Henry Sapoznik is an award-winning producer, musicologist and performer, and writer in the fields of traditional and popular Yiddish and American music and culture.
Sapoznik, a native Yiddish speaker and child of Holocaust survivors, grew up in an Orthodox home and attended Lubavitch Yeshiva and Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin.
In his teens, Sapoznik was introduced to traditional American music and took up the banjo with lessons from Marc Horowitz and Bill Garbus. He studied with North Carolina masters Fred Cockerham and Tommy Jarrell during numerous trips to North Carolina with the late Ray Alden.
In 1972, Sapoznik co-founded the New York-area group The Delaware Water Gap String Band, and confirmed his reputation as a noted player in both southern playing styles and classic ragtime banjo.
Sapoznik was the founding director of the sound archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York from 1982 to 1995. While there, Sapoznik founded and directed the internationally acclaimed KlezKamp: The Yiddish Folk Arts Program beginning in 1985 for the next 30 years.
A five-time Grammy-nominated producer/performer, Sapoznik has been on over fifty records including having reissued over 30 anthologies of Yiddish, jazz, old-time, cantorial, ragtime, blues, Italian, swing, blackface minstrelsy and bluegrass recordings.
Photo: Dick Blau
Sapoznik won a 2002 Peabody award for co-producing the 10-part NPR series “The Yiddish Radio Project.” drawn from his collection of over 10,000 items now part of the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.
Sapoznik published two books: The Compleat Klezmer (1982) became the standard tune book of the klezmer revival while his Klezmer! Jewish Music From Old World to Our World won the 2000 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for Excellence in Music History.
Henry Sapoznik’s recent projects are his CD, Banjew (Jalopy Records, 2017) and the 3-CD reissue anthology Protobilly: The Minstrel and Tin Pan Alley DNA of Country Music 1892-2017 co-produced with Dick Spottswood and David Giovanonni (JSP 2019) which has been submitted for 2021 Grammy consideration.
Henry Sapoznik is presently co-producing for Smithsonian-Folkways records, an anthology of American folk music from California recorded in the 1960s and a blog series on African-American cantors of the 1920s and 1930s which has attracted over 60,000 followers.