music @ UCLA header image 2

Tamir Hendelman: A Musician and Educator Who Breaks Sonic Boundaries

December 16th, 2009 · 1 Comment

One in a series of UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music faculty profiles written by students in a Fall 2009 course (Ethnomusicology 188, Lecture 3) that focused on music journalism


By Ji-Won Kim

Ask professor Tamir Hendelman to play a Bach prelude, to improvise on any jazz standard, or to groove to a bossa nova tune, and he?ll play all three unhesitatingly and brilliantly. And if that doesn?t blow you away, he?s also capable of composing in all three genres.

Born in Israel, Professor Hendelman began his keyboard studies at the age of six when one glimpse at the electric organ left him ?dazzled.? As a child, he didn?t stick to studying just classical or jazz piano. Instead, he continuously embraced and pursued multiple musical styles in performance and theory, including classical, jazz, and traditional music of Israel. His family moved to Los Angeles when he was 12, and soon he was winning national keyboard competitions and performing at such elite music halls as the Kennedy Center, and even abroad in Japan.

Getting ready to attend college, Hendelman aspired to become both a jazz pianist and a composer. Between the two, he chose to study composition at the Eastman School of Music. His reason: In jazz, private lessons and gigs were more accessible, but college offered opportunities for composers that weren?t easily available in ?the real world? ? opportunities such as having an ensemble play one?s composition, and the great range of courses on conducting, counterpoint, and other areas. Still, Hendelman didn?t dare neglect his jazz studies. One could easily have spotted the zealous undergraduate?s fingers trickling the same black and white keys for two different purposes?practicing a Mozart sonata and jamming with other jazz enthusiasts.

Upon graduation, Hendelman became the youngest musical director at Lovewell Institute, a national non-profit organization for arts education. Since 1996, he has toured internationally and recorded for such legendary greats as Natalie Cole, Barbra Streisand, and John Pizzarelli. He is currently a member of the Jeff Hamilton Trio and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, contributing in performance as well as arranging and composing.

At UCLA, professor Hendelman has taught jazz improvisation & theory, and keyboard harmony, in addition to giving private lessons to students concentrating on jazz piano performance. Professor Hendelman never fails to marvel students with his ability to recall and play a tune instantaneously, whether it?s a blues standard or a piano arrangement of a movement from Vivaldi?s Four Seasons. He often shares wisdom and advice drawn from personal experiences as a musician, to which the class can heavily relate and apply in their own lives.

In 2004, Professor Hendelman was part of an arranging project that included musical works of Beethoven, Vivaldi, Oscar Peterson, Pat Metheny, and others. The wide scope of the composers and their masterpieces stirred Hendelman to want to ?bridge the gap between classical, jazz, Brazilian and film music.? Now, with the support of fellow faculty members and chairs, Professor Hendelman is bringing his lifelong passion for multifaceted music to the classroom with ?Pathways to Composition,? a new winter course for both the novice and the more experienced composers. Students will compose original pieces inspired by a wide array of musical genres, drawing ideas from the melodic and rhythmic elements of works by Mozart (classical), Goldsmith (film), Jobim (bossa nova), and others.

Complementing this course is ?Pathways to Improvisation,? offered in the spring quarter with the same enthusiasm and pursuit of musical diversity.

When asked about his goals for the new classes, Professor Hendelman responded, ?I want to help prepare students for a joyous life in music without borders or labels ? to give them musical tools to hone their craft, and to guide them towards really exploring their own creative expression.?

Someone skilled and knowledgeable in a particular field can be intimidating. But Professor Hendelman?s expertise and artistry, along with his encouraging advice and genuine care for students, leave them inspired to practice and listen more. This winter quarter, it looks like ?Pathways to Composition? will carry on the tradition of boundless musical exploration that has been alive at UCLA for decades.

Tags: Faculty

1 response so far ↓

  • session drummer 1 // Jan 23, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Tamir Hendelman is a Los Angeles treasure. Let’s hear it for America attracting the best and brightest.