DOBBS FERRY, N.Y. – She's from upstate New York and he's from Israel, and together Kimberly Hawkey and Assaf Gleizner of Dobbs Ferry make beautiful traditional American music.
The couple, who bill themselves as Kim & Assaf – she sings, he plays the piano – paired a week ago to capture the Oxnard Gold Medal and $12,000 prize at the American Traditions Competition in Savannah, Ga.
"We were thrilled to be competing in the American Traditions with so many quality artists," Hawkey said. "Having Assaf there to accompany my singing really helped me from being too nervous. We work very well together. We know each other's music and styles so well."
Hawkey, who is from Schenectady and studied at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, is the artistic coordinator at Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts in Katonah and a music director at the Play Group Theatre in White Plains. Gleizner studied jazz piano and music at Purchase College.
"I expected to be very nervous because I had not been in that kind of competition before," Hawkey said. "But just being there and listening to such talented people actually helped relax me a little. I learned so much. It really inspired me to do more performing."
Hawkey was one of 32 singers from a variety of backgrounds selected from an applicant pool of several hundred. Each singer prepared nine songs in such American genres as folk, musical theater, jazz, opera, art song, country and blues. Twelve of the 32 quarterfinalists moved on to the semifinals, five to the final round.
"I have been working on my voice with Chris Cain of White Plains, who has helped me develop and prepare for new things," Hawkey said. "My soul is in good songs, good music, so I'm open to more performing. And we've found an old piano that we hauled up to our second-floor apartment, so that helps. It is a little banged up, but sounds fine."
Kim & Assaf next appear at the Upstairs Lounge, 158 Ludlow St. in Manhattan, on Feb.6 and at Caffe Vivaldi, 32 Jones St. in Manhattan, at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9.
"We're doing an hour set at Caffe Vivaldi, and many of the singers who competed at the [American Traditions] are coming," Hawkey said. "It's going to be fun for us to be there with everyone."
For more on Hawkey and her music, go to her website.