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Chicago Immigrant Stories III

Forging musical collaborations to resonate across all Chicago citizens as they are reminded or redefine what it means to be 'American'


Chicago Jazz Philharmonic’s artistry of cross‐genre collaborations melds with the musical cultures of some of Chicago’s many immigrant communities, wherein jazz, classical, and ethnic folk music intersect in new and unexpected ways. The performers share their stories and their artistry to create a collective experience for neighborhood audiences across Chicago, of what it means to be an American.

The goals of this program are to:

  1. Connect musicians and audiences to engage in cross-cultural learning and dialogue. Participants will learn something new about themselves and others, appreciate new art forms, feel more connected to their communities, and collectively reflect on what it means to be an American.
  2. Develop new audiences for all collaborators. CJP core audiences will cross-pollinate with other communities – representing the depth and breadth of our cities’ peoples.
  3. Expand creative practice. Collaborating artists learn a new technique, skill, creative approach that continues to inform their practice.

The past two series have generated impactful collaborations with musicians from Chicago’s Chinese, Mexican, Greek, South Asian (Indian), West African, Bulgarian, Argentinian, and Lebanese communities.  Proposed collaborators for the 2021 series include:

Tatsu Aoki – Japanese multi-instrumentalist (bass, shamisen, taiko)
Geraldo De Oliveira – Brazilian percussionist
Ivan Shmilo – Ukranian bandurist
Athanasios Zervas – Greek composer and woodwind musician (soprano saxophone, flute, clarinet)

The process of collaboration begins with the “Innovation Lab” – a series of small group meetings between collaborating musicians and rhythm section members of Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, led and facilitated by CJP Artistic Director, Orbert Davis. Beginning with “share your story, share your music” musicians get to know and understand each other, forging new friendships out of which “collective creativity” is nurtured.  This process culminates in a public workshop performance, to demonstrate the musicians’ process of collaboration, ‘jam’ on an exchange of musical ideas, profile ‘Immigrant Stories’ of featured musicians, and engage the audience in dialogue about the experience.  In 2020-21, these public events will be hosted by cultural partners such as the Old Town School of Folk Music and Ukranian Institute of Modern Art.  Each collaborating musician will also have the opportunity to provide assembly performances to elementary schools, with whom CJP partners.

Musical ideas generated from the Innovation Lab will feed the creation of an orchestral composition, to be created collaboratively by Orbert Davis and Athanasios Zervas. “Chicago Immigrant Stories III” will premiere in July 2021, slated for Chicago’s  main outdoor amphitheater, Millennium Park, where in all collaborating musicians will perform in a featured role.  To ensure the messaging and experience is accessible to a wide audience, all events are free.  We anticipate over 6,000 attendees to the various “Chicago Immigrant Stories” events.

“…the evening was inspiring about the power of immigration and the gifts these immigrant musicians have brought to the USA and to Chicago, making it the culturally diverse mecca that it is. AND I AM GRATEFUL.” – Audience

Project Media

Chicago Immigrant Stories
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This is a series of clips from the world premiere of “Chicago Immigrant Stories” (composed by Orbert Davis and Howard Levy) at Millennium Park on June 14, 2018. It features Kerry Leung (pipa, moon guitar), Menghua Guan (zither), Guanglong Li (erhu), Kalyan Pathak (tabla, vocals), Hitesh Master (harmonium vocals), Sekou Conde and Seneke Ensemble (percussion), and Howard Levy (harmonica).

Elegy for Antigone
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Features: Athanasios Zervas

composed by Athanasios Zervas

Start and End Dates



Chicago, Illinois

Project Created By

Chicago, Illinois
Chicago Jazz Philharmonic combines jazz and classical to create new, evolved, “third stream” musical experiences at home and around the world. CJP’s third stream approach unites diverse perspectives, expanding the possibilities of what music brings to life for students, musicians, audiences, and communities. Since its groundbreaking debut as the headliner of the 2004 Chicago Jazz Festival,…

In Collaboration With

Composer, Performer
Featured Performer
Featured Performer
Palatine, Illinois


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