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Junior Klezmer Orchestra
Alumni Feature: Then and Now
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Rabbi Raysh Weiss, PhD

"This organization has provided a venue for musical expression for numerous young musicians from all over the Chicago area, opening for them the possibility of exploring a rich ethnic musical tradition under the aegis of expert and caring professional musicians who serve as teachers and musical coaches."

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Ian Weinberger

"Today, I'm proud to be the music director and conductor of Hamilton on Broadway. It's a dream job, and I know my love for being in a band – collaborating on making music together – started in the JKO.

Lori and her colleagues know so much about klezmer music, and they care so deeply about it – and their willingness to share the knowledge and the joy of playing klezmer is a true gift to a young musician like I was. Their excitement was, and is, infectious."

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Allison Zabelin

"Having an opportunity to hangout with other Jewish youngsters with a shared interest enhanced my love of Judaism, which inspired me to seek out a college with an active Jewish life. There I made some of my best friends with whom I often celebrate Jewish holidays."

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Steve Levin

"...I learned that playing this music was not just about playing notes on a page, but helping our audiences relive some of the more joyous times of their lives, ranging from their childhood to their bar/bat mitzvahs and their weddings. Klezmer music has the potential to link generations to each other...."

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Margaret Selinger

"I have been so lucky to be a part of Junior Klezmer Orchestra from the sixth grade until senior year of high school. Over those seven years, I grew immensely as a musician and performer. But most importantly, I found a whole new way of connecting with my culture and history:  Experiencing klezmer in all its joy and liveliness!"

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Kayla Chinitz

"As a student and musician in JKO, I not only learned klezmer music, but I learned the stories behind the music. Learning this music and these stories has helped me feel more connected to my past and my ancestry. I’m also grateful that I had the opportunity to learn under the leadership of professional musicians. Even though I’m not in a musical profession, I still enjoy singing in my spare time and regularly utilize the vocal skills I learned in JKO."


Alexander Levinson

Klezmer music trilled and jived around me as a young boy, and its nuance and moving rhythm made me enjoy it! [Junior Klezmer Orchestra] was a great experience because not only was it fun, but it taught me how to adapt and improvise...This experience with the band still holds an important part in my life as a cellist: I now have better improvisation skills and understand the klezmer style. I briefly joined a klezmer band in college and it was a lot of fun! The Junior Klezmer Orchestra definitely helped me achieve that.

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