Life and career
Alicia Svigals was born in 1963 in The Bronx, New York City and studied ethnomusicology at Brown University. During the 1980s and 1990s, she studied with older klezmer violinist Leon Schwartz with the intent of reviving the style and technique of the klezmer violin tradition which had largely disappeared, and of which few recorded examples remain. Although classically trained since childhood, she also travelled around Europe and Israel in her youth and tried to learn local styles. Of her playing style, she said that it is "a combination of old fiddle style, clarinet technique, and this sort of Greek-Turkish timbre [... it's] half reconstructed-half invented."
She has taught klezmer to hundreds of students around the world over the past two decades, including violinists Steven Greenman and Itzhak Perlman.
Svigals has appeared with The Klezmatics on A Prairie Home Companion, Rosie O'Donnell's Kids are Punny, Good Morning America, MTV News, Nickelodeon, and NPR's New Sound and Weekend Edition. As a composer for the group, she provided music for the play A Dybbuk by Tony Kushner, and collaborations with poet Allen Ginsberg and Israeli singer Chava Alberstein. They also performed with Itzhak Perlman on PBS' Emmy-winning Great Performances documentary In the Fiddler's House and on the Late Show with David Letterman, and appeared together in concert at Radio City Music Hall, Tanglewood, and Wolf Trap.
She is featured on recordings by such Hasidic artists such as Avraham Fried and Lipa Schmeltzer. She has collaborated with 'second generation' author Thane Rosenbaum, whose novel The Golems of Gotham is based in part on Svigals. She is featured on Herb Alpert’s 2008 recording of the Yiddish theater song "Belz", arranged by Marvin Hamlisch.
- Fiddler on the Move, Mark Slobin p. 47-50
- "The Klez Dispenser." In Something to Say: Thoughts on Art and Politics in America. Klin, Richard and Lily Prince (photos). Leapfrog Press, 2011.