Jewish Family & Career Services (JF&CS) Superstar Choir dazzled their audiences at two performances held this month at the IndependenceWORKS building on the JF&CS campus in Dunwoody.
Despite being postponed from December until Jan. 11, due to unforeseen circumstances, the holiday shows raised the spirits of all involved, whether singer or adoring fan. In fact, the postponement gave the choir additional time to practice and a reason to celebrate the holiday season a bit longer. The list of songs performed included, “Oh Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Let It Snow,” and “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”
Comprised of clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to a JF&CS spokesperson, the choir performed in the morning for JF&CS staff, followed by an afternoon performance for family members and invited guests. The standing-room only shows, and the enthusiasm of both the singers and audience members, told a story of pride and positivity from all who participated, said Terri Bonoff, CEO of the organization. The sentiment was best expressed by choir member, Lauren, when she said, “I love to do anything that includes singing because when I sing it makes me feel happy.”
“The Superstar Choir’s performance was amazing, and it was especially heartwarming for us to see our daughter, Carla, participate since she is nonverbal. And sing she did! She added her notes, laughed, and smiled, all while having a wonderful time. This is what inclusion is all about,” said parent Bruce Lindemann.
The inspiration for the choir came from Abby Frantz, community access program manager of JF&CS. She reached out to community volunteer and leader Cherie Aviv months earlier to ask about creating a choir program. Equally excited about the prospect, Aviv promised to lend her support and help make the program a reality. The name, “Superstar Choir,” was chosen by the pair since they consider each member a superstar who continually creates magic moments and brings joy to all.
“The choir is so meaningful to our clients. Many participants communicate and learn in various ways. With this program, they came together as a group, with each person bringing their special talents. Together, they sang as one and brought happiness to others. Music is accessible to everyone and has the ability to bring us together as a community,” said Frantz.
To make the special event happen, a dynamic team of community volunteers were recruited by Aviv, who herself served as the choir manager. Singers Andrew Hamby, Michele Fox, and Carol Schemo came on board as choir directors. One of Atlanta’s most popular, well-regarded pianists, Richard Siegel, agreed to play as the choir’s accompanist. Frantz and her committed staff organized the logistics and took care of the many details involved.
With all hands-on deck, the JF&CS Superstar Choir grew to 30 choir members (25 clients and 5 JF&CS staff). Hamby, Fox and Schemo picked out the songs and rehearsed with the choir twice a week, celebrating each moment and note sung by the choir. Siegel created digital music files for rehearsals and played live music at the performances. Frantz and her staff conducted the auditions, made songbooks, arranged rehearsal times, assisted with picture day, and attended to details. And each step along the way brought smiles to singers and volunteers.
“One of my favorite moments was picture day,” said Aviv. “As a keepsake, we gave each choir member a picture of them in their choir robe. The members were so excited. They wore their best clothes, had their hair done, wore make-up, put on jewelry, gave us their biggest smile, and beamed with joy. Eric Bern of Headshot Studio Atlanta brought out the best in each person, which proudly resonated in the photo.”
Choir director Schemo pointed out the love and enthusiasm experienced by choir members and volunteers that began on the first day of rehearsals, carrying through to the last performance. “The Superstar Choir is a testament to teamwork, a pure love of music, and a goal of performing,” she said.
The Superstar Choir program was generously sponsored by Cherie and Gary Aviv and Jewish Abilities Atlanta of Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.
- Debbie Diamond
- Jewish Family & Career Services
- Superstar Choir
- intellectual and developmental disabilities
- Terri Bonoff
- Abby Frantz
- Cherie Aviv
- Andrew Hamby
- Michele Fox
- Carol Schemo
- Richard Siegel
- Eric Bern of Headshot Studio Atlanta
- jewish federation of greater atlanta
- Jewish Abilities Atlanta