Most of the live music shows held at the University of Illinois Springfield, our still growing, four-year institution of higher learning on the southern outskirts of Springfield’s civilized world, come from beyond the college’s borders. Part of the reason for this apparent lack of college-based music making comes from the absence of an extensive formal music program at UIS.
You can major in business, history, English, communications and many more subjects, but for now, an aspiring musician at UIS doesn’t have a lot of choices in pursuing a formal degree as a major or minor in music. There are courses in historical aspects of music and computer-related recording technology, along with opportunities to perform in UIS sponsored groups, but nothing that specifically offers a degree in music.
Sangamon State University, the predecessor of UIS, was established as a liberal arts, two-year, upper level institution focusing on public affairs with a strong emphasis in classic studies, along with a good dose of progressive learning concepts. An integrated arts degree program included music, creative writing and visual arts with qualified instructors, but overall the school didn’t focus on the artistic academic world.
When SSU became UIS, the new four-year institution needed music courses to fulfill undergraduate requirements in general education. Dr. Sharon Graf, an award-winning old-time fiddler and professor of sociology, anthropology and ethnomusicology, joined the UIS staff in the fall of 2001 as the sole music instructor. She began a slow and steady build up of the program by offering music-based information courses and college-sponsored performance ensembles. The music groups, consisting of UIS students, faculty and staff, along with community members, performed at various college activities and hosted a fall and spring showcase concert, as the education side offered courses in various historical music subjects.
Soon local musician Brian Pryor joined the department as pep and jazz band conductor, developing courses in technology-related music studies as an adjunct professor and Todd Cranston became band director. When Cranston left, Dr. Abigail Walsh joined the music staff in 2011, and then in 2012 after a nationwide search, the UIS Music program gained another full-time faculty member with the addition of Dr. Yona Stamatis.
Determined to continue and poised to grow, the department has its sights set on soon becoming an academic minor. With Susan Koch, the new chancellor at the UIS helm, possessing a healthy history in liberal arts education and especially supportive of the arts, the UIS music department is in a good position to be making beautiful music for years to come as a vital part of the university community.
With that said, let’s talk about getting yourself out to the university campus by 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30 to observe the current state of UIS music as performed at the UIS Music Fall Showcase. The concert features the UIS Chamber Orchestra, Band and Chorus on stage in performance at the Studio Theatre in the lower level of the Public Affairs Center (PAC), beneath the Sangamon Auditorium.
The program, entitled “Blow the Candles Out … ” features “music highlighting a range of passions from the human experience,” including, a sea chantey, an Indonesian lullaby, a traditional Greek piece, themes from Romeo and Juliet and a new work by Phillip Sparke, plus arrangements of holiday hits “Sleigh Ride” and “Frosty the Snowman” to invoke the spirit of season.
As always, donations are accepted to benefit the UIS Music Student Merit Award with the 2012 awards presented during the Fall Showcase. And remember, the UIS music performance groups accept students, faculty, staff and alumni, plus community members with a variety of skill levels, so anyone interested in making music should contact Dr. Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-206-7549.
Contact Tom Irwin at email@example.com.