Showing posts from April, 2010

NIU Steel Band Concert a Huge Success

The NIU Steel Band, under the direction of Clifford Alexis and Liam Teague, performed their spring concert on Sunday, April 25. The concert featured guest conductor Ronnie Wooten, director of the NIU Wind Ensemble, and guest violinist Blaise Magniere, first violinist of NIU's Avalon String Quartet.

A special segment of the concert was a tribute to the band's major benefactor, Mr. Lester Trilla, whose generosity in providing much-needed scholarship funds has allowed nearly 20 students, many from Trinidad, to earn their degrees from NIU in music with steel pan as their major instrument.

The band played to a full house in Boutell Memorial Concert Hall, and was simulcast via web streaming all over the world. There is a tremendous review of the concert online at the website "Pan on the Net." This is an extremely popular website in Trinidad, the home of the steel pan, where pan is the national instrument.

While we encourage you to click on the link above to read the entire re…

Music Professor's Marching Band Work Published

Dr. Thomas Bough, associate professor in the NIU School of Music and Director of the Huskie Marching Band, has just seen the first publication of a marching band show that he composed.

Alfred Publications has published Tom's original composition for marching, "Daedalus," in three parts. All three were selected by noted music retailer JW Pepper as "editors choice" picks. The Huskie Marching Band (aided by the School of Music's technical expert Dan Nichols and numerous alumni) recorded the demonstration tracks for all three movements, which are now featured on the Alfred web site. These three titles are the first three selections on the Alfred demo CD's for this year.

NIU Steel Pan Icon Receives Major Award

Cliff Alexis, internationally-renowned steel pan builder, tuner, composer and arranger, and member of the NIU School of Music staff where he co-directs the NIU Steel Band, has just been informed that he is the recipient of this year's Abstract Entertainment Life Time Achievement Award.

Abstract Entertainment is a major producer of live events throughout the United States. Cliff will receive his award at one of their premiere events, which is entitled "Pan Jazz," and will be held June 19 at the Frederick P. Rose Hall of New York's famed Lincoln Center.

Congratulations, Cliff!

Avalon String Quartet Earns Another Excellent Review

On Sunday, April 18, NIU's Avalon String Quartet performed the final concert of their 2009-2010 Chicago Series. This performance featured clarinetist Anthony McGill. Mr. McGill is a Chicago native who now holds the position of Principal Clarinetist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Many readers will be familiar with Mr. McGill's playing, as he is the clarinetist who performed with Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman at President Obama's inauguration ceremony.

The Quartet received an excellent review in Chicago Classical Music online. Among the several glowing comments, reviewer Elliot Mandel stated "The Avalon employed aggressive and sensitive playing equally; the Quartet’s cohesion was quickly evident." Mr. Mandel went on to say "...a tasteful and impassioned performance not soon forgotten."

School of Art Faculty Members Exhibit Works at Art Chicago

Art Chicago is the annual international fair of contemporary and modern art. Art Chicago connects leading and emerging galleries from throughout the world, and offers curators, artists, collectors and enthusiasts "a comprehensive survey of current and historic work" in a wide variety of mediums. The fair is held at Chicago's famous Merchandise Mart and will take place this year April 30 through May 3.

NIU School of Art faculty members who will be showing at Art Chicago are Frank Trankina, at Packer Schopf gallery on the Art Chicago floor; Nina Rizzo, at the Linda Warren booth, number 12‑116 on the Art Chicago floor; and Michael Barnes at the Anchor Graphics booth, number 258.

NIU Jazz Lab Band Takes First Place at Noted Festival

On Friday, April 16, the NIU Jazz Lab Band, under the direction of NIU School of Music faculty member Rodrigo Villanueva, won the First Place at the 43rd University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Jazz Festival (in the category of College Big Bands competition).

In addition, most of the soloists of the Jazz Lab Band earned a certificate for their outstanding performance. The following are the NIU students that were recognized as the outstanding soloists:

Jacob Slocum: Bari Saxophone
Andrew Szymanek: Flugelhorn
Kyle Stephens: Piano
Natalie Scharf: Tenor Saxophone
Joel Ream: Guitar

This year's UW-Eau Claire festival included competition from ten additional collegiate big bands. Perhaps most notable is that the Jazz Lab Band this year is comprised of 50% freshmen!

Congratulations to Rodrigo and our students.

Manny Hernandez Continues to Save Lives

Manny Hernandez, professor emeritus from the NIU School of Art, continues to save lives with his inexpensive yet durable and portable water filters (for more information about Manny and his work, check the blog's archives).

Manny is currently in Honduras where he is conducting a stove building workshop (another of Manny's life-saving enterprises) and distributing water filters. These ventures are being funded by the Tegucigalpa Rotary.

Manny has recently donated six weeks of his time to producing water filters and the machinery to manufacture perhaps thousands more for the earthquake victims in Haiti. Manny set up shop in the Dominican Republic working for his former student Lisa Ballantine, who currently operates a non-profit organization called FilterPure, based in Atlanta but with strong ties to the Dominican Republic. The fruits of Manny's labors were trucked into Haiti on April 11, and in May Manny will go to Haiti to set up the filter manufacturing facility there.

NIU Musicians Make Their Mark at Annual SEAMUS Conference

Robert Fleisher, Andy Walters, Elainie Lillios, Greg Beyer, Erin Lesser

SEAMUS, the Society for Electro-Acoustical Music in the United States, held its 2010 conference April 8-10 in St. Cloud, Minnesota. NIU musicians were in attendance, performing, and participating as featured composers.

NIU School of Music faculty composer Robert Fleisher attended the 25th-anniversary conference, where the opening concert included his composition Loretto Alfresco. A grant received from the Illinois Arts Council supported Dr. Fleisher’s participation in the SEAMUS conference, where he also enjoyed catching up with NIU alums Elainie Lillios (now a professor at Bowling Green State University), Andrew Walters (now a professor at Mansfield State University), and Tony Reimer (currently a doctoral student at the University of Illinois). The same weekend, Bob's duo for soprano saxophone and clarinet, Second Thoughts, was performed by members of the Fire Wire Ensemble, during the New Music Festival 2010 (…

Printmaker Michael Barnes Featured in New Book

Michael Barnes, professor of printmaking and coordinator of graduate studies for the NIU School of Art, has several of his works featured in a just-published book entitled "Printmakers Today." The book was a curated project by Jeffrey B. Snyder, and is published by Schiffer Publishing of Pennsylvania. In addition to the works Michael supplied for the book, a statement about Michael's work also appears.

Michael received a nice surprise when he saw the book in print - one of his lithographs, "The Accomplice," appears on the front cover (the image with a two-headed figure).

Congratulations, Michael!

Painting Professor Featured in Solo Chicago Gallery Exhibition

The works of Nina Rizzo, assistant professor of painting in the NIU School of Art, are being featured in a solo exhibition at the Linda Warren Gallery in Chicago. "Nina Rizzo: Majestic!" features several of Nina's paintings and is described as "a body of juicy and aggressive paintings which marry Rizzo’s intense painterly concerns with her attraction and awe for the natural world and its wondrous forms."

The press release for the exhibit goes on to say "So expressive and confident is Rizzo’s application of paint, it is no surprise that her own quick wit and humor find their way to the surface as well, merging seemingly random and disparate elements into one image...Rizzo’s passion for both the ”majestic” and the banal translate into inspirational painting, as engaging and infiltrating, with as much presence and resonance as the melting icebergs of the arctic."

The exhibit opened on April 9, and continues through May 8.

New Music Ensemble and Festival April 10 through 15

Created in 2008 by its director, Dr. Gregory Beyer, the Northern Illinois University New Music Ensemble is a performance group dedicated to historically groundbreaking music of the 20th Century and the emerging musical voices of the 21st Century. It officially meets each spring semester to mount a concert of works by a single composer (or collection of related/connected composers) to expose students to the wide range of musical expression that is avant-garde music making. With its flexible instrumentation allowing it to present diverse repertoire, the NIU NME has to date presented concerts of music by Steve Reich, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Olivier Messiaen, and composers of the Wet Ink Ensemble (NYC).

This year the NIU School of Music will present its first annual New Music Festival, featuring music composed by the New York City-based music collective, The Wet Ink Ensemble. The composer members of Wet Ink are all graduates of the doctoral program in mus…

Music Professor Displays Versatility

Art Davis, professor of jazz in the NIU School of Music and well-known jazz trumpeter in Chicago, will have two upcoming opportunities to display his versatility. On Tuesday, April 6, the Mulligan Mosaics Big Band will appear at Chicago's famed Jazz Showcase. That evening's presentation includes performing the cuts from Miles Davis' groundbreaking recording "Birth of the Cool" from 1949 and 1950. Joe Policastro, the bassist in the MMBB, has painstakingly transcribed all of Miles' solos on that recording. During the performance, Art will "be" Miles Davis.

Similarly, on Sunday, April 25, Art will perform with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra at the University of Chicago in a Tribute to Eddie Johnson, the legendary Chicago saxophonist. During the concert, the group will perform the songs from the seminal album "Chet Baker With Strings," with Art Davis appearing as the legendary trumpeter Chet Baker.