Tomi Kalinski (Musical Director)

A graduate of Bialystoker Centre Kindergarten in Robe Street St Kilda, Tomi spoke only Yiddish until she started school.

She is forever grateful to her kinder teachers for noticing her musical talent and to her parents for listening to them, starting her on piano at age five.

After finishing high school in Australia, Tomi moved to Israel, where she studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, then lived and taught on Kibbutz Yizra’el.

These were formative and unforgettable years, which have shaped her love for Israel, Hebrew and especially Israeli music.

After living in San Francisco for a couple of years, Tomi returned to Australia, became a founding member of “The Hot Bagels” cabaret group, was “talent-spotted” by Barry Humphries and became his musical director for five years.

She first joined the Melbourne Yiddish theatre scene in 1988 and has been part of it ever since. Yiddish songs are part of the very fibre of her being; they are her “neshome-musik”, her “soul music”.

She has worked with Evelyn Krape, Australian Living Treasure and founding member of the Pram Factory theatre collective, for over thirty years, on countless projects, from “Ginger” at the Malthouse Playbox in 1992, to “Ek Velt” , (with Elisa Gray as a third member making up the Zaftik theatrical troupe) at the Montreal International festival of Yiddish Theater in 2011 and at Kulturfest NYC in 2015.

Tomi has been conductor of Melbourne’s beloved Yiddish “Mir Kumen On” choir since June 2008.  She teaches Yiddish and runs a Yiddish Schmooze group at Montefiore Homes’ Active Living Centre

She tries to practice some Bach, Mozart, Chopin and Debussy regularly, to nurture her soul. This is in between having knee replacements, foot reconstructions, swimming, teaching piano, writing plays in Yiddish, music to Yiddish poetry, procrastinating her writing career and trying to learn to change chords on ukulele without sticking her tongue out.