Stevenson performer shines on many stages
Stevenson High School freshman Jonah Rawitz sings and plays the keyboard with his band JayWalk during a performance Sunday at the Buffalo Grove Farmer's Market. | Jeff Krage~for Sun-Times Media
JAYWALKING ON THE WEB
The band’s YouTube channel: OfficialJayWalkMusic
Rawitz’s channel: jrawitz22
Updated: November 26, 2012 2:18AM
BUFFALO GROVE — Jonah Rawitz took some visitors to the Buffalo Grove Farmers Market by surprise Sunday.
Among them was Fern Russell, the market’s entertainment director who invited him and his band to provide the day’s musical entertainment.
Russell recalled a previous SundayFarmers Market when a woman came up to her booth and asked if organizers were looking for new musical acts. The woman said her son, Jonah Rawitz, had started a local group called JayWalk, and directed Russell their YouTube channel. Rawitz’s mom also cautioned Russell that her son and his band mates are young.
“And I’m thinking he’s 18, 19, some young man with a band,” said Russell before she looked up their clips on the Internet.
“He was a little kid!” she exclaimed. “And, he was very talented.”
Rawitz, 14, put his musical talents on display Sunday in his first public performance — the same talents he has already used as an actor in six professional theater performances, on well-regarded stages from Drury Lane Oakbrook to the Marriott Resort in Lincolnshire.
“I’m really interested in putting all the parts together,” said Rawitz of his budding abilities as an entertainer. “I’m working with some really talented musicians.”
His band mates are drummer Jeremy Klaber, guitarists Josh Martin and Jeremy Sandrof, and bass player Julian Malevanets. All five are Stevenson High School freshmen.
Rawitz almost balked at the prospect of explaining how they chose the name JayWalk, but ultimately went through with it.
“All of our names have a J in it,” he said, adding that they almost went with “J-Walk.”
Rawitz is the youngest in a family full of acting experience— his grandfather and two older siblings have all been in productions, and his mother, Lauren, is Stevenson High School’s theater teacher. Rawitz earned his first role in the Buffalo Grove Park District’s performance of Oklahoma at Ivy Hall School, and has been on professional stages since then.
At 10 year old, he played the uneducated but street-smart child Gavroche in the Marriott’s Les Misérables. From there, he has worked at the Goodman Theater and American Theater Company in Chicago, as well as Drury Lane.
Rawitz said the presence of the arts in his home life has proved a strong influence, as well as a door-opener.
“It does have a lot to do with being around theater,” he said. “I just wanted to get into it, after being inspired by what they were doing.”
But being raised around performers did nothing to spare him from the anxiety before getting up on stage.
“It was extremely nerve-racking,” he said of his first night at the Marriott. “At the same time, it was a ton of fun. It was a huge honor to be able to perform there.”
During that entire five-year run, he also was taking piano lessons, and learning how to work his voice, which he describes as mostly tenor, and a little bit bass. He said it was earlier this summer when he and his group of friends realized that they had all the parts needed for a rock band.
“We’re still figuring out our specific sound,” Rawitz said.
On Sunday, they performed covers of groups ranging from Coldplay to Green Day.
“We’re writing whatever comes to mind,” he added. “Anything that inspires me, and strikes me in a significant way.”
When Rawitz became adept with the keys, he started playing what he heard on the radio by ear. Original melodies came to him after that.
“Once I put my voice with the music, I was like, ‘Oh, I can do this, this is pretty cool,’” Rawitz recalled.
Rawitz did not try out for Stevenson’s fall performances, but said he hopes to earn roles in his school’s productions during his years there. With JayWalk’s first appearance behind him, he said the group is focused on writing new songs and posting them on the web.
“It’s a little nerve-racking, but it’s definitely exciting.”