Irwin Weinberger has an enduring love of music and art
Irwin Weinberger has loved music and art for just about as long as he can remember. Weinberger, who is 60 years old and lives in University Heights, is a well-known Cleveland musician and artist. He plays several instruments—including guitar, ukulele, mandolin and banjo—and he performs as a solo musician and with the Yiddishe Cup Klezmer Band. His artwork has been exhibited at numerous venues around Cleveland.
Weinberger grew up in Euclid. When he was eight years old, his father bought him a harmonica, which he learned how to play. The following year, he started playing clarinet, and when he was in middle school he learned how to play flute and saxophone. Then, in high school, he started playing guitar and singing. “I just kept exploring different instruments,” said Weinberger. “I learned how to play ukulele, banjo and other instruments.” He also played in some bands in high school. “We would do these long jam sessions,” he said. “We would take a song by, say, Traffic, and just keep it going on and on and on.”
After Weinberger graduated from high school, his sister gave him a book about the artist Vincent Van Gogh, Lust for Life, by Irving Stone. “I was fascinated,” he said. “I went to the Cleveland Museum of Art to see some of his work.” Then, one of his neighbors died, and the neighbor’s widow gave Weinberger some of her late husband’s paints and brushes. “I started painting, and I just kept it going after that,” Weinberger said.
He attended several colleges before graduating from Cleveland State University with a degree in art education. He went on to become an art teacher and, most recently, taught at a middle school in the Stow-Munroe Falls City School District. He retired last year.
Weinberger continues to paint, and last year his artwork was exhibited at Loganberry Books on Larchmere Boulevard, at St. Paul’s Church in Cleveland Heights and at the Beachwood Community Center. According to Weinberger, his work is “very impressionistic. I emulate the artists from the early 1900s.”
Music also remains a big part of Weinberger’s life. The Yiddishe Cup Klezmer Band was formed in 1988 and has released four CDs. The five-piece band is devoted to the renewal of Jewish music, playing klezmer music mixed with bits of comedy. “We do Jewish comedy, as created by Mickey Katz,” Weinberger said. Katz was a Cleveland native who was both a musician and a comedian. Yiddishe Cup will be playing at Cain Park this summer, on June 28.
Weinberger has also released a solo CD, Portraits. The CD came out in 2002, and Weinberger played all of the instruments and sang all of the vocals. “It contains songs about people who were in my life at that time,” he said.
On the second and fourth Tuesday of every month, Weinberger leads the Old-Time Picking Sessions at Serendipity on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. Numerous musicians gather there for these events and play a variety of old-time music. “I really like a lot of different styles of music,” Weinberger said. “I like Irish music, klezmer, old-time Appalachian, jazz standards, the Beatles, Bob Dylan and on and on.”
He and another area musician, Larry Anderson, are hoping to put together a series of Bob Dylan nights at Serendipity, where singers and musicians could come and play Dylan’s songs.
Weinberger has also been playing at nursing homes, senior-citizen homes and at places that take care of adults with intellectual disabilities.
Meanwhile, Weinberger, who is married and is the father of three children, loves living in the Heights. “I love being close to the art museum and the other cultural institutions, and I love the diversity of the community,” he said. “And I am also very happy to be doing what I love to do and to live in a community that appreciates it.”
James Henke, a Cleveland Heights resident, was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone magazine for 15 years. He is also the author of several books, including biographies of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Bob Marley.