Primary Instrument: Vocalist
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Kenny Ellis is a graduate of Temple University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Arts and also holds a certificate of Hebrew Education from Gratz College. He was a hit on the social engagement scene from the time he formed his first band in his late teens while working at many famous venues including Jewish Community Centers and synagogues in the New York-Philadelphia area.
Moving North to New York City to seek fame and fortune, he started auditioning for Broadway musicals by day while at night, honing his comedy/variety act at various clubs like the Copacabana, The Improv, and even the Kosher French restaurant in the Roosevelt Hotel where he sang with Rabbi Shlomo Carlbach, of blessed memory. Ellis branched out to the hotel circuits in the Catskills, the Poconos, Atlantic City and in Miami Beach. During this time, Ellis also began traveling to Israel, where he performed on Kol Yisrael - Israel National Radio - and was enthusiastically received at many kibbutzim, nightclubs, hotels, army camps and hospitals.
Ultimately settling in the Los Angeles area, Ellis performed for many Jewish Community Centers, synagogues and organizations. He has been the M.C. for the L.A. Jewish Festival for over ten years and he has been the M.C. for the national CAJE (Conference for Alternatives in Jewish Education) conferences since 1992. His performance that year of his Perry Como It's Impossible parody It's a Matzoh Ball took his career to a whole new level as the demand from the Jewish community grew; he performed the song all around the country at scores of synagogues, JCCs and other functions.
In addition to all of his performing and teaching, Ellis has been the cantor at Temple Beth Haverim in Agoura Hills, CA for the past ten years where he loves working alongside Rabbi Gershon Johnson. Ellis and his wife, Laura, a classical flutist and special events coordinator for a local hotel, have been married for thirteen years. They are the proud parents of two sons, Adam, 9, and Aaron, 5.
I have always wondered why some Jewish performers shy away from embracing this incredible heritage, but I have always chosen to bring that into every one of my creative endeavors, says Ellis. I grew up in a culturally Jewish home hearing my Lithuanian grandmother and my father's parents talk about life in the old country, and I was profoundly moved by their experiences. The music on Hanukkah Swings! is part of what makes me who I am, and I hope everybody finds enjoyment, excitement, and love from the music. I'm proud not only that I have been able to share this music, but that we did it with class and originality. No matter your religious or cultural background, it's bound to make the holiday season more festive and a lot more fun.