MEMBERSHIP CLOSE-UP: Meet Some of Our Long-Distance Members

by Carolyn Wehner

One of my favorite things about being Membership Director of our organization is getting to welcome new members. While the majority of our membership resides in greater Chicagoland, I have noticed in the last few years an increasing number of newer members have addresses that are far from The Windy City. My interest was piqued. And when my partner and I were in London this past April and visited with NYC singer and CCP member David Sabella after his fabulous show at The Pheasantry, it was time to delve further.

Carolyn Wehner with David Sabella and Michael Lorenz post-show at the Pheasantry, London, April 2023

Most of you know I’m a slightly long-distance member myself. I’m based in Milwaukee and regularly commute to Chicago for performances. I wanted to find out what drew these fellow cabaret dwellers with distant zip codes to join CCP. Meet the members who graciously consented to a brief interview:

Francesca Amari

Francesca Amari, Palm Springs via Grand Rapids with an assist from Chicago


Sue Berke

Sue Berke Chicago native and longtime Detroit area resident


Eden Casteel

Eden Casteel: Rhode Island-based singer/pianist and host of The Eden Show on YouTube


Jeff Harnar

Jeff Harner, NYC cabaret icon who grew up on Chicago’s North Shore


Linda Kahn

Linda Kahn, Winnetka native now based in Stamford, CT


Lina Koutrakos

Lina Koutrakos, Revered NYC singer and cabaret master teacher


Sue Matsuki

Sue Matsuki, award-winning NYC cabaret singer and co-author of So You Want to Sing Cabaret


Ellen Winters Reynolds

Ellen Winters Reynolds, Milwaukee resident and CCP Vice President


David Sabella

David Sabella, NYC actor/singer and co-author of So You Want to Sing Cabaret


Josephine Sanges

Josephine Sanges, Multi-award-winning NYC cabaret singer


Ann Talman

Ann Talman, NYC-based Pittsburgh native and 2023 MAC Award winner for NY Debut-Female


Meri Ziev

Meri Ziev, SE Florida-based singer and co-founder of South Florida Cabaret Singers


David Meulemans

David Meulemans, SE Florida-based singer and co-founder of South Florida Cabaret Singers

Carolyn Wehner asked, “tell us how you heard about CCP and what drew you to our organization.”

David Sabella: I joined CCP because I was blown away by the commitment to the art form. When I came to Chicago to do a show and master class, it was like stepping into an alternate universe where everything you loved was loved by everyone else, only the buildings were different.

Jeff (recipient of CCP’s 2022 National Honoree Award): There is a thriving community of cabaret talent in Chicago that I’m inspired by and who have warmly welcomed me. Being a member is the easiest, most attractive, and affordable tether to that community.

Eden: I have a YouTube show and I thought how about that, you do too (Cabaret Beat)! And I was impressed with your comprehensive website. So many places, so many performers, so many opportunities.

Sue Matsuki, Lina, Ellen, Ann and many others: “Davenport’s is our north star,” said Lina, recipient of CCP’s 2019 National Honoree Award. Sue M. agrees, She has a show coming up there in late September. “Many of my NY friends have played Davenport’s and they all mentioned how great the Chicago cabaret scene was. Any place to network with other singers is always advantageous so I joined. It’s just good marketing.”

Has your involvement with CCP been a positive experience? Tell us how.

Lina: “Absolutely.” She heads the Midwest Cabaret Conference held annually at Davenport’s and added “the talent that participates from Chicago are all CCP members and they are the glue that welcomes, hosts and embraces the rest of us. It truly is a very unique experience.”

Josephine: “It can feel very intimidating to take your work out on the road to territories unfamiliar. Finding ways to connect to like-minded people is balm for an artist’s soul. Thanks to CCP those connections have truly become invaluable.”

Francesca: “I also belong to MAC and Cabaret West and by far CCP is the most active and engaging cabaret organization. Not only does it support members by offering a calendar and profile pages, but it also sponsors member events and programming. CCP is, I believe, the shining example of how a cabaret organization should work.”

Sue Berke: “I met CCP Founding Member Claudia Hommel when she gave a concert of French songs and she introduced me to CCP. I’m now a regular participant in the Chicago/Paris Cabaret Connexion which meets annually alternating between the two cities. Both organizations provide so many opportunities to share music and improve performance skills.”

Linda: “I found such enthusiastic and generous support. I wanted to bring my cabaret debut show to Chicago but wasn’t sure I could find an audience. I was encouraged to join CCP so I could reach a broader target audience of cabaret lovers.”

Ellen: “I’m based in Milwaukee and have been commuting to teach at Columbia College Chicago since 2007. CCP has really helped me feel like a part of the Chicago Cabaret scene. Plus, the collaborations and friendships I’ve made have been priceless.”

Ann, Jeff, Eden, Linda, David Sabella and Josephine all mentioned access to our promotional tools in helping sell tickets when they brought their shows to Chicago. Ann said “Absolutely. I know it helped me fill Davenport’s.” And Jeff stated, “The value of the membership for an out-of-towner far outweighs the nominal cost. The exemplary website and email outreaches alone are a great resource and the connection to a vibrant community of artists is invaluable.”

David Meulemans and Meri Ziev share a unique perspective as CCP members and co-founders of South Florida Cabaret Singers. They’ve known each other for many years Meri would attend workshops and master classes produced by David and they’ve performed together frequently. As Meri states, “David has worked tirelessly for years to provide classes and find venues for our community. In the summer of 2021, we had our first informal meeting with other singers to brainstorm about formalizing the community.” From David: “I feel confident that there will be a network like CCP in South Florida so we can combine our talents and hard work and provide some of the things that CCP does so well for its members.”

And my final question: What’s your favorite thing to do when in Chicago?

EVERYONE: See friends and family, eat everything everywhere, Cubs games and SING!!I

I’ll let David Sabella sum it up for everyone: “Wherever cabaret is, there is home.”

-by Carolyn Wehner

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