I met Maestro Jeffrey Eckstein last December when he was in Austin conducting Ballet Austin’s Nutcracker performances at the Long Center. Maestro Eckstein instantly impressed me as not only a tremendous musician and conductor, but also a cultural and artistic visionary.

Plus, we discovered we have a common interest: Flamenco!

On Sunday, September 21st at 7PM Maestro Eckstein will present an exciting new show called Flamenco Sephardit at the Paramount Theater. He produced the show once before in Florida, and now brings it to Texas with shows in Austin and San Antonio this month.

Tickets and information are online here.

And here’s a preview of what you can expect to see and hear!

I asked Jeffrey to tell me a little more about this exciting project.


Matt Hinsley: You are known in Austin as a conductor primarily, doing big things like The Nutcracker and otherprojects with Austin Symphony and Ballet Austin, what got you into flamenco?

Jeffrey Eckstein: A few years ago, I went to Barcelona for a friends wedding, and they took me to see one of the greatest flamenco guitarists ever, Vicente Amigo, performing at the Palau de la Musica. I was instantly mesmerized by his entire presence and sound. The gut-wrenching passion, coming from the depths of the singers, dancers, and guitarists souls, was just unbelievable. After that, I was hooked.

MH: Tell me about this particular project?

JE: Ever since that time in Barcelona, I knew that somehow I wanted to be a part of this amazing art form. Upon spending much time in Miami last year, I got to know even more about the style, with the myriad of flamenco guitarists, singers, and dancers there. I would visit the Tablaos and other performances almost every weekend. The idea came to me to produce a flamenco show. Not only flamenco though, I wanted to combine it with my Jewish heritage and classical experience, with a message about bringing cultures together through music. I started out with the concept of a classical guitarist and flamenco guitarist playing together, bringing the experience and mastery of their styles into the mix. Then adding vocals, percussion, and dance…with amazing musicians to make this a truly spectacular event, the likes of which had never been seen before.

MH: Tell me about the relationship between Sephardic and Flamenco musical traditions?

JE: From the 8th century to the end of 15th century, there was a Moorish presence in Spain. This presence mixed up with the Jewish and Christian presence, and gave birth to an incredible creativity in the arts, in the architecture, in science, and in music. Both Sephardic and Flamenco music have Moorish roots coming from all those centuries living together. Of course, at the time of the Spanish Inquisition, the Gypsies, Moors and Jews were all forced to leave Spain unless they converted to Catholicism. The Jews took with them that ancient Castillian dialect, and many Sephardic Jews today living in Amsterdam, Turkey among other places, still speak this language referred to as “Ladino”. Songs were written in Ladino, many speaking of the painful departure from Spain, among other subjects. You can hear similarities to the traditional cante flamenco (traditional flamenco song), which is believed to have evolved from the cries and sufferings of a persecuted people.

Both the Serphadic and Flamenco communities began in Spain, and today are spread throughout the world, in large part due to that time period. Many who escaped the Inquisition made it to, among other places, North America…specifically Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico. They changed their last names to hide their Jewish heritage. Many “Crypto-Jews” continue to discover today that their Spanish surnames have Jewish roots, and still keep it a secret for fear of persecution.

Flamenco Sephardit is a way to reunite these cultures, and remind everyone that we all come from the same place, and therefore should always live in peace together.