Berman Center to premiere music festival this month

By: Sherri Kolade | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published March 13, 2017

 Lee Lessack

Lee Lessack


WEST BLOOMFIELD — Community centers aren’t one size fits all. Just ask the folks at The Berman Center for the Performing Arts.

The Berman is changing up the stereotype that community centers are for the older set by hosting its first-ever Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit Ethan & Gretchen Davidson Music Festival this month.

Elaine Smith, managing director for The Berman, said the collaboration for the festival came from the JCC and local musicians Ethan and Gretchen Davidson. 

“(They) are very passionate about their music,” she said, adding that community centers are full of life, and having music at The Berman is a must. 

“We wanted to have programming for people of all ages, so this really started the conversation,” she said.

The festival, which will take place March 23-26, will feature local and international Jewish acts, including a 15-year-old performer and some acts that will appeal to younger audiences.

Smith said the festival features music with a cultural purpose.

“What we’ve done with this festival is we’ve reinvented the way we look at Jewish music from past music festivals we’ve done at the JCC,” she said. “So what we are doing now is we are bringing in folk, rock, punk, klezmer, bluegrass, pop, nostalgia music — all performed or written or created by a Jewish artist.”

Featured performances include Jayme Stone’s Folklife, Ester Rada, Mama Doni, Golem, Nefesh Mountain and a tribute to Simon & Garfunkel called Live in Central Park (Revisited) Simon & Garfunkel, according to a press release. 

Local musicians slated to perform include Sami Mei Lofman, Griffin Ford Siegel, Phreddy Wischusen and others.

If you are of a certain age, then you might remember Sept. 19, 1981. That was the day over 500,000 Simon & Garfunkel fans went to Central Park to hear and see the reunion of the folk duo. Award-winning recording artists Lessack and Rodgers will tap into that legendary night with “Mrs. Robinson,” “Homeward Bound,” “Scarborough Fair,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “The Sound of Silence” and a number of others.

Lessack, who hails from Philadelphia but lives in Los Angeles, said he graduated from high school in 1981 and grew up listening to those songs.

“It really resonates with people,” he said of the music. “My parents, who are in their very late ’70s — that was the music they were listening to when they started their family.”

Lessack added that he connected with Smith last year when she asked him to perform.

He said that when he performs around the country, he can see the entire audience mouthing the words to the songs.

“It is a real joyful thing, this particular concert, to perform,” he said.

An Artists Market and food vendors will also be available throughout the event. VIP passes, including two tickets to all performances and access to the VIP lounge, cost $360, or $180 for young professionals under 40, according to the press release. Individual tickets begin at $20. To purchase tickets, visit The Berman box office 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Friday, call (248) 661-1900 or go to

The Berman Center for the Performing Arts is located at the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit, 6600 W. Maple Road.