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Alumni News and Testimonials

Born in 1991, cellist Ben Fried is pursuing his Masters Degree in cello performance at Mannes College of Music under Timothy Eddy. He has performed several times on Chicago’s classical radio, WFMT, and twice on National Public Radio. As a chamber musician he was a gold medalist in the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition’s Junior Division, and a silver medalist in the St. Paul String Quartet Competition. While at Eastman, he was a recipient of the prestigious Performer’s Certificate and the winner of the 2014 Eastman Cello Concerto competition, subsequently performing Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante with the Eastman Philharmonia. He was also a granted a Take Five Scholarship from the University of Rochester, a tuition-free fifth year to study an integrated curriculum of Economics, Philosophy, and Acting. His previous teachers include Steven Doane, Rosemary Elliott, and Hans Jensen.



"Thank you...for an unforgettable Klezmer experience these past six years. I loved every minute of rehearsing and performing Klezmer music with the JKO and learned so much about the music of our people along the way. These lessons, both in music and in history, will stick with me forever.


Most meaningful to me, I learned how important it is to keep the Klezmer culture alive in our community and beyond. Teaching little children at Beth Hillel about Klezmer's instruments and origins, which I learned from you, strengthens the Jewish identity and it was exciting to share a little bit about my Klezmer experience with Northwestern students, too! I will never forget the joyous smiles of the elderly at our nursing home concerts and the Freilachs in the rain at the Jewish Cultural Festival.


I'm sad about leaving the JKO but excited to see what's in store for the rest of the band in the years to come, I know it will sound great! And whenever I'm in town, I'll be sure to drop in for a rehearsal or a concert if I'm lucky!"

- Jake S., JKO Alumnus (2019)



"I've had an amazing time, and I wouldn't trade my experiences with this band for the world. From music festivals to playing on the radio, the Junior Klezmer Orchestra has taken me places I could never have imagined. I wish I could do it all again."

- Daniel Shapiro, JKO Graduate (2017)

Ian takes his curtain call after a performance of Hamilton!

Ian Weinberger is a music director and orchestrator living in New York City, where he currently conducts Hamilton, The Book of Mormon, and Kinky Boots on Broadway. New York: A New Brain, Titanic (Lincoln Center), Nobody Loves You.


Regional:Titanic (Westchester Broadway Theatre, Hangar Theatre), My Fair Lady, Fanny Brice: America’s Funny Girl (Asolo Repertory Theatre), Merrily We Roll Along, Pippin (The Music Theatre Company). His orchestrations of Titanic have been heard in productions in London, Tokyo, Osaka, Toronto and Chicago.


Broadway/Off-Broadway orchestras: Rocky, Side Show, Chaplin,Little Miss Sunshine, Death Takes a Holiday. Ian has worked on cast albums of A New Brain and The Theory of Relativity, as well as the television specials Peter Pan Live and The Sound of Music Live on NBC. He is a proud native of Evanston and graduate of Northwestern University. 

"After 8 years (or 9, I can't remember), I guess it's time to say goodbye to the Maxwell Street Junior Klezmer Orchestra. I've had an amazing time, and I wouldn't trade my experiences with this band for the world. From playing Chicago Jewish music festivals, to legitimate 2-hour sets at the City Winery, to even playing on 98.7 WFMT National Radio, the Junior Klezmer Orchestra has taken me places I could never have imagined. Shoutout to everyone who has come and gone through this fantastic band, I wish I could do it all again. And finally a huge thank you to Lori Lippitz, Alex Koffman, and all the other pro band members for tutoring this group, organizing it, and pouring their hearts and souls into this ensemble. The Maxwell Street Junior Klezmer Orchestra is truly a one-of-a-kind Gem that could not be found anywhere else in the world, all because of you guys. Thanks again, it's been real."  –Daniel Shapiro

Allison Zabelin attended the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana after her time as a violinist and vocalist in the Junior Klezmer Orchestra.  After studying both music education and Spanish in college, Allison now teaches orchestra and Spanish in a northern suburb of Chicago. 


She actively performs on both violin and viola, and greatly enjoys her role as Principal Violist of the Fox Valley Orchestra.  Allison also recently received her Masters Degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music.  She remembers her times with JKO very fondly, and thanks Lori, Alex and Ralph for all they taught her.  

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