Born on May 15, 1888, Julius Cohen was the second son of Nathan and Addie Cohen. From a young age, Julius studied music. He studied vocals with his great aunt Clara Bernetta in New York for several years. As a young man, he traveled to Budapest, Hungary, with his younger brother Sol, to study with some of the best vocalists in the world. When the United States entered World War I, Julius set aside his musical career and served with the American Expeditionary Force in France. Upon returning home, he resumed his musical career.
Julius built his career in Urbana. He taught vocals to the public in his family home at 511 West Elm St. Some of his students became successful vocalists: Doris Jung of the Hamburg and Munich Opera companies, New York City Opera, and Metropolitan Opera; William Wolff, a prominent cantor and concert artist in White Plains, New York; David Rae Smith of the New York City Opera; and Jane Morrow who would later sing with Beverly Sills. Julius was also a pianist and play accompanist with various singers. In 1959, he published a volume of lyrical poems in the book Far-Off Whistles. A copy of his poems can be found at the Champaign County Historical Archives.
Julius was a prominent member of the Champaign-Urbana community. For forty-six years, he was the head of the Sinai Temple choir and would sing at every Friday evening service. He sang in various churches in Champaign County. With his brother Sol, Julius performed at local gatherings, service clubs, and other community events for no charge. For their years of generous service, Julius and Sol were designated as Men of the Year by the Grand Prairie Lodge of B’nai Brith in 1972. Julius passed away on November 26, 1973, leaving behind his brother Sol and two nephews.
- Matthew Mayton
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