Artist Profile: Lenny Seidman

As a long time Philadelphian, Lenny Seidman has a 30-plus year history of cultural contribution both as a musician and curator. Originally a student of classical and jazz piano, Lenny began studying the classical Indian percussion instrument the tabla in 1971. Ever since, he has been a serious student and performer on the instrument, having studied and collaborated with likes of international virtuoso Zakir Hussain starting in 1991.

As a percussionist he has collaborated with dozens of local and international artists from world renowned dancers to LL Cool J. He has participated in numerous residencies and received several fellowships as a performer and composer along with organizing and participating in several ensembles like the Splinter Group, the Shamanistics, Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra, The Lenny Seidman Tabla Choir, Atzilut (middle eastern Jewish/Arabic Ensemble), and Rennie Harris PureMovement “Facing Mekka.”

Even with a busy performing career, Lenny has served as curator of the Jazz and World Music series at the Painted Bride Art Center for 22 years, bringing some of the most fantastic musicians in the worlds of jazz, folk and traditional, world, and their fusions to Philadelphia, having organized dozens of world premiers and one-of-a-kind performances.

What made you decide to call Philadelphia home?
I was born in Philly, but never decided that this is my permanent home. It was more about artistic collaborations and the Painted Bride Art Center which has kept me here.

Describe your music to us?
My primary instrument, tabla, falls into the category of traditional drums. I apply this traditional instrument to a variety of intercultural and interdisciplinary settings that offer me the opportunity to express the beauty of my own heritage as well as of the many cultures that I’ve been fortunate enough to have embraced along my musical journey.

What is most inspiring about Philadelphia to you?
The artists, the strong cultural and artistic environment, the great legacy of jazz, traditional drumming and dance, the very strong contemporary performing arts, the artistic funding opportunities…and now for the first time, the mayor.

Where is your favorite place to perform? And where’s your favorite place to hear music?
There are many favorite places I’ve performed. A few are: Yerba Buena, San Francisco, Mondavi Center at University of California Davis, UCLA’s Freud Theater, Joyce Theater, New York, and the opera house in Amsterdam. My favorite place to hear music is, of course, the Painted Bride Art Center.

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