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News & Press Releases

Press Clips for May 2nd Junior Klezmer Orchestra 30th Anniversary Concert:

Read about the concert in Chicago North Shore Moms here.

Read about the concert in PATCH here.


Junior Klezmer Orchestra 30th Anniversary Concert

Students Since 1994 Reunite to Perform

with Maxwell Street Klezmer Band

on Thursday, May 2, 2024 at 7:00 PM in Highland Park, IL

March 5, 2024 – Highland Park, IL – For thirty years, the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band has been teaching teen instrumentalists and vocalists the skills of klezmer and Yiddish music through the Junior Klezmer Orchestra (JKO). Klezmer music—the traditional dance music of Ashkenazi Jews—was lost in the Old World because of the Holocaust and Stalinism, while it faded out in America due to assimilation.  Then, the klezmer revival of the 1980s brought this joyful music back to life.  The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band was founded in 1983 and the Junior Klezmer Orchestra in 1994. 

The JKO, founded by Lori Lippitz, Executive Director of the Klezmer Music Foundation, ensures that klezmer music in Chicagoland is passed on to the next generation.  This ensemble has also inspired many young people on their journey to become music professionals:


"Today, I'm proud to be the music director and conductor of Hamilton on Broadway,” says Ian Weinberger, who joined the Junior Klezmer Orchestra (JKO) in the late 1990s while in grade school.  “Conducting Hamilton is 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." 


Weinberger is one of eighteen JKO alumni who will perform in the concert.  Past and present JKO members will be joined by the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band for an evening of klezmer—music from the shtetls of Eastern Europe and the heyday of the jazz-infused sound of 1920s-30s Yiddish-American klezmer bands.

Promo for 5.2.2024_JKO 2003.jpg

The JKO in 2003, including JKO alumni Ian Weinberger (far left); Steve Levin (left), Allison Zabelin (middle), and Aaron Silverman (back), who will all be performing on May 2, 2024.

The JKO began rehearsing in Lippitz's home in 1994 with a handful of young musicians.  Fast-forward to the 2000s, when the JKO was discovered by the Russian-speaking Chicago Jewish community, and the orchestra quickly outgrew its cozy rehearsal space.


Since then, the JKO has been hosted by synagogues in Skokie, Wilmette, and now in Glencoe.  Under the baton of Maxwell Street's violinist and bandleader Alex Koffman, the expressive sounds of laughing, crying clarinets, violins, and other instruments, along with young voices singing old Yiddish songs, reverberate down the halls of North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe. 

The JKO performs at assisted living residences, schools and libraries, and plays every Spring at the Skokie Festival of Cultures. In February, the JKO performed for students at the religious school at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, teaching the 'joy of klez' to the next generation while connecting to their own heritage.


The mother of a current JKO clarinetist says, “As a Junior Klezmer Orchestra member, my teen connects with his Jewish identity, through his passion—music.”

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Alex Koffman, Lori Lippitz and the JKO playing at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in February 2024.

This concert will be a chance for former JKO musicians to unite and to delight in the music they have all shared.  Alumni include Allison Zabelin, a classical violinist, educator and performer; Matt Temkin, a popular drummer on the klezmer scene in New York; Steve Levin, a professional trumpet player who also plays with Maxwell Street Klezmer Band; and Margaret Selinger, a vocalist whose time with the JKO led to a career at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. 

“Over those seven years in the JKO,” says Selinger, “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!” Selinger will reprise “Bei Mir Bistu Sheyn,” a song that enjoyed a place on the 1930s hit parade.  


The concert is also raising funds to help the Klezmer Music Foundation, an Illinois 501(c)(3) organization, continue to create new opportunities for young musicians for decades to come. 


 “If the goal of the JKO was to pass the torch to the next generation,” says Lippitz, “this concert will give us all a moment to kvell over (to be proud of) the success of that mission.”

The Junior Klezmer Orchestra 30th Anniversary Concert

Thursday May 2, 2024

7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, 1175 Sheridan Road, Highland Park, IL 60035



Promotional Photos of the Junior Klezmer Orchestra

About The Junior Klezmer Orchestra

Read The Junior Klezmer Orchestra Alumni Stories

Klezmer Music Foundation Website

Klezmer Music Foundation on Facebook


Press Contacts: 

Lori Lippitz, Executive Director, Klezmer Music Foundation, (847) 675-4800,

Hannah Frank, Media Outreach,


Previous Press Release Archive:


In the News

September 2022: Junior Klezmer Orchestra featured in The Record North Shore.

To read the article, click here.


Press Contact: Lori Lippitz, Klezmer Music Foundation;

(847) 675-4800,

Junior Klezmer Orchestra Finds a New Home in the North Suburbs

North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe opens its doors

to Chicago’s oldest Jewish youth musical ensemble.

October 7, 2022, Glencoe, IL — Junior Klezmer Orchestra, a Jewish musical youth ensemble led by members of the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, had been in constant operation since 1994, except for when the pandemic forced a pause from 2020-2022.  Now, the orchestra will begin a full year of rehearsals at North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe. 

“It’s been a challenge to get the orchestra back together in a lingering Covid environment, but the enthusiasm and the swell of new students is even greater than when we had to shut down rehearsals and performances in 2020.  The hospitality of North Shore Congregation Israel is giving the orchestra new life.”                                                                  

- Lori Lippitz, Orchestra Director 

At the time of the Lockdown in Spring 2020, the Junior Klezmer Orchestra had just begun to embark upon a series of concerts and performances–a reward for six months spent mastering klezmer music.  Using a band book published by Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, “Joy of Klez,” the young musicians had become fluent in playing instruments like clarinet, violin, trumpet, trombone, and bass in the style of musicians from Eastern Europe’s shtetls. 

The Junior Klezmer Orchestra includes musicians and singers from 7th grade through High School who meet two Sundays per month to learn the art of traditional Jewish music from master players and singers.  After a decade of being hosted by Beth Hillel Bnai Emunah in Wilmette at the invitation of their Cantor, Pavel Roytman, the orchestra is relocating further North to meet an increase in demand from students from Glencoe, Highland Park, and Buffalo Grove.  Some of the orchestra’s graduates from the 1990s and 2000s include musical professionals such as the Musical Director of Hamilton on Broadway. 

Maxwell Street Klezmer Band’s Musical Director and violinist, Alex Koffman, who conducts the JKO, adds, “[Learning klezmer music] is a unique opportunity that young musicians are offered here in Chicagoland. There are few if any other youth klezmer ensembles in the country, if not the world.” 

The Klezmer Music Foundation, an Illinois 501(c)(3), founded and runs the Junior Klezmer Orchestra. For more information about joining the JKO, tuition, or about hearing the band in concert, contact Lori Lippitz, (847) 675-4800, or email

Learn more about Junior Klezmer Orchestra:

Video of Junior Klezmer Orchestra:

Junior Klezmer Orchestra at North Shore Congregation Israel.jpg

Junior Klezmer Orchestra at North Shore Congregation Israel, Glencoe, IL

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JKO 2018_cropped.jpg

Violinists in Junior Klezmer Orchestra; Student musicians with Bandleader Alex Koffman (in background)


2023: Maxwell Street Klezmer Band Will Celebrate its 40th Anniversary with Concert at Old Town School of Folk Music


On Sunday, June 4, 2023, Maxwell Street Klezmer Band's 40th Anniversary Concert is scheduled to be held at Old Town School of Folk Music, Gary and Laura Maurer Concert Hall, 4544 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL. This event is one of the ways the band is celebrating 40 years of bringing the 'Joy of Klez' to audiences.

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