About Shay Zelman

Shay Zelman dreamed of becoming a drummer from a very early age. At first though, he had to settle for guitar lessons because his parents refused to allow a set of drums into their cozy Holon apartment. This setback proved only to be temporary. At 16 Shay accidently stumbled unto Sonny Rollins’ Saxophone colossus album and he was mesmerized. Max Roach’s contribution to that album made him decide to become a jazz drummer come hell or high water, and his parents eventually relented. Initially Shay learned mostly from listening to jazz LPs. Being a quick study his progress was fast and linear.
His earliest foray into the drumming world landed him in some non-jazz celebrity circles, earning him the nickname “Boy Wonder from Holon.” This early publicity quickly earned him a spot with the Roy Crimmins Big Band outfit, (a novelty in Israel at the time,) and cemented his entry into the jazz world.
Being a star student quickly earned Shay a grant and a distinguished musician award. These put Shay on a flight to Denmark where he studied under the tutelage of Ed Thigpen. He learned the art of brushwork from Ed while further exploring the worlds of Bebop, Hard Bop, and Swing. Vibraphone studies with P.C. Usherovici furthered Shay’s understanding of working with harmonies in jazz.
Today Shay is a premier Jazz drummer and a go-to sideman choice for almost every major jazz notable playing in Israel. When not on the road or in rehearsal, Shay is most likely in class teaching the rudiments, or leading an ensemble. Many of Shay’s own students have gone on to become leaders on their own merits.
A stint in New York City made Shay realize a goal that would shape his career; to further advance the (then) budding Israeli jazz scene. Shay started a tradition of international collaborations that involved bringing big name musicians to Israel and have them play with local musicians. The visiting acts gave the Israeli audience a wider exposure to Jazz greats while offering local artists the chance to practice their chops on stage with such notables. The fact that this idea might seem so obvious today is a testament to the hard work of musicians such as Shay who made it happen.
Shay’s vision and track-record have turned him into a master jazz collaborator and producer. His connections to so many world-class artists have enabled him to bring some of the finest names in jazz to play with Israel’s finest jazz protégés. Shay managed the “Hot Jazz at the Tel Aviv Museum” program, and was one of the founders of the Caesarea Jazz Festival. He has been relentless in his strive to bringing and creating some of the best Jazz in Israel, and playing just about every respected venue possible.
To name just a few of the international artists that shay has collaborated with:
Shay has been leading young ensembles and teaching jazz for as long as he can remember. He is faculty at the Israeli Conservatory of Music in Tel Aviv (aka Shtricker), and has taken part in, or led a long list of workshops and master classes all over Israel. Working with all the major music-teaching institutions in Israel, Shay has had a profound impact on the vibrant Israeli Jazz scene. Proud of a long list of past and current students that have gone on to establish themselves as jazz leaders and sidemen, Shay sees his mission as yet, incomplete.

Shay Zelman

Drums, Jazz

Tel Aviv, Israel
Grant Recipient