Local musician plays ‘pretty much every day’

MILWAUKEE – Adam Margolis’ Jewish identity has always been linked to his music-making.

“Jewish music resonates within me,” he said.

Margolis, 44, who is part of Congregation Beth Jehudah, 3100 N. 52nd St., Milwaukee, fell into music as a child because he wasn’t good at sports, he said.

Margolis started playing guitar as a teenager, and today he also plays banjo, bass, dobro, harmonica, mandolin and ukelele, among other instruments.

His passion for music was fed while studying at McGill University in Montreal. He experienced authentic Hasidic nigunim and developed an appreciation for north African and other Sephardic Jewish music.

“I play music pretty much every day,” primarily klezmer and Yiddish music, Margolis said.

But Margolis doesn’t work as a musician full time. He is on staff at Rogers Memorial Hospital as an advance practice nurse prescriber.

And when he isn’t on stage or at the hospital, he can be found spending time with his family – his wife, Dana, and five children, who range in age from 4 to 14.

Margolis moved to Milwaukee nearly 15 years ago and has been involved with RUACH Inc., an organization dedicated to providing “creative arts programming rooted in Jewish values,” since its inception.

“He is one of the finest and most genuine Jewish musicians I have encountered,” said Joshua Richman, executive director of RUACH. “His instrumental versatility and virtuosity, his unique and special voice, his sensitive yet passionate soul, his dedication to Jewish music – especially klezmer and Yiddish music – and his way with other people, particularly musicians, combine to make a powerful force in the Milwaukee music scene.”

Margolis founded the RUACH-Yeshiva Elementary School Ukelele Ensemble last year.

Margolis enjoys teaching, and the ukelele is an accessible instrument for students, one that they can sing along with as they play.

“The world needs more people strumming instruments,” Margolis said.

Additionally, RUACH enables Margolis to bring performers to the Helen Bader Center to make music for residents living with dementia.

Neural pathways in the brain that are involved in the retention of music are often less damaged by dementia than others, so some residents in the Helen Bader Center are especially apt to respond to the klezmer and Yiddish music Margolis and others perform.

“It’s a very uplifting experience,” Margolis said.

Margolis will perform with the Flying Camels in a Dec. 18 show honoring the Jewish Home and Care Center with the RUACH Spirit award in recognition of the longstanding partnership between the two organizations.

Joining Margolis on stage as a special guest is his friend Ouri Marciano, a hazzan of the Moroccan tradition. Together, they will perform a mix of Jewish music of Eastern European and north African origin.

Lil’ Rev will also perform.

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Margolis at the JCC

WHO: Musical entertainment Adam Margolis & the Flying Camels and Lil’ Rev

WHAT: An event honoring the Jewish Home and Care Center with the RUACH Spirit award

WHERE: The Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center, 6255 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Milwaukee

WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 18; an hors d’oeuvre reception (kosher supervision by Wisconsin K) begins at 4:30 p.m., and the program begins at 5:15 p.m.

TICKETS: $18 for adults, $10 for students/youth (the event is best suited to those ages 8 and older); order tickets by visiting RuachMilwaukee.org or calling 414-367-4890