Jonathan holds it as a high honor to lead services at Rodfei Zedek.
A leading visionary in American choral music, Jonathan has been sharing the joy of his art form since he joined the Chicago Children’s Choir in Hyde Park at the age of ten. Jonathan assembled his first pickup choir at math camp six years later and has never stopped. He is Founding Artistic Director of Chicago a cappella, the virtuoso professional ensemble that he founded in 1993 and from which he will retire in 2019. For his work there, Jonathan was the recipient of Chorus America‘s 2008 Louis Botto Award for Innovative Action and Entrepreneurial Zeal.
Jonathan is also Artistic Director, CEO, and co-founder (with his wife, Sandy) of Encore Illinois, NFP, the Chicago area’s leading choral-music organization for older adults. Encore serves the community with seven daytime, non-auditioned choirs for singers “55 and better” in the city and suburbs, including the Hyde Park Encore Chorale that rehearses on Monday mornings right here at CRZ. Encore serves more than 300 singers in its fall and spring choirs and offers free public performances at the end of each session. Jonathan and Sandy also have brought to Chicago the Good Memories Encore Chorale, a community of compassion and joy, in which people with early-stage Alzheimer’s and other dementias sing in a choir together with their care partners.
Jonathan makes choral music engaging and fun for singers from amateur to professional. He is a professional singer, composer/arranger, producer, music publisher, and passionate spokesperson for the power of choral music. His series of “Wacky Christmas Carols” keeps singers and audiences laughing in December. A leader in Jewish choral music, he is the host of “A Chanukah Celebration with Chicago a cappella,” broadcast nationally on the WFMT Fine Arts Network. He was producer for Chicago a cappella’s first nine commercial recordings, including “Days of Awe and Rejoicing: Radiant Gems of Jewish Music,” which includes repertoire performed at CRZ during the High Holidays.
Jonathan attended Hebrew school and Sunday school at KAMII down the street and was confirmed there. In 1979, Max Janowski hired 17‑year-old Jonathan to sing bass in a high holiday choir for the Central Synagogue of the South Side Hebrew Congregation. Three years later Jonathan’s high-holiday assignment moved to Congregation B’nai Jacob in Rogers Park, where Jonathan began his 28‑year association with Cantor Julius Solomon, including 12 years of directing the choir here at CRZ and eventually taking on the high-holiday cantor’s role in 2010. For more than 20 years Jonathan has been the managing editor of the 150 works in Max Janowski’s printed sheet-music catalogue, now distributed by Transcontinental/ACC. Jonathan has been on the faculty of the North American Jewish Choral Festival and served as Scholar-In-Residence at Lakeside Congregation in Highland Park. He received the 2013 Perelmuter Award at KAMII, premiering a new choral work on the poetry of the late Leonard Cohen.
Jonathan attended Shoesmith School, Louis Wirth School, and Kenwood Academy, studied mathematics and music at the University of Chicago, and holds the Ph.D. in historical musicology from UNC-Chapel Hill. In addition to musical pursuits, he has worked in sales in the publishing and software industries and is passionate about the business of the arts. He is a former board member of Chorus America and serves as an enthusiastic auctioneer for charity events. Jonathan lives with his wife and two English Cocker Spaniels in the oak woods of Downers Grove.
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