About Ben Brussell
A native of San Francisco, Ben has been an active professional music producer, composer, band leader, vocalist, violinist, trumpeter, and session and concert mandolinist. and teacher for over two decades; based in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Los Angeles, California. Ben is the founder of the world music ensemble KLEZMANIA! and the Luna Nova Quartet. He has also performed and toured with Modern Mandolin Quartet. His focus as an instrumentalist has been to create a unique and powerful voice for the classical and ethnic mandolin and violin. Ben has served as musical director at Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon, California and musical director at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco. Ben has been acting cantor from 2008 to 2017 at Congregation Kol Hadash in Albany in the East Bay. Ben has played violin with the Berkeley Symphony, Winifred Baker Chorale Orchestra, Starlight Strings, and the Lamplighters pit orchestra. On mandolin he has played with the Berkeley, Mendocino Summer Music Festival & Bakersfield Symphony orchestras. Ben served as musical director of the house band for Cantor Roslyn Barak at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco for 2 years.
As a musician and producer, Ben seeks to surround himself with the finest of musicians, whose talent encompasses both a passionate and creative spirit. These synergistic elements are brought forth to engage the listener and delight the soul for the best in live musical performance.
Ben’s musical background is in classical music where he has studied trumpet, violin, viola, piano, classical voice, composition, and mandolin. He studied violin and viola with the San Francisco Symphony’s Leonid Gesin and Daniel Kobialka and holds a Bachelor’s degree in viola performance and musicology from San Francisco State University. Ben is a graduate of the Master’s Level program in film scoring composition at the University of Southern California. There, he studied with film composition legends Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith, David Raksin, Christopher Young, and Buddy Baker. He studied film orchestration and arranging with Will Schaefer, Joe Harnell, and conducting with Larry Blank. Ben has had a long, mentoring partnership and friendship with Ursula Mamlok, of the Manhattan School of Music and studied classical mandolin with oud master John Bilezikjian in Los Angeles. More recently Ben also enjoys his musical friendships and coaching sessions on violin with Fred Lifsitz, violinist with the Alexander String Quartet and professor at SFSU; and conducting with Dr. Martin Seggelke.
Ben’s love for the mandolin and violin has a deep family connection along with a prolific musical heritage. His grandfather, Max Gralnick, performed on violin, viola and was “the call” for mandolin in Hollywood film sessions from the late 1920s through the early 1980s. His grandfather’s mandolin performance is featured in major Hollywood film classics such as “the Godfather I” and “the Godfather II,” “Zorba the Greek,” “Spartacus,” and “Dr. Zhivago,” to name just a few. He also played with Dean Martin with his signature mandolin solo in the recording of “That’s Amore.” Ben has personally worked in Hollywood with film composer Angelo Badalamenti on his score “The Last Don,” featured on all the solo mandolin parts. Also, Ben worked with Tim Robbins on his score for Dennis Quaid’s film, “Everything That Rises.”