribution to the present day landscape of klezmer is notable. Being a fourth generation klezmer is something that no other contemporary klezmer can acclaim. Her passion for Yiddish culture, klezmer music and its history has informed her life’s journey to this moment. Carrying the mantle of klezmer, keeping it in the forefront of the Jewish cultural experience and keeping it full of life is the essence of Susan Watts.
Video Postcard - The Hoffman Family