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Junior Klezmer Orchestra
Alumni Feature: Then and Now
JKO 2010 Cheryl Ben Hudy Others at WFMT_edited.jpg
Cheryl Ann Graff 2023.jpg

Cheryl Graff

Currently a Chicago Public Schools Special Education Teacher; and also performs in choirs, community theater, and the Old Town School of Folk Music Cabaret Showcases

What years, and grade level were you were you in, when you were in the JKO?

I entered JKO when I was thirteen.  My cousin Lori Lippitz heard me singing the solo "Rainbow Connection" at my Bat Mitzvah and encouraged me to join JKO.  I was in JKO from 6th grade through 12th grade, and graduated from JKO in 2010.


In a few words, how did your time in the JKO influence you personally and/or professionally?

By participating in JKO I learned the fundamentals of the voice, speech and singing.  Additionally, JKO gave me the confidence to get up and be able to display strong performance and public speaking skills. These skills I have brought into my own 

career as a teacher and as a singer. 

How has the music and "Yiddishkeit" (Jewish content) you learned in JKO enriched your adult life?

JKO was my first experience where I could really connect with others who appreciate the arts and Jewish culture as much as I do.  After being in JKO, I went on to college and took an active role in Hillel in which I had the opportunity to lead weekly  Shabbat services.  This was also where I met some of my best friends who have remained my best friends today.

What do you think the value of learning klezmer and Yiddish music is?

Lori helped me to learn to use my voice as an instrument. Klezmer music requires a vocalist to not only know basic vocal technique such as pitch and breath support, but to be expressive in another language by using ones body and facial expressions. This is what makes a vocalist stand out!

What words of guidance would you like to share with young musicians who are just joining the JKO?

The best advice I can give to young musicians joining JKO is push yourself to go beyond the basics of Klezmer music and make your performance your own.  I always enjoyed sitting down with Lori and listening to different vocal recordings of songs in the Klezmer repertoire and being able to explore how I can make a song my own interpretation or performance. 

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