Brazilian Choro Classes

ACM is proud to partner with Julie Koidin and the Chicago Choro Club in offering Choro Group Classes this spring! These classes work best for musicians who are already studying privately on an instrument, but even beginners can join in with percussion instruments. In each hour session of the six week course, students will meet with an instructor on their particular instrument and work on group repertoire. The final session of the class is the Rodas or jam session- students on all instruments will join together to play the rep they worked on in their individual classes. Woodwind instruments, guitar, mandolin and percussion students alike will enjoy playing in a group with their peers in this style that combines elements of jazz and classical music.

Day and time: Sundays 10:30-11:30am
Start date: May 5th, 2019
Length: Six Weeks
Location: ACM’s Ravenswood location, 1758 W Wilson Ave.
Cost: $150/student


Sunday, May 5th
Sunday, May 12th
Sunday, May 19th
Sunday June 2nd
Sunday June 9th
Sunday June 23rd

“Choro (pronounced SHOH-roh) is best described in American terms as “the New Orleans jazz of Brazil.” It is a complex popular musical form based on improvisation, and like New Orleans jazz, blues, or ragtime, grew from a formalized musical structure and many worldly influences. But to the people of South America, choro is Brazil. It is life.

The word choro in Portuguese literally means “to cry,” which seems like an ironic name for music that is often so joyous and celebratory. Actually the term refers to the lilting or “weeping” qualities of the solo instrument, usually a flute or clarinet (Think of the way Benny Goodman could “wail”). This music, also called chorinho (this term refers to the individual pieces of music), came of age in the early 20th century in the cafés of Rio de Janeiro and other large cities in Brazil. The traditions that nurtured the choro in Rio in the late 1800s are pretty much the same ones that brought about the danzón in Cuba, the beguine in Martinique, and ragtime in the United States; countries were developing their own popular musics and began to mix elements from other cultures including European polka and African rhythms. As flutist Paula Robison explains, “… the choro tradition in Brazil is very much like the blues in America. In Brazil, choro was the combination of the African tradition mixed with the Portuguese; the beautiful singing lines of the Portuguese melody combined with the life-giving heartbeat of Africa.”

Musically choro is based on what we know as samba-style or bossa nova rhythms and played on a guitar or other fretted stringed instrument, plus flute or clarinet and percussion. Structurally it is the Brazilian music that is closest to European classical music (it borrows the form of the Chopin waltz and the counterpoint of the high Baroque period), yet retains a personality that is all Brazilian. Within its exacting structure, choro is known for the large leaps in its melody and its dizzying speeds, surprising changes of harmony and improvised sound. This is extremely virtuosic music that is played to sound very natural and spontaneous.”

St. Paul Sunday, American Public Media,

Dr. Julie Koidin is a classically trained flutist with graduate degrees from Northwestern University.  In the mid ’90s she heard a recording of Altamiro Carrilho that would change her life and embark her on a “choro journey.”  Since that time she has traveled to Brazil 21 times including 2 Fulbright grants to research modern trends in choro.   As a result of her Fulbright grants she has authored “Choro Conversations: Pursuing Life, Love and Brazil’s Musical Identity” (in Portuguese, “Os Sorrisos do Choro”).

She founded the Chicago Choro Club in 2015 in conjunction with her nationally-syndicated radio “choro special” on the WFMT-FM Radio Network – a show specially produced for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.  In addition to the Chicago Choro Club, Julie teaches at the University of Illinois where one of her classes is “Brazilian Music and Culture” for the Honors College.

John Beard initially studied jazz guitar in his home town of Manchester, U.K. with Mike Walker & then in London, at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Having subsequently relocated to Chicago, he became involved with the vibrant scene there, playing with several generations of local musicians (Bill Yancey, King Fleming, Geof Bradfield, Josh Abrams) at venues such as the Green Mill, Hothouse, Jazz Showcase. A trip to Rio de Janeiro in 2004 was transformative – and since then John has been exploring various genres of Brazilian music with studies of cavaquinho, 7-string guitar and percussion.

John has studied in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Curitiba as well as with Brazilians in Chicago. His teachers include Alessandro Penezzi, Rogerio Souza, Douglas Lora & Ben McMunn. A regular attendee at Brazilian music workshops (Centrum Choro, California Brazil Camp) he performs in Chicago with local groups Swing Brasileiro, Bossa Tres, Grant Ziolkowski Trio, Bloco Maximo, Evanston Escola de Samba, & Planeta Azul.

Percussionist Heitor Garcia is originally from Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerias, Brazil.   He studied at the Music Conservatory of Minas Gerais and also at the Milton Nascimento Música de Minas school.  While in Brazil he performed a variety of styles including rock, folk music, and MPB, on TV, radio, in theaters, and in other live events.

In 1991 Heitor moved to the U.S. to play and study Brazilian and Latin percussion.  He also had the opportunity to play with various groups throughout the Chicago area including with his brother, Paulinho Garica in Jazzmineiro, Ensemble Kalinda, Dois no Choro and the Chicago Immigrant Orchestra.  Other artists he’s worked with include Grazyna Auguscik, April Aloisio, Luciano Antonio, Marshall Vente, and Linda Tate, to name a few.

Some career highlights include performing with the Chicago Immigrant Orchestra for the inauguration of Millennium Park, and performing a Millennium Park concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of bossa nova with João Donato, Robertinho Silva, and Luis Alves, under the musical direction of Paulinho Garcia.  Heitor has also performed with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Carolyn Kuan and performed in Bratislava, Slovakia with Geraldo de Oliveira and Paulinho Garcia, and in Poland with Grazyna Auguscik and the Warsaw Symphony Orchestra.

While still in his teens, Don Stiernberg learned to play the mandolin from the innovative and influential virtuoso Jethro Burns. Jethro referred to Don as his “graduate student”, hired him to play in his band, and guided him to a career as a professional musician. A leading exponent of jazz mandolin style, Don has eight recording projects of his own and appears on many others by a variety of artists in all styles.The most recent of these is Mandoboppin’! , a jazz quintet CD featuring his original tunes.  Jazz Mandolin Appetizers, a long-awaited Mel Bay method book for improvising mandolinists, is also currently available.

In addition to touring coast to coast and abroad, Don stays busy around his native Chicago with performing and recording work. He has been an instructor at mandolin events such as The Mandolin Symposium, Swannanoa Gathering, Mandolin Camp North, River of the West Mandolin Camp, Cape Cod Mandolin Camp, Steve Kaufman Acoustic Kamp, Ashokan Swing Week, Accademia Internacionale di Mandolino (Italy), European Mandoline Akademy(Germany) and Momento Rio Bandolim(Brazil).