Yamma Ensemble in Elyria, Ohio

By Eric Young Smith

Upon meeting the Ensemble in Cleveland, I was first taken by the engaging nature of their collective personality. Despite the notable unique character of each member, they as individuals seemed to complement each other in a quiet, confident way. They interacted with a level assumption and ease that only close friends know.

No surprise, right? Yamma Ensemble worked as a group with Arts Midwest World Fest prior to my meeting them, and were familiar with the task set before them. They were to work together for 5 straight weeks away from home, in a country and culture that is not their own. Still, they seemed to find a unique strength in each other that was bold enough to sweep me up and make me feel more than welcome, more than wanted…a part of something great.

Many recognize this cliche: “when one is good at something they make it look easy.” Yamma ensures this to be a truism. They hit the ground running. And once we entered a schedule of back-to-back engagements in Lorain County Ohio, Yamma started lifting spirits and painting smiles on faces young and old everywhere we went.

You might notice that it didn’t take long for me to include myself when referring to Yamma Ensemble. This is an indication of how their music draws you in, and the warm tones that come when Yamma takes instruments in hand and music flows. The response of children and adults alike make obvious the awakening of inquisition regarding the complexity and color of Isreali culture.

Janet Barlow of the Stocker Arts Center at Lorain County Community College (LCCC) hosted our stay in Elyria and guided us from school to civic center. She repeatedly witnessed firsthand the drawing power of this collective, which seems to measure greater than the sum of its parts.

Stocker is an amazing asset to the community of Lorain County, running programs for students of all ages. These efforts all seem to be designed to nurture a desire for enlightenment in students by creating awareness and appreciation for culture through art and knowledge. The campus of LCCC is quite impressive with quality facilities not often found in community colleges. This great facility matched with Stocker’s presence in the community of Lorain County made a perfect canvas on which Yamma could work their magic.

Workshops left kids with inspiration to learn about the complexity and beauty of Isreali culture, and left elders in smiling remembrance of family origins and identity. After witnessing Yamma work through this first week with ever increasing grace and beauty, I am left with great anticipation of adventures to come in the other communities we will soon be visiting.

Band performing on stage
Public performance in Elyria, OH
Musicians demonstrating their instruments
Yamma Ensemble workshop

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