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G&F In Focus: Chicago Children’s Choir

A classic is reborn thanks to a handful of Chicago visionaries. Opening this December, David Kersnar of Lookingglass Theatre Company, Josephine Lee of Chicago Children’s Choir and Krithika Rajagopalan of Natya Dance Theatre are remounting the 2006 original production of Sita Ram. At the heart of the epic Hindu tale is the love between Sita and Rama and messages of hope, devotion and passion ring true. Mirroring these morals closely is the Chicago Children’s Choir, a fifty year plus Chicago institution that provides children a place to be themselves, explore their talents, find new cultures and ultimately teach the best lesson of all: accept others for who they are because it’s in that ultimate uniqueness that really makes us sing.

But don’t take our word for it. Below you’ll meet just a few of the many kids who make up the Chicago Children’s Choir and this winter’s production of Sita Ram. During rehearsal, we pulled them aside for a fun shoot and asked some simple questions. The result? Inspiring.


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WATCH THE SITA RAM BEHIND THE SCENES VIDEO // MORE INFORMATION & TICKETS TO SITA RAM

[ABOVE]
John Williams, 15
YEARS IN CHOIR? 7
FAVORITE MOMENT OF SITA RAM? The way we can appeal to younger audiences relative to our usual,
more serious material. Sita Ram is without a doubt something fun for all ages-no one will be falling asleep.
[BELOW]
Elijah McCarrell-Bradley, 15
YEARS IN CHOIR? 8 ½
ROLE MODEL? My dad because he is a strong and hard working man who always puts his family first.
Allie Kersten, 14
Years in Choir? 7
WHAT HAVE YOU LIKED LEARNING BEST? The movement and learning its backstory is super fun.
FAVORITE FASHION ACCESSORY? Rings. I like to construct them myself.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THE CCC? I love the CCC for the diversity and acceptance. I can be myself and
I don’t have to worry about being the loudest in the group.

[ABOVE]
Eve Robinson [left], 13
YEARS IN CHOIR? 6
WHAT DOES SITA RAM MEAN TO YOU? It’s what the choir is all about in one musical: Finding yourself.
And what does the choir mean to you? I love the CCC because I can express what I feel through music. I can convey my feelings and who I am as a person in a way that I can’t in any other way.
Sara Crisostomo [right], 16
YEARS IN CHOIR? 8
ROLE MODEL? My idol is Mrs. Lee. She is a super woman. She is not only a mother, wife, but also the president of CCC. She is fashionable and changes the world and changes kids’ lives.
DISH IT—FASHION ACCESSORY OF CHOICE? Scarves, nerd glasses… and my Hello, Kitty phone.
[BELOW]
Jihan Dubose [left], 18
YEARS IN CHOIR? 12
ROLE MODEL? It’s my mom. She represents the strength and wisdom I aspire to obtain one day.
FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE CCC? I love the choir because I enjoy being surrounded by creativity, professionalism and positivity. They have taught me to appreciate everyone’s uniqueness and have helped me to be proud of who I am.
Thomas McNeal [right], 17
YEARS IN CHOIR: 10
FAVORITE SITA RAM MOMENT? My favorite part has to be the Hanaman’s Heart performance. It’s so powerful especially when performing the choreography. Hanaman realizes that Sita and Rama is in his heart, literally they were with him all along. To me, that’s powerful.
ROLE MODEL? Judy Hanson and Josephine Lee. They’ve showed me that I should never accept mediocre from myself just because I’m a child. Both of these women have been the best role models of my life.


[FIRST ABOVE]
Marissa Page, 16
YEARS IN CHOIR? 9
FAVORITE FASHION ACCESSORY? Does a sweater count? Not really an accessory, but oh well. I own 20+ sweaters.
FAVORITE PART OF THE CCC? Choir is like my family. I always feel welcome with my fellow singers and singing with them makes me feel really fulfilled. I never get lonely in choir.
[SECOND ABOVE]
Francesca Rosen [left], 12
YEARS IN CHOIR? 5
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT IT? I always love trying my hardest and striving for perfection.
Alexa Moster [right], 13
YEARS IN CHOIR? 5
FAVORITE PART OF SITA RAM? We get to experience how so many different cultures can come together to prove one common point. It shows how the CCC breaks down cultural barriers through music. We as singers in Sita Ram are living proof of that.
CHOIR MEANS WHAT TO YOU? I love the CCC because it forces me to be focused, driven, and hard-working. It is the sole reason why I do well in school and socially because it taught me how to work hard and interact with all different types of people.
[BELOW]
Kara Savitt, 14
YEARS IN CHOIR? 5
ROLE MODEL? Lady Gaga because she is an amazing musician and she’s not afraid to be herself.


[ABOVE]
Emem Obot, 16
YEARS IN CHOIR? 3
WHY DO YOU LOVE THE CCC? It’s given me a positive outlet. It encourages me to be myself and open my eyes to the world. Through this amazing experience, I’ve learned that I’m not a citizen of USA, I’m a citizen of the world.
[BELOW]
Abigail Daum, 18
YEARS IN CHOIR? 7
FAVORITE PART OF SITA RAM? Mixing different styles of music together in one amazing show.
ROLE MODEL? My neighborhood choir conductor, Ms. Mollie Stone. She inspires me because she pursued her passion of music which is something I hope to do one day.
Jordy Breslau [left], 17
YEARS IN CHOIR? 7
WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE CCC THAT MAKES IT SO SPECIAL? It is great to be with people who have the same passion as you. We are exposed to the most amazing cultural opportunities. The people in CCC are always the most loving, kind, and intellectual people to be around.
Role model? Claude Camun was a surrealist artist in the 1920’s who advocated for women’s rights. She made art that questioned gender norms. During that time she also protested the Nazi invasion of France. Needless to say, she was extremely brace and progressive for her time!
Jeremiah Ilao [right], 17
YEARS IN CHOIR? 7
WHAT MAKES CCC SO UNIQUE? Very rare do you find a person, group or organization that demands excellence and responsibility from you. This is what I love about choir. They also do this in the name of creating a better world, and they deliver this mission. It is truly powerful.


[ABOVE]
Kevin Goldwater, 15
YEARS IN CHOIR? Almost a year
ROLE MODEL? Josephine Lee, actually! She’s changed my life and pretty much all of those around her with her love of music and life.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THE CCC? Everything is wonderful! It’s just magic. The happiness it brings me is astounding and the voice it has brought me makes me feel complete.