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Waubonsee Voices: The halls are alive with the sound of music

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

With Christmas songs on the radio, holiday concerts on television and performances of “The Nutcracker” on local stages, December is a very musical month. It’s no different at Waubonsee Community College. We just finished our end-of-semester concert season, with our steel band, chorale, woodwind ensemble, jazz ensemble and rock band all performing over the past few weeks.

Music is not confined to a particular month here on campus though. Any day you can stroll through Von Ohlen Hall at our Sugar Grove campus and hear an array of music. There is a rich variety of music taught here, including composition, audio production, piano, guitar, brass, woodwinds, steel drums, violin, organ, string instruments, percussion, vocal and several credit and noncredit music appreciation classes. 

Last month, we were happy to host the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference Jazz Festival, which saw eight community colleges from the northern Illinois area getting together to learn and perform. Four well-known musicians, including Richie Cole, Brian Finn, Larry Gray and Vern Spevak, served as judges and performed a special evening concert with Waubonsee’s jazz band, directed by Jeff Ford.

In addition to campus concerts, our ensembles also perform throughout the region and the country. The steel band, directed by Frank Check, has been very active in the community, playing at the Swedish Days parade in Geneva, the Fourth of July parade in Aurora and for students at local middle and high schools.

The chorale, directed by Dr. Mark Lathan, also takes part in community music making, performing regularly at Wesley United Methodist Church in Aurora, the annual Lifelong Learning Institute luncheon and the Illinois Choral Directors Association Choral Festival at Harper College each April.

The jazz band has performed in 12 states over the years, and – this April – it will travel to Eau Claire, Wis., to compete in a national jazz festival. Waubonsee has won several first place awards in past competitions, most recently at the jazz festival at the University of Nevada in 2011. 

Just as our ensembles have won awards, so, too, have our faculty members. Geneva resident Gibby Monokoski, professor of music/instrumental, recently received the Fox Valley Orchestra’s first-ever Champion of the Arts award for his dedication to the arts and arts education. The orchestra also named the principal percussion chair in his honor.   

Our faculty is proud to open all its students up to new sounds and new possibilities – whether the students are serious musicians heading for lives on stage or simply heading for lives as appreciative listeners.

Among those Waubonsee alumni making a career in music is Ashley Lewis, who is known for her bluegrass vocals and mandolin work with her band, Ashley Lewis and Legacy. She writes, “Sound is fleeting, like life, it lasts only an instant, so we must learn to live in the moment, long for the next note and love the journey of our song.”

• Cindy Sparr is the dean for communications, humanities and fine arts at Waubonsee Community College. The “Waubonsee Voices” column runs the third Wednesday of each month in the Kane County Chronicle.

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