Rubin is assistant professor of music and Director of music performance in the McIntire Department of music at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where he is also on Jewish Studies faculty.
Rubin attended the California Institute of the Arts and received a BFA in clarinet performance from the Purchase Conservatory (State University of New York, College at Purchase, 1978). His principal teachers were Richard Stoltzman and Kalmen Opperman.
Rubin holds a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from City University of London (2001) for his pioneering work on improvisation and ornamentation in Klezmer clarinet music.
Joel Rubin has long been considered by many to be one of the leading performer of Jewish instrumental Klezmer music today, performing with all kind of musicians, traditionals and avant-garde alike.
Rubin wrote the first full-length doctoral thesis on Jewish instrumental klezmer music, combining extensive ethnographic work among the oldest surviving generation of American klezmer musicians with historical and analytical methods to examine the cultural and musical milieu of eastern European Jewish immigrant wedding instrumentalists in New York in the early 20th century.
Further research interests include: music and trauma; music and professionalism; music and diaspora; music and identity; music and religion; folk music revivals; musical hybridity; Hasidic music; American Jewish popular music; Jewish musical traditions of the Middle East and beyond; art and urban popular traditions of the Balkans, Turkey and the Middle East; and klezmer and “gypsy” influences on independent rock and neo-cabaret music.
Rubin is co-author of the books Klezmer-Musik (Bärenreiter/dtv, 1999) and Jüdische Musiktraditionen (Jewish Musical Traditions; Gustav Bosse-Verlag, 2001), the author of Mazltov! Jewish-American Wedding Music for Clarinet from the Repertoire of Dave Tarras (Schott Musik International, 1998), and the co-curator of the Jewish Music Series of CDs for Schott’s WERGO label (11 productions between 1993-2008) and the Trikont Klezmer Trilogy (1991-95).