College of Visual and Performing Arts
Thousands Strong Day of Giving Priorities
CVPA Schools and Units
CVPA Strategic Priorities
JJR Steelpan Relief Fund
College of Visual and Performing Arts
CVPA Dean’s Challenge The Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, Paul Kassel, wants to inspire giving to the college. When CVPA receives 25 total gifts during thousands strong, his gift of $6,000 will unlock in the college totals.
Anonymous Challenge for the College of Visual and Performing Arts A generous donor wants to inspire gifts to the College of Visual and Performing Arts during Thousands Strong. When 50 gifts are made any area within the college, a gift of $10,000 will unlock and support the School of Art and Design.
Annette and Jerry Johns CVPA Challenge Annette and Jerry Johns want to start the Day of Giving off right. When the College of Visual and Performing Arts reaches 125 total donors, they will make a gift of $10,000 to support the Aspirational Impact Fund in the School of Art and Design to encourage creative endeavors that current funds do not allow for or provide.
JJR Steelpan Relief Fund Challenge The NIU Steelpan Performance program is looking to raise $3,100 to support its relief fund and support three international students from Trinidad and Tobago. If $3,100 is raised for the Steelpan Relief Fund during Thousands Strong, an additional $6,900 will be added to our day of giving totals and help us reach our overall goal of $10,000 for the relief fund.
When David Maki, ’89, sets off for a day’s work as NIU’s School of Music’s coordinator of music theory and composition, he knows it will be filled with beautiful melodies.
Teaching music theory and aural skills classes, as well as private composition lessons, a typical day involves teaching classes in the morning, teaching lessons in the afternoon, and in between attending to service and committee responsibilities for the School of Music and the University.
“I work closely with my colleagues in the School of Music and in the music theory area to ensure our students are succeeding and thriving,” he said. “I keep in touch with composition alumni and help with their careers in any way I can. I am also always working on writing new compositions and finding performance or recording opportunities for my music. Sometimes, I even get to perform on the piano. Basically, I get to do everything I love—teaching, composing, and performing!”
But the most rewarding part of Maki’s role is his interaction with students who are continually learning.
“There are so many wonderful moments of fulfillment or satisfaction in my work—the moment a student grasps a concept that they have been struggling with; watching and enabling a student to pursue an unexpected area of interest; hearing students perform musical works at a high level; seeing the musical and intellectual growth of students over the course of their time here; and finding a new way to explain a concept in the classroom. I’ve also been here long enough that I have had the pleasure of keeping track of many of our students’ careers after NIU,” he said.
Maki believes in his work because of the value of serious musical study in a university setting, which goes beyond preparing students for careers in music.
“It involves high-level, creative thinking, and it requires teamwork in the pursuit of excellence,” he said. “It fosters intellectual curiosity in understanding how music relates to other disciplines and allows for new ways of thinking about human experience. On a larger level, it is about creative human expression, which is something beyond value in our often-fractured society.”
Maki’s respect for musical composition and performance began at an early age. Growing up in suburban Glenview, Illinois, Maki’s parents were both teachers, and their home was always filled with music.
“My dad taught at Buffalo Grove High School (in Buffalo Grove, Illinois), and my mom taught piano lessons from the studio my dad built in our home. She had over 60 students a week, and I started piano lessons at the age of four and continued to study with her into high school. I remember that when my mom finally got some time late in the evening, she would practice the piano herself. I would often fall asleep listening to her play Debussy, Beethoven, Brahms or Schumann,” he said.
Maki’s parents also had concert subscriptions to the Chicago Symphony and they would sometimes bring him along, so music was in integral part of his life as long as he can remember.
Maki had a wonderful mentor at Glenbrook South High School—Dr. William Schnell. One day, when he heard Maki playing the piano during his lunch hour in the choir room, Schnell asked Maki whether he wanted to get more involved beyond playing trumpet in the band. When Maki agreed to do more, his musical career had begun.
“The next thing I knew, I was an accompanist for choir, was singing in the chamber choir, was playing trumpet in district orchestra, and was enrolled in a music theory class,” he said. “I loved music theory and there was a small group of us theory geeks who were interested in continuing our studies beyond the one year. The school was able to create a whole new class just for us to study a second year of theory.”
It was in these classes that Maki and his friends were exposed to composition and encouraged to write music. His new piano teacher, Bea Isaac, suggested Maki study music in college and work with Donald Walker who taught at NIU.
“So, I started looking into NIU and found a program where I could pursue all of my musical interests,” he said. “Unlike other options nearby, NIU had a more affordable tuition rate and had some unique areas of study such as world music.”
Just like many of today’s music majors, Maki had little idea what was in store as he began a degree program in music. He also did not realize how much his time as a student here would set up the course of his life.
“Donald Walker did indeed prove to be an amazing teacher and mentor, shaping my abilities as a performer and musician in ways beyond what I imagined,” he said. “Another NIU teacher who was a great influence was Dr. Jan Bach, professor of composition, who got me to develop a solid compositional technique while also retaining an imaginative and multi-faceted perspective to musical form.”
Music majors spend a lot of time together and, as a result, Maki developed many friendships and professional relationships at NIU that continue to this day. In fact, he met his wife, Alison Maki, ’90, while singing in concert choir. But the connections to NIU do not stop there. Alison’s father Glenn Meeter, was a long-time member of the faculty in the Department of English, and Maki’s brother, Bruce, earned a degree in geology in 1984.
“When I went on to graduate school at the University of Iowa and the University of Michigan, I realized how well my time at NIU had prepared me,” he said. “For one thing, because of the rigorous study in music theory and history classes, I was able to test out of all graduate review classes in those subjects.”
When Maki joined the NIU faculty in 2002, his former instructors became his colleagues and friends, and the NIU connection deepened.
“I am forever grateful for their dual impacts on my career, first as teachers, then as incredibly supportive colleagues who helped me navigate the challenges of beginning a career in academia,” he said. “I try to maintain their high standards and commitment to teaching, scholarship and artistry.”
This connection has pushed Maki to contribute to his alma mater in other ways, as a way of giving back to the institution that gave him so much.
“My wife and I want to support NIU in changing the lives of students and providing opportunities for others,” he said. “Some of our contributions have gone to honoring former faculty, such as Dr. Jan Bach, and to starting a modest fund in the English Department in the name of Alison’s parents, Dr. Glenn and Mrs. Marlene Meeter.
“We have decided to give back financially to NIU because we are grateful for the opportunities and experiences that NIU has provided to us.”
Thousands Strong is an opportunity for alumni and friends to engage with NIU in an exciting, virtual initiative that will increase and expand alumni pride and engagement, cultivate donor prospects and celebrate the impact of philanthropy at Northern Illinois University. This year, this day of giving’s virtual initiative will start the evening of Nov. 10 and run through Nov. 11, with a variety of opportunities to help students and the University.
Thousands Strong is an opportunity for alumni and friends to engage with NIU in an exciting, virtual initiative that will increase and expand alumni pride and engagement, and celebrate the impact of philanthropy at Northern Illinois University. This year, this day of giving virtual initiative will start the evening of Nov. 10 and run through Nov. 11, with a variety of opportunities to help students and the University.
The phrase Thousands Strong comes from a line in the University’s alma mater, “Hail, NIU.” Written by NIU professors Wilbur Smith and Orville Baker, these words are as powerful now as when they were crafted nearly 60 years ago. NIU alumni, faculty, staff, parents and friends show up when there are students in need, and that has been especially true during the challenging past year and a half of the pandemic.
Last November, during the inaugural Thousands Strong day of giving initiative, donors provided more than 2,000 gifts to the NIU Foundation for a total of more than $2 million. This year, Thousands Strong will include a special kickoff presentation, where you will be able to see philanthropy in action and how the generosity of donors changes and transforms lives. The NIU Foundation hopes to build on last year’s successful event and provide even more support to NIU students and University programs.
In addition to donors, the event will rely on volunteers in the form of Thousands Strong ambassadors who help promote Thousands Strong to their family, friends and colleagues. Last year, 111 Thousands Strong ambassadors helped spread the word and their work helped generate 217 gifts of more than $30,000 in donations. You can sign up to be a Thousands Strong ambassador by clicking here.
As the event nears, stay tuned to the Thousands Strong day of giving website and to NIU social media accounts for more information.
Kane Repertory Theatre, in partnership with the St. Charles Park District, presents a live outdoor production of the Shakespeare classic Romeo and Juliet at the Historic Pavilion on the Fox River. The play, is directed by Northern Illinois University’s Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts and Geneva resident, Paul Kassel. It premieres August 12 at 7 p.m. and runs through August with its last show at 2 p.m. on August 29. Tickets can be purchased here.
In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, a long feud between the Montague and Capulet families disrupts the city of Verona and causes tragic results. With a 17 person cast, Kane Repertory Theatre brings a contemporary edge to this world classic.
“The story of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare is one of the most enduring tales in our world,” Kassel said. “It is a story of true love, a story of ancient conflicts between rivals; a story of what damage can be done in the name of family, loyalty, and unthinking passion. And as old as this story is, it is also current, and appears almost every day in the news across the world – it can even find its way into our own schools, neighborhoods, and homes.”
“Kane Rep’s staging of Romeo and Juliet honors an ancient tradition of storytelling, using simple means to express profound truths. Where a stick might become a sword, or a cap a crown, a lone figure a teeming crowd. When you join us for this beautiful play by the river, we invite you to do as Shakespeare said and allow us to ‘on your imaginary forces work.’”
Paul Kassel is a professional actor, director, writer, and theater educator. Paul worked Off Broadway, including a year in Vampire Lesbians of Sodom at the famous Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village, and off-off Broadway, in regional theaters, and appeared in several films and television shows. Before moving to Illinois, Paul directed and performed with Halfmoon Theatre Company in Poughkeepsie, NY, for which he directed Is He Dead, Good People, and Almost, Maine. Other professional direction include God of Carnage (River City Repertory) and What Remains: Long Island Stories of 9/11 for Asylum Theatre Company, of which he was a founding member. A long time university professor, favorite college productions include, As You Like It, The Government Inspector, Lysistrata (which he adapted and co-wrote music) at Bradley University; A Shayna Maidel, A Doll House and The Rover (Stony Brook University), and A Flea in Her Ear, Babes in Arms, Measure for Measure and Macbeth (State University of New York at New Paltz). He continues to act and direct professionally, most recently as the “Stage Manager” in Our Town, produced by the Kane Repertory Theatre Company. Paul received his M.F.A. from Florida State University/Asolo Conservatory for Professional Actor Training. He is a proud member of AEA and SAG/AFTRA. Paul Kassel is Dean for the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts and a professor in the School of Theatre and Dance.
The cast of “Romeo and Juliet” includes Max Stewart (Romeo), Leiren Jackson (Juliet), Rosalind Hurwitz (Nurse), Al Hermann (Friar Laurence), Avery Fountain (Benvolio), Daniil Krimer (Mercutio), Joseph Metcalfe (Tybalt), Avery Bowne (Paris), Brian Koester (Lord Capulet), Mary Nigohosian (Lady Capulet), Joel Ottenheimer (Prince), Tom Ochocinski (Lord Montague), Anne Wrider (Lady Montague), and Reginald Hemphill, Vincent Juarez, Sophia Arnold, Jill Marlow (Ensemble), with Luke Harmon as the Stage Manager.
Kane Repertory Theatre, in partnership with the St. Charles Park District, presents a live outdoor production of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare directed by Paul Kassel. Regular run performances are Aug 12-13, 17-19, 25-27 at 7pm and Aug 29 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $30 Adults, (ages 19-59) $25 Seniors (ages 60+) $15 Students (ages 3-18). This play is recommended for all ages. For tickets or more information visit the box office online.
About Kane Repertory Theatre
Kane Repertory Theatre is a professional 501(c)(3) non-profit theater company located in St. Charles, Ill. By using visceral performance to explore values in America, Kane works to spark conversation, evoke empathy, and strengthen the community. Under the leadership of Executive Director Avery Bowne and Artistic Director Daniil Krimer, Kane Repertory Theatre strives to be one of the Midwest’s leading regional theaters through new play development, reimagining classics, and forming an ensemble of dynamic artists, while providing patrons of all ages with first-class theatre education and engaging new audiences through various outreach efforts.
Paul Kassel, Dean of the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts, who has guided the college through some extraordinarily challenging times, has accepted the offer of a second five-year term as dean.
Kassel came to NIU in 2015 after more than a dozen years as a Professor of Theatre at SUNY New Paltz where he also served as Associate Dean of their School of Fine and Performing Arts, and had spent the last two years in the role of Interim Dean.
In his first term, Kassel was credited for his work instituting key curricular changes, recruitment efforts that have resulted in increases in enrollment in CVPA, and the hiring of new faculty. He has developed strong external relationships with the community, alumni and friends of the college. Kassel is seen as a strong and passionate advocate for the college and for the arts more generally. And he was lauded for his commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion demonstrated through programming and events such as the Art and Soul street painting event. His efforts to increase support to offer top notch arts programming to audiences university-wide resulted in the establishment of the Arts and Culture Fee to support those efforts.
Kassel received his M.F.A. in Performance from the Florida State/Asolo Conservatory of Professional Actor Training. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association and the Screen Actors’ Guild/American Federation of Radio and Television Artists. Professional associations include the International Conference of Fine Arts Deans, the Alliance of Arts in Research Universities, the National Conference of Arts Administrators, and the Association for Theatre in Higher Education.