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As a preteen, Janet Macoska thought her introduction to the world of music would be as an assistant at a radio station in her native Cleveland.

"The DJs let me hang around, and I'd answer their fan letters," she recalled. "And I'd get singles (records) in return."

By age 12, she got her first published photograph, when Sonny & Cher visited the station.

"I had my camera with me ... and they took questions on a radio show. I sat there and shot photos," Macoska, now 60, recalls with a laugh. "I was a precocious little kid with a camera."

The picture was published in Teen Screen magazine, which paid her $2.

"You can go a long way with that," she said with a laugh.


Macoska has worked professionally as a photographer, primarily of rock musicians passing through Cleveland, since 1974.

Currently the house photographer for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, she has also shot the cover art for albums by David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Devo, Heart, AC/DC and The Kinks.

With a Who's Who of musicians in her archives, a business owner friend in 2008 asked her if she'd thought about an exhibit of artists with Jewish heritage.

"I said, just flippantly, 'Well how many could there be?' And he Googled it and started reading the names," she said. "I thought, 'Wow, I've photographed all those people.'"

Many of those are on display in an exhibit at the River Music Experience, Davenport, that's the cornerstone of "Jews Rock! A Celebration of Rock 'n' Roll's Jewish Heritage," a collaboration with the Jewish Federation of the Quad-Cities.

After consulting with a rabbi who was also a rock historian, Macoska created the exhibit, calling her subjects musicians with a "Jewish heritage."

"That pretty much will cover you," she was told.

The more she researched, Macoska discovered that Jewish influences went beyond musicians such as Neil Diamond, Gene Simmons and Billy Joel and into those behind the scenes, such as Beatles manager Brian Epstein; Sid Bernstein, the producer who brought the Fab Four to America; and legendary concert promoter Bill Graham.

"I kind of knew there were Jewish influences in rock 'n' roll, I just never knew that there were influences beyond musicians," she said, adding that the two Cleveland DJs who coined the phrase "rock 'n' roll" in 1952 and staged the first rock concert were both Jewish.

"There's just so many people involved in the creation and evolution of rock 'n' roll, it was just an inspiring story, I thought," she said.

Macoska will be in the Quad-Cities on Wednesday for a talk to open the exhibit, which continues on display on the second floor of the RME through Dec. 10. Prints of the photos will be available for sale, with proceeds benefiting the Jewish Federation.

Ten years old when The Beatles first appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show," Macoska said that sparked her interest in rock music.

"Once that happened, I just became obsessed with music and wanted to do something in the music business," she said. "Writing and photography seemed to be the way to go."

She went to a community college with the intention of transferring to a journalism school, but ended her formal education there.

"I was already doing what I wanted to do," she said. "I was already shooting photos of rock 'n' roll stars and interviewing rock 'n' roll stars and writing stories. I was there, and I just never stopped."

Macoska has worked for several newspapers, and was the team photographer for Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians for 10 years.

But her primary drive has always been rock.

"It's the love of my life. It's combined the two passions for me: Photography I've loved since I was a little kid and music I've loved. This enables me to combine the two," she said.

"That camera gives you a license to do almost anything," she added. "I've really enjoyed getting entry to all these different worlds and meeting all these different people and being able to document that."