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Photo by Mei Stone

Raffi Boden has forged his own expansive style on the cello, combining his fluency on the instrument with a reverence for folk traditions and a flair for experimentation and improvisation. Since graduating from the Juilliard School, Raffi has cultivated a multi-dimensional career as a NY-based freelance musician, performing in ensembles from experimental chamber trios to raucous klezmer big bands and in venues ranging from intimate neighborhood haunts to Carnegie Hall.


Since moving to NY in 2019, Raffi has become deeply involved with a vibrant international klezmer scene and has worked extensively with members of the Klezmatics, including with Lisa Gutkin to compose a cello part for the Broadway musical Indecent. He’s a founding member, arranger and composer with the klezmer quartet Mamaliga, with whom he’s both performed and taught internationally as faculty at Yiddish Summer Weimar, KlezKanada and Yiddish New York. Their debut album of original klezmer compositions, Dos Gildn Bletl, was released in 2021 and hailed as “virtuosic and vibrant” (In Geveb); the title track won first prize for instrumental composition at the 2021 “Bubbe Awards”. Members of Mamaliga are currently working with the playwright Mikhl Yashinsky to compose an original opera in Yiddish. Raffi’s also part of the Yiddish song quartet Levyosn, whose debut album came out on Borscht Beat last year and has been called a “favorite album of new Yiddish music in years” (Klezmershack). 

Raffi has toured extensively as a member of the six-piece chamber-jazz ensemble Simone Baron & Arco Belo, with whom he’s performed at the Kennedy Center and the Jazz Gallery, and which has been hailed as “ego-less, genre-agnostic and without expectations… the sound of the future, today” (Jazz Times). He recently joined the newly-formed Ensemble Phoenicia, a collective of composers and performers dedicated to contemporary Middle Eastern classical music who are recipients of Chamber Music America’s Ensemble Forward grant. 

Raffi holds a Master’s from the Juilliard School, where he was a student of Joel Krosnick and a frequent performer with the Axiom ensemble. He holds a B.M. in Cello Performance and a B.A. in French from Oberlin College & Conservatory, where he was the winner of the 2018 Concerto Competition, served as Principal Cellist of the Oberlin Orchestra in their 2019 Carnegie Hall performance, and premiered several works with the Contemporary Ensemble. Raffi has won fellowships to study at Kneisel Hall and Aspen music festivals and in 2023 was a featured performer at the Caroga Lake Arts Festival. He’s a member of the Sarasota Opera Orchestra and has performed with El Orquesta Sinfónica de Falcón in Coro, Venezuela.

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