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Junior Klezmer Orchestra
Alumni Feature: Then and Now
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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."

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Cheryl Graff

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 one's body and facial expressions. This is what makes a vocalist stand out!

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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...."


Alexander Levinson

Klezmer music has positively impacted my life ever since I was a young boy. Today, as a professional cellist, I can accredit much of my love of music being stimulated by having been a part of the Junior Klezmer Orchestra (and continuing to engage with JKO alumni events)! "Younger-me" being a part of JKO was a great experience; not only was it fun, but it taught me how to adapt and improvise on the cello...Our band leaders, Lori or Alex, pulled us youngsters together and we played klezmer for public audiences, which was crucial for my musical development.

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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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Jake "Yasha" Shapiro

Learning Klezmer music connects us to our roots. It gives us a glimpse into the lives and beliefs of our European ancestors. Being part of a continuing tradition builds meaning into life, and learning this music places us smack in the middle of this tradition. From a musical perspective, learning Klezmer music gives musicians a unique band experience. From the unique stylization of the music to the loose, open structure of the pieces, Klezmer music is challenging yet rewarding and exciting to play.

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Matt Temkin

"My career only exists due to my introduction to Klezmer music with the JKO, facilitated by Lori Lippitz, Alex Koffman, Steve Hawk, and the late Sam Margolis."

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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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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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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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