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Renowned actor and folk singer Theodore Bikel and conductor Tamara Brooks to visit Vassar College as Artists in Residence. February 10-18, 2008

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – He was Broadway’s original Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music. One of the show’s most famous songs, “Edelweiss,” was written for him. He played “Tevye,” the lovable father in the Fiddler on the Roof, more than anyone else – over 2,000 times – and has entertained audiences on stage, in film, and through music for decades. He is also a peace activist and known for his dedication to preserving Jewish language and culture.

She is an internationally renowned classical pianist and conductor, who has taught at colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. She is also a peace activist who has put music at the service of bringing people together.

Together, Theodore Bikel and Tamara Brooks will share their love of music, drama, and activism through a Vassar Artists in Residence program entitled “The Arts as a Bridge to Peace” during February 2008. Bikel and Brooks will spend the majority of their time at Vassar teaching students during workshops on acting, film, and music; and participating in classes and workshops on the Holocaust, music, Jewish art and culture, and dramatic writing.

Additionally, the public is invited to participate in two free special events at Vassar during the Bikel-Brooks residency. On Thursday, February 14 at 5:00 pm, the pair will deliver a lecture with music called “The Artist as Activist: A Conversation with Theodore Bikel and Tamara Brooks” in the second floor auditorium of Students’ Building. They will discuss the nature and power of the arts to transmit culture, hope, and history – and how artists can use art in the service of activism.

And, on Sunday, February 17 at 3:30 pm, “An Afternoon with Theodore Bikel and Tamara Brooks: Stories and Songs from Around the World” will be presented in the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film’s Martel Theater. A limited number of free tickets will be available through the Office of Campus Activities, (845) 437-5370.

“Music is a special kind of bridge – reaching over time and ethnicity, over chasms of silence, able to speak and understand in tones when we are unable to utter words. Songs of loss, of pain, of grief and sorrow – and songs of hope and joy – are common to all,” said Tamara Brooks. “When we sing each other’s songs, we understand our common humanity.”

This Artists in Residence Program is presented by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty and is made possible through the generosity of Joan Kostick Andrews (Vassar Class of 1952) and Peter Andrews.


Born in 1924, Theodore Bikel was thirteen when Hitler and Göring paraded with their invading army beneath his apartment window in Vienna. He and his parents were able to leave six months later for Palestine. Bikel sang from the time he was a child. Later, as a young man on a kibbutz, he found an abandoned guitar, and taught himself to play.

Bikel’s theatre life began at age 19 as a student actor in the Habima Theatre in Israel. Soon after, in 1944, he co-founded the Cameri Theatre in which he worked for several years before entering the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London from which he graduated with honors. He then appeared in several West End plays including A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Vivien Leigh under the direction of Sir Laurence Olivier and The Love of Four Colonels by and with Peter Ustinov.

He was invited to America to appear on Broadway in Tonight In Samarkand, and has since had many memorable stage performances: The Lark, The Rope Dancers, I Do I Do, The Sunshine Boys, My Fair Lady, Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living in Paris, The Chosen, The Gathering, About Time, The Disputation, Shylock (Wesker), and Zorba. He created the role of Baron von Trapp in Broadway’s The Sound of Music and, over the past 37 years, has played the role of Tevye more than 2000 times in Fiddler On The Roof.

Bikel was invited to record for Elektra records – and since has made more than 25 albums of folk songs, freedom songs, cast albums of musicals, and classical works. In 1956, he gave his first celebrated Carnegie Recital Hall concert and performs many concerts each year throughout the U.S., and around the world.

Bikel made his film debut in African Queen and has made more than 35 films including: The Enemy Below, The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming, The Little Kidnappers, My Fair Lady, I Want To Live, and The Defiant Ones, for which he received an Academy Award nomination. He has also appeared on several television shows including Law And Order, JAG, Dynasty, Murder She Wrote, and The Final Days (as Henry Kissinger).

He has been active for many years in Actors’ Equity Association and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve on the National Council for the Arts. Bikel was a delegate to the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement participating in marches and voter registration drives and playing concerts throughout the county.

Bikel’s numerous albums of Jewish folk music, concerts and theater performances, his co-founding of Israel’s Cameri Theater, his leadership in the Soviet Jewry movement and in the American Jewish Congress, have all distinguished him as a Jewish activist. As a leader in the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, he is passionate about the survival of the Yiddish language. He is also chairman of Meretz USA, the American support arm of an Israeli Political Party that seeks to pursue peace and religious pluralism.


Tamara Brooks has had an international conducting career spanning more than 35 years and has just returned from conducting the National Symphony of Taiwan. A graduate of Juilliard with degrees in piano and conducting, Brooks has conducted ensembles around the world. She has given concerts in Israel, Spain, Russia, Bosnia, Holland, Taiwan, Japan, Greece, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Germany, England, Wales, Greece and Italy and was principal guest conductor of the Istanbul Symphony in Turkey, conductor of the Cyprus Broadcast Orchestra and guest conductor of the Mozarteum Orchestra (Salzburg).

She was also Music Director and Conductor of two bi-national music festivals on the island of Cyprus (bringing Greek and Turkish musicians together), where she held a Fulbright Professional Grant and designed the music curriculum for Cyprus’ first school of the arts. She has returned often to conduct and teach master classes. She was conductor of the Musicians without Borders Bridge to Peace project in Holland and Poland.

Brooks founded and was Music Director of Sequenza (a professional instrumental ensemble devoted to contemporary music in Philadelphia) and Music Director of Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia for 11 years, one of America’s oldest and most distinguished choruses. With Mendelssohn Club, she had a Philadelphia Academy of Music and Carnegie Hall series and made a Grammy-nominated recording of choral music of Vincent Persichetti. She has recorded for Musical Heritage, Arabesque, Centaur, Neuma, Music & Arts, and RCA.

Tamara Brooks has combined a professional conducting career with a love of teaching. As professor and conductor, she has been on the faculties of Mount Holyoke College, the State University of New York at Albany, Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges, The New School of Music in Philadelphia (of which she was the president), University of Iowa, Hamilton College, and New England Conservatory. Brooks has also been a guest professor and conductor at Syracuse University, Osaka College of Music and Kyoto City University of Arts in Japan, the Glinka conservatory in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, and the Sarajevo conservatory in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Posted by Office of Communications Tuesday, January 15, 2008