History of Chicago Children's Choir

$5,707 of $8,000 goal

Raised by 57 people in 19 months

Do you remember singing at Thanksgiving at Rockefeller Chapel? Did you ever forget a piece of your uniform or lyrics to a song mid-concert? Do you remember the original Spirit of Hyde Park mural by Astrid Fuller (1973) on 57th street with the red jackets? Have you ever tried to explain to friends, colleagues, or family who were not IN the Chicago Children's Choir what that experience was like or how it impacted your life, and struggled to articulate it well enough to help people understand its significance ?

Now, more than ever maybe, the current political and social climate demands the need for the story of this incredible organization's history AND impact to be recorded. The Chicago Children's Choir has played an important role as an anti-racist arts organization that successfully transitioned through some very difficult times from a charismatic lead small group to a professionally lead organization that was able to expand and stabilize.

Here's part of my personal story behind this project. 2016 meant my daughter, Molly, was old enough to join the Chicago Children's Choir, of which was hugely important and influential in my life when I was a member (1988-1997). Last summer was the 20th anniversary of the life-shaping tour to South Africa, so I posted photos almost daily for a month reconnecting with alumni from that trip ("20 years ago today we were...").

Listening to her rehearsals at the Humboldt Park Neighborhood Choir with Danny Wallenberg, who was one of my conductors 20 years ago, has brought back incredible memories and powerful  emotions. Every time she sings Jubilate Deo and Revelations, I tear up.

At the First Unitarian 60th anniversary birthday service for the Chicago Choir fellow alumna and conductor, Mollie Stone, invited the alumni in attendance to introduce themselves, and say a few words about when they were in the choir.

I thought, "I wonder what the choir was like in the decades before me. I wonder what stories alumni from before my time might like to share?"

Finding myself significantly underemployed given the Illinois & CPS budget crises, with a Ph.D. in Education and lots of coursework experience with qualitative research, I proposed to the choir that I do some archival work, and interview alumni/ae, former staff, former board members, and parents of alumni/ae (list to date is below). They consented but requested that I be clear that I am doing this voluntarily and on my own.

Disclaimer: This publication will be a project solely conceived of and created by the author and is not a publication created or endorsed by the Chicago Children's Choir.

The money that I hope to raise here will cover the printing costs (estimating a 150 page softcover book with a few photos), editor, and money spent getting copyright permission. After covering the printing costs, I would love to be able to give a discounted or free copy to many who so generously donated their time in speaking with me (nearly 100 people!!). The remainder would be a greatly appreciated donation towards my time (estimated many thousands of hours by completion). I would also love to work on future projects (like an alumni/ae yearbook and directory project, even organizing events for alumni/ae by geography, such as NYC and LA).

I have often described the choir as having been like a third parent to me growing up. It was so influential, and I would love to continue to hear and record alumni's experiences, and the impact they feel the choir had on their lives, specifically focusing on people who have been out of high school for at least 20 years.

All donations are greatly appreciated, no matter the size from $10 to $25 to  $100+. 

Every donor who contributes:

-at the Crickets level ($10-24) will receive a personal THANK you email message from me;

-at the Junior Tour or Junior Choir level ($25-49) will receive a print copy, signed by the author if you wish

-at the CCIT (Concert Choir in Training) level ($50-74) will have your name listed in a "thank you" section of the book, and also have the opportunity to have your donation listed in honor of, or in memoriam of, someone who played a role in the life of CCC, in addition to your print copy. This size donation will help provide a complimentary print copy for alumni/ae/former staff who contributed their time for interviews.

-at the Senior Tour or Concert Choir level ($75-99) includes the above plus access to a Google folder of materials too abundant to include in the print version (including a collection of articles for which the copyright fee was cost prohibitive)

- at the Madrigals or Contemporary Singers level ($100+) will include all of the above and will help become seed money for potential future projects such as this to honor and connect alumni/ae, former staff, parents of alumni/ae, etc.

The photo in front of the 57th street mural includes:
Anita Snow Orlikoff (1962-1968)
Bethany Pickens (1970-1980)
Vreni Naess, administrator (1970-1987)
Saalik Ziyad (1984-1996)
Sarah (Katsaros) Dennis (1988-1997) and
my daughter, Molly Dennis (2016-?)

Here's a Google Form for me to collect contact details of people interested in this book, and potentially future projects like this one:


Here's a partial list of whom I've been in touch with for this project to date (plus many more via Facebook). For the most updated list...please see the website for the book project: www.sarahedennis.com/book_project

Former staff communicated with (conductors unless specified):

Janet Underhill (1965-76)
Margaret Murara (1966-67 or 1967-68)
James (Jim) Unger (1966-1968 & 1969-1971) accompanist
Becca (Ruben) Smith (1967-73)
Martha Fulhauber (1968-1993) accompanist
e-mail from daughter of Jane Mather (1969-1982)
Ronne Hartfield (1969-1970 & 1970-1974 with Urban Gateways) publicity/public relations
Bill Jenks (1969-1971)
Vreni Naess (1970-1987) administrator
Maceo Thomas (1970-72) music intern via Urban Gateways
son of Dolly Salvino (1972-1980?) choir Mom/administrative assistant
Chuck Rosene (1973-1976) – Choir bus driver!!!
Victoria (Pfann) Englund (1874-75 & 78-79)
Dr. Lourin Plant (1976-1979)
Kevin Butler (1979-1982)
Marty Swisher (1980-1985 & 1992)
Virginia (Ginny) Robinson (1981-1987) 1st Executive Director
Keith Hampton (1981-1991)
Maxine (Miki) Soshnik (early 1980s for 2 years)
Michael Melton (1982-1984)
Nick Paige (1983-1986)
Charles Hayes (1984-1994) accompanist & conductor (1987-1988)
John Ulenhopp (1985-1988)              
Leslie Britton (1986-1992)                             
Dennis Northway (1988-1992)
Nancy Carstedt (1990-2004) Executive Director
Debbie McKeon (1991-1997 – planned and accompanied many international tours)
e-mail from Paul Caldwell (1991-1993)
Roosevelt Credit (1992-1994)                        
Detelinka Dimitrova (1992-1998) accompanist
Mary Carlson (1993-1999) Program Manager
Bill Chin (1993-1999)
Joy Hague (1994-1996)
Danny Wallenberg (1993-the present!)
Pat Washington (1994-2006)

Alumni/ae whom I’ve communicated with include:
Jane Isaacs Fantel (1956-1960ish)
Mark Morrison-Reed (1957-1962)
Kris Yasutake (1959-1964?)
Kim Yasutake (1960-1968)
Rob Eller-Isaacs (1958-1964)
Anita Snow Orlikoff (1962-1968)
Jody Kruskal (1962-1973)
Sylvester (Sophie) Hudson (1963-1970)
Joan Pederson (1965-1971)
Charles Granger (1965-1972)
Lia Nicine McCoo (1965-1974)
Paul Robertson (1968-1973)
Joe McCain (1968-1976)
Susan Turner-Jones (1968-1977)
Linda Green-Craft (1968-1979)
Andrea Cawelti  (1969-1977)
Christine Mather (1970-1978)
Bethany Pickens (1970-1980)                                    
Jonathan Miller (1971-1975)
Richard Salvino (1972-1975)
Jonathan Solomon (1973-1983)
Millicent Penny Sylvester (1974-1979)
Roz (Heidi) Woll (1975-1984)
Jonathan (Moore) Weismoore (1974-1986?)
Karin Huyck Old (1975-1983)
Jonita Latimore (1977-1985)
Cassiette West-Williams (1977-1980)
Dodie Morris Whitaker (1977-1986)
Rev. Eva Cameron (1979-1981)
Natalie Bullock Brown (1979-1987)
Nicole Heaston (1979-1988)
Matthew Reed (1982-1992)
Chad Davidson (1983-1988)
Karim Sulayman (1983-1993)
Saalik Ziyad (1984-1996)
Heejung Kim (1987-1992)
Jessica Yee (1987-1996)
Sarah (Katsaros) Dennis (1988-1997)
Ted Hearne (1988-1999)
Angela Arnold (1989-1993)
Jonathan Brooks (1989-1997)
Ryan Cox (1991-1998)
Jonathan Green (1991-2001)
Gabe Jimenez (1992-1996)
Taylor Strickling (1992-1999? & Laura Dixon Strickling 1999)
Michael Preacely (1994-1996)


PARENTS & board members:
Nancy Harlan (Ann 1956-?, Robert, Jane)
Ivan Lappin (Scott 1970-1975, Dan 1970-1977, Kathy 1970-1979, Bradley 1971-1979, and Alec – recent)
Joyce Swedlund (Sarah Russe – 1979 or 1980-until graduated HS)
Alice Solomon (1971-1983?) mother to Elizabeth, Jonathan & Noah Solomon
Margaret Huyck (1972-1983?) mother to Karin Huyck (& UU church board member, wife also to CCC board member and interviewer/biographer of Christopher Moore – Tom Huyck)
Sue Allender (1975-1984) mother of Laura Allender
Sue Murray (1978-1989) mother of Erin Murray
Richard Taub (late 1970s?) parent to Zach & Neela, widow to Doris Taub - board member in the late 1980s/early 1990s
Chalmus English, Sr (1981-1994) father to Chalmus English, Jr.
Dwight Frankfather (1983-1994)
John Saphir (1982-1990? – board member)
Inge Fryklund (1987-1994 – on board for some years)
Bruce Woll (1987-1994 – chairman of the board for 4-5 years) father to H. Roz Woll
Grace Williams (1986-2003) (also board member) mother to Kedda & Tiade Williams
Paulette Levy (1987-mid 1990s?) – mother to Matthew Levy
Betty Brooks (1988-1997) mother of Jonathan Brooks
Susanne Baker (1989-1997) mother to Alex & Liz
Susan McMillan (1988-2000) mother to Meredith, Alex & Maggie Hirshfeld

+ Read More
I've just found a few more former staff recently! Still working hard to have an accurate a celebration of so many hundreds/thousands of people who helped make the CCC happen (over the first 40 years)!

Added former staff:
Janet Underhill (1965-76)
Margaret Murata (1966-67 or 1967-68?)
Becca (Ruben) Smith (1967-73)
Maceo Thomas (1970-72)
Maxine (Miki) Soshnik (early 1980s?)
+ Read More
To date, I've been writing chronologically! I'm up to 1987-1990!
+ Read More
Read a Previous Update
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$5,707 of $8,000 goal

Raised by 57 people in 19 months
Created May 4, 2017
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Joan Pederson
1 month ago

This vital work needs our support, and before I ask YOU to stretch, I must to do. Give not until it hurts, but beyond that to where you feel great about making a difference, as Chris did for us.

Yulia Wasonoredjo
2 months ago

I want to see the book publishes and it will inspire everyone when they read it.

Kristine Yasutake
3 months ago

In memory of our Mom, Aki Yasutake

Wendy Orley
4 months ago

In memory of my mother, Eleanor Lewis. Thank you.

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