Ode to Joy, the Voice of Unity

This project will gather individual singers from throughout the Chicagoland area to join the first-ever Lake Forest Symphony Chorus. The construction of the chorus is led by the mission that "all people shall become brothers" from Schiller's text in the fourth movement of the Symphony, "Ode to Joy". The chorus will include people of different skill levels from singers to non-singers, ethnicities, religions, social standings, ages; strangers coming together to sing as neighbors. On May 16 & 17, 2020 the Lake Forest Symphony will present the premier performance of the Lake Forest Symphony Chorus with Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. This will be the finale of the Lake Forest Symphony Beethoven symphony cycle and a celebration of Beethoven's 250th Birthday.

To achieve the inclusive nature of the chorus, the Lake Forest Symphony has gathered over 35 partners from very different geographic parts of Chicagoland. Building a chorus filled with varying ranges of experience will require multiple rehearsals and training hours. Music Director Vladimir Kulenovic, along with other chorus directors will teach each local group of vocalists between the months of January 2020 - May 2020.

A focal point of this project is capturing the experience of bringing people together from various parts of Chicagoland and telling their story. The singers, who have very little in common to begin with, will be brought together through music. Documentary filming will begin in September 2019, following the Lake Forest Symphony administration as they audition and prepare the chorus. The filming will continue through the rehearsals and leading to the concerts. Then, after the concerts, the documentary team will continue to follow the vocalists through December 2020, following how this experience has changed their lives. The documentary is estimated to be completed in January 2021.


Thursday, May 14, 2020 6:00pm - Rehearsal
Friday, May 15, 2020 6:00pm - Rehearsal
Saturday, May 16, 2020 7:30pm - Performance
Sunday, May 17, 2020 2:00pm - Performance

Time until the premier of the Lake Forest Symphony Chorus

Bitter Jester Studios

Nicolas DeGrazia

Nicolas DeGrazia

Bitter Jester Studios (BJS) was founded in January of 2001 to tell compelling narratives through the visual arts. Its co-owners, Nicolas DeGrazia and Daniel Kullman, met in the music program at Highland Park High School and went on to study film and anthropology while in college. Rather than explore opportunities in New York or Los Angeles, they returned to Chicago to grow their production company locally.

Their backgrounds in anthropology carry through to today as they explore storytelling that traverses a broad range of the human experience. Production work regularly takes them across the USA and to multiple continents on behalf of non-profits, arts organizations, corporations, associations, NGOs, and independent productions. BJS’ goal is always to concept, execute, and produce work that delivers the right message and meets or exceeds expectations.

Daniel Kullman

Daniel Kullman

In this pursuit, BJS has been recognized with over 150 production awards including eight Chicago/Midwest Emmys. Impressively, their Emmy wins cover the entire production process including wins for Outstanding Writing, Directing, Producing, Cinematography, Editing, and Performance.

Awards & Recognition

  • 2016 (6 noms, 2 wins)

    • Producing - Public Affairs/Current Affairs Programming – Executive Producers; Nicolas DeGrazia, Daniel Kullman

    • On-Camera Talent – Program Correspondent/Narrator/Performer - Pat Tomasulo - Pilsen Preps for the Big Event. Bitter Jester Creative

  • 2015 (8 noms, 2 wins)

    • Editing - Daniel Kullman, Nicolas DeGrazia - Full Circle: The Barack Obama Presidential Library at Chicago

    • Writing - Daniel Kullman, Karlen Beitman, Nicolas DeGrazia - Full Circle: The Barack Obama Presidential Library at Chicago Lakeside

  • 2014 (3 noms, 2 wins)

    • Cinematography - Daniel Kullman & Josh Tallo - Pilot: “The Engagement Party”. Bitter Jester Creative

    • Directing - Live Event Edited - Nicolas DeGrazia - The Chicago Restaurant Pastry Competition, Season Three. Bitter Jester Creative

  • 2013 (8 noms, 1 win)

    • Producing - Live Event Edited - Chicago Restaurant Pastry Competition - Nicolas DeGrazia & Daniel Kullman

  • 2012 (3 noms, 1 win)

    • Producing - Live Event Edited - Chicago Restaurant Pastry Competition - Nicolas DeGrazia & Daniel Kullman