Dave Tarras, Klezmer King

In Fun
Dave Tarras, Klezmer Clarinetist
Dave Tarras, Klezmer Clarinetist

Dave Tarras, my great grandfather, is known for his musical career as a Klezmer clarinetist (traditional music of Eastern European Jews). He was born in the village of Ternovka, Ukraine in 1895 to a family of musicians, where he learned to play clarinet at a young age. When he was drafted into the Russian army before the Revolution, his abilities led to him performing for Czarist generals at the front lines of WWI. In 1921, he fled the massacres of Jews in Russia and came to the US. He soon became one of the top instrumentalists in the Yiddish theater in the 1920s and 30s. Grandpa Dave had his own radio show on various NY stations, and he led a klezmer band at thousands of weddings in and around NYC and upstate NY. Even the great Charlie Parker and Miles Davis traveled to the Catskills to study his technique. He also composed hundreds of tunes and recorded for labels including Columbia, Victor, and Decca. “He was renowned for his versatility,” according to the NEH, “his talent as a composer, his choice of traditional melodies, and the virtuosity of his tone and phrasing...Tarras created a new klezmer sound that fused popular American music with recognizable European roots.” Sadly, he passed away when I was less than a year old (1989). I don't remember meeting him, but my parents have a picture of him playing the clarinet for me, and I grew up listening to his CDs. As a clarinetist myself, I am proud to be a part of his wonderful legacy.

Year: 1921

– Stephanie Tarras

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more