North Central College’s own Jeanne Bortolini, secretary at Oesterle Library, took the stage Saturday, Oct. 8, to sing vocals with the legendary rock and roll band Chicago.
“It was surreal! A dream come true that happens once in a lifetime,” she says.
It happened in Lantz Arena at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston as part of the band’s Sing with Chicago promotion that gives fans the chance to win a VIP fan experience and help raise funds and awareness to end breast cancer.
Through an online auction on eBay, benefiting the American Cancer Society, fans can bid to win a package that includes a meet-and-greet with the band, two premium tickets, backstage passes and the opportunity to sing the song “If You Leave Me Now” on stage with the band.
With the support of her co-workers, friends, family and church members, Jeanne placed the winning bid for the Oct. 8 show and got to perform before thousands.
“All the band members said I did a really good job and I got a standing ovation from the crowd, which I guess doesn’t happen very often. I’m used to performing in front of people and my initial nerves left after I started singing.”
Jeanne is no stranger to the stage. She’s the lead vocals for the Wright Street Band, which performs several times a month at various venues and fundraisers. An alto, Jeanne says her band performs a wide repertoire, featuring music from the ’70s—including Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now”—and French, Cajun and dance tunes. In addition, Jeanne sings in her church choir and as a cantor at St. Raphael Catholic Church in Naperville.
“I’ve been a fan of Chicago since I was 16, when I had gone to my first Chicago concert. On Saturday, the band signed my posters from the 1970s and gave me a set of drumsticks signed by the drummer, guitar pics, an autographed CD and a nice souvenir—the set list with my name next to the song I sang,” she says.
Jeanne’s motivation for pursuing this dream runs deeper than just the chance to sing with Chicago. “It was a great opportunity to raise funds for breast cancer research. My best friend and mother are breast cancer survivors, so this cause means a lot to me. My band has performed fund-raising concerts for cancer research and I’ve walked in North Central’s annual Relay for Life, too.”
Jeanne’s husband Tom, three sons and sister traveled along to hear her sing and support her in pursuing her dream.
Feature photo, top: Chicago band members (four of the original six are still part of the group), Jeanne, center, and husband Tom is left of Jeanne.
Stage photo, right: Robert Lamm on keyboards is applauding Jeanne and Jimmy Pankow (left of Jeanne) is saying, "Wow!"