Sherry Mayrent

About Sherry Mayrent

Sherry Mayrent earned a PhD in English from the University of Kent, Canterbury, England, and spent 12 years as a research associate at Harvard Medical School before attending her first KlezKamp (an annual Yiddish folk arts program) in 1987. Having begun to play the clarinet at age 9, she was an accomplished classical player when she began her study of traditional klezmer style.

Within a few years, she transitioned from student to apprentice to KlezKamp staff in 1995, and in 2001 she became the Associate Director of the program. Her KlezKamp experience led to her becoming the clarinetist and musical director of the Wholesale Klezmer Band for 16 years.

She left that group in 2006 to concentrate on putting together what has become one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Yiddish and Hebrew 78rpm recordings, which she is having digitized and entrusting to the stewardship of the Mills Music Library at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. At over 9,000 recordings and growing, it represents over 6,000 unique performances and spans the full gamut of genres commercially recorded from 1895-1955.

The discs have all been fully catalogued with over half already meticulously transferred and digitally preserved by the Grammy-award winning sound engineer Christopher King. She was also the inspiration behind the founding of the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture at that university, which was an outgrowth of her decades of involvement in the preservation and dissemination of Yiddish culture.

Sherry is also a record producer and prolific composer of klezmer tunes in the traditional style and has published several books of klezmer charts, as well as creating a volume of authentic klezmer styles for PG Music’s auto-accompaniment program, "Band in a Box." Her passion for traditional Yiddish culture is equaled only by her love of all things Hawaiian, and she serves on the board of the Mohala Hou Foundation, which produces, among other projects, Aloha Music Camp, a week-long immersion program in all aspects of Hawaiian culture. She divides her year between her home in Watertown, Massachusetts and her home on the Big Island of Hawaii.


Having had the pleasure and honor of working with Sherry Mayrent for most of my career in the Yiddish arts I am continually thrilled and amazed at her passion for sharing and democratizing access to traditional Yiddish music and her vision of making her ever expanding catalog of historic sound recordings part of the birthright for future generations.
— Henry Sapoznik, Director
Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture
Sherry was a member of the Wholesale Klezmer Band for 17 years during which her mastery of the music and her musical leadership helped transform a ragtag bunch of musicians into a well respected performing group. She has a knack for identifying the essential core of a melody and stripping away everything else so that variations and ornamentation can be added back in to make the music fresh and alive. And she has the skill of conveying that message to other band members and to her classes at Klez Kamp.

In my role as vocalist in the band, Sherry has always been able to anticipate where I want to go with a song and to play exactly the background clarinet parts that are needed while simultaneously directing the other musicians , leaving me free to interpret the song without worrying about what is happening behind me. Before Sherry decided to leave the band, she took the extraordinary step of training her replacement so that, although we miss her dearly, we are just as strong as ever. Thanks, Sherry, for everything you’ve done for me and for the Wholesale Klezmer Band.
— Yosl Kurland, Wholesale Klezmer Band
Working quietly and away from the limelight, Sherry has gently and patiently raised up nearly an entire a generation of Yiddish music players and enthusiasts with her infectious positive attitude and by establishing a process of learning in a nurturing and goal oriented environment that closely mirrors her own enthusiasm and personality. If you know someone who plays Yiddish music today, from here to Europe and back. they learned something for someone who learned it from Sherry, a Tzadikim Nistarim of Yiddish Culture.
— Mark Rubin