Thursday, October 30, 2014

Music Alumnus Finalist in World's Most Prestigious Jazz Competition

We are very excited to announce that Marquis Hill,  alumnus of the NIU School of Music, is a finalist in the Thelonius Monk International Jazz Competition, widely regarded as the most prestigious jazz competition in the world.

This year's competition is strictly for trumpeters. Marquis will join 12 other trumpeters in Los Angeles on November 8 and 9; in the first round, each player has 15 minutes to perform, accompanied by a trio of internationally-recognized jazz artists: Rodney Whitaker on bass, Carl Allen on drums, and NIU's new coordinator of jazz studies on piano, Reggie Thomas. Three will be chosen to perform in the second round on Sunday, November 9, at the Dolby Theater. Following those three performances, an all-star gala hosted by Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones and Kevin Spacey will take place. Some of the artists in the gala are Wayne Shorter, Jimmy Heath, Chaka Khan, Kenny Burrell, Vinnie Colaiuta, and many other internationally-recognized performers.

Marquis has been one of Chicago's most in-demand jazz trumpeters since his undergraduate years at NIU, and he was the winner of the 2012 International Trumpet Guild Jazz Trumpet Competition. He has appeared as a sideman on several notable recordings, including four as a leader. Marquis comes back to NIU each summer to teach at the NIU Jazz Camp, to help mentor the next generation of Chicagoland jazz artists.

Congratulations, Marquis, and we're rooting for you!

Music Professor's Recording Nominated for Grammy® Award

We've received word that Concertos for Brass, the recent full-length CD recording of compositions by NIU School of Music associate professor Thomas Bough, has made it through the first round of nominees for the 2015 Grammy® Awards. Tom's CD is nominated in the Classical Compendium category, and his work "Suite Tuba" which is featured on the recording is nominated in the Contemporary Classical Composition category.

Tom's recording features his compositions and the solo performances of several well-known brass soloists including Larry Williams (horn), Jeff Malecki (euphonium), and NIU professor of trumpet Mark Ponzo. Tom also appears on the recording as tuba soloist.

At this point in the Grammy® nomination process there are numerous verified nominations, which, through a series of voting rounds, will be culled to the final 5 nominees early this coming winter.

Congratulations, Tom, and best wishes in the next rounds of voting!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Time Arts Professor's Work Making News

 photo courtesy of the St. Charles Art Council

Four Lands - "Airborne" detail

NIU School of Art and Design “Time Arts” professor Bart Woodstrup debuted a new video art piece entitled Four Lands as part of “Art at Work” which was sponsored by the St. Charles Art Council. The program seeks out non-traditional venues for displaying art. This month's inaugural event was
hosted by Suburban Tire Auto Repair Centers on Rt. 38 in St. Charles, IL. Bart's work was displayed across four large flat panel screens which, during the day, are used for tire advertisements. The Fox River Valley has a burgeoning art scene to which the St, Charles Arts Council is making some
exciting contributions. 

Four Lands is an animated version of Bart's laser cut paper art series. More information on Bart's art can be viewed here.

In September, Bart also was busy creating a video art exhibition on the Rt. 64 bridge in St. Charles. Bart used this opportunity to demonstrate to students how to incorporate their work into existing architecture, which is his class's research focus for this semester.

In addition, we're happy to report that Bart's collaboration on the Sarajevo Haggadah was in the news again, this time in the Washington Post.

Congratulations, Bart!

Clarinet Professor Busy With Notable Performances

Gregory Barrett, Professor of Clarinet in the NIU School of Music, has been - and will be - very active as a principal clarinetist and guest artist.

Greg played principal clarinet in the Ars Viva Symphony Orchestra's September 28th concert at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. The program included works by Dvor├ík, Lalo and Brahms. Aditionally, on October 10, 11 and 12 Barrett was principal clarinetist for the Elgin Symphony Orchestra's Nature's Soundscape concerts in works by Respighi and Sibelius. The concert will be broadcast on WFMT on Friday, November 28, at 8:00 p.m.

Greg will also be performing with the Ars Viva Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Master Singers in Mozart's Requiem on November 7 and 9, at the Divine Word Chapel in Techny, Illinois.

November 14 through 16 Barrett and NIU clarinet students Nate Hippleheuser and Evan Suitts will be performing at the International Clarinet Association Mid-America Festival at The Ohio State University.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Acting Alumni Take Over Television October 14, 2014

 Mackenzie Parker (right) on Sons of Anarchy

Matthew Yee (right) on Chicago Fire

The NIU School of Theater and Dance family had an exquisite dilemma last night. Two alumni (Matthew Yee and Mackenzie Parker, both BFA ’12) appeared simultaneously on two different network shows. Matt appeared on NBC’s Chicago Fire and Mac appeared on FX’s Sons of Anarchy. Luckily, FX’s practice of running each new episode of Sons of Anarchy twice allowed us all to watch both.

This was all the sweeter because two MFA alumni of the NIU School of Theatre and Dance are involved with these shows. Joe Minoso is a regular cast member of Chicago Fire and Kurt Sutter is the creator/executive producer of Sons of Anarchy. The School of Theatre and Dance flag is flying high these days! Congratulations gentlemen!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

NIU Theatre and Dance Alumni and Faculty Collaborate on “Naughty Thoughts”

DanszLoop Chicago, under the direction of NIU School of Theatre and Dance professor of dance Paula Frasz, presents “An Evening of Naughty Thoughts,” two plays interpreted in dance, on the last three weekends in October.

Three NIU School of Theatre and Dance alumni now living and working in Chicago are joining with three of their former professors to present the world premier of this new dance/theatre mash-up. The three Northern Illinois University alumni who will take part in this performance are Alanna Nielsen (BFA - Dance Performance ’14), John Schmidtz (BA - Math/Economics 1970/MAPA 1978) will dance and act in “Of a Joy that Kills,” one of the plays featured that evening. Angela Kring (BA - Theatre Arts, 2012) will handle and oversee the stage management duties for the entire evening. Nielsen and Kring will reunite with their former NIU professors, Paula Frasz, choreographer (Dance), Melanie Parks, costumes (Associate Dean CVPA) and Lucas Krueger, playwright and director (Theatre).

DanszLoop Chicago has made a national name for itself by interpreting the written word in dance. Award-winning choreographer Paula Frasz and her troupe of acclaimed dancers present two plays by NIU and Chicago playwright Lucas Krueger. “Naughty Thoughts” portrays a girl who is tortured by the imaginary friend who makes her think inappropriate thoughts. The dance/play is a pastiche of contemporary music and modern idioms that result in a funny, yet disturbing collection of movement images.  “Of The Joy That Kills,” adapted from “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, is set in the 1890's and shows a woman who thinks her husband is killed in a train accident. For a moment, she experiences feelings of freedom and joy. When she is told it was a mistake, her husband lives, she drops dead. Using period costumes and movement references, the quartet explores female repression and Victorian social mores.

Making this an even more unusual event is its venue. The storefront at 2155 W. Irving Park Rd, Chicago, will house the performances. Audience members will enter the storefront, be offered a beverage and then be ushered to the rear of the property where the first dance/play will be performed in the former stable. A half hour later, during the intermission, the audience will gather in the west storefront where “Of the Joy That Kills” will be presented. Each play will feature unique lighting ideas. “Naughty Thoughts” takes place in a campsite, and “Of the Joy That Kills” features period lamps that light the performance space.

Tickets at $20 are available through The Saturday, October 18 performance will include a benefit for the company. For further information visit, or call 630-391-1620.

Steel Pan Professor Earns International Award

We are pleased to announce that Liam Teague, professor of steel pan in the NIU School of Music, has been selected as a 2014 recipient of a Sunshine Award.


The mission of the Sunshine Awards is "To uplift and enhance the pride in all people of Caribbean, South American, Central American and African heritage while preserving and promoting values and culture through the recognition and rewarding of excellence in the various art forms, sports, cultural programs and education."

The Sunshine Awards Program was founded in 1989 to recognize excellence in the performing arts, education, science and sports of the various Caribbean countries. Over the years, the Program has expanded in depth and breadth, with a global view to include countries in South America, Central America and Africa.

This year there are 13 award recipients, who will receive their award in New York City on October 4. Liam will travel to the ceremony to perform as well as to receive his award.

Congratulations, Liam!