Free NIU student tickets for Jazz at the Egyptian, Feb. 5

Free NIU student tickets for Jazz at the Egyptian, Feb. 5

DeKalb’s iconic Egyptian Theatre hosts the Fifth Annual Jazz at the Egyptian, Saturday night, February 5 at 7 p.m.

The concert features the NIU Jazz Orchestra, Jazz in Progress, the DeKalb High School Jazz Ensemble and the Sycamore High School Jazz Ensemble. Tickets are available at and current NIU students can pick up free tickets at the Holmes Student Center Welcome Desk seven days a week, between 7 a.m. and midnight.

NIU student tickets are free as part of the NIU Arts Fee.


Father-daughter CVPA alumni score big on Shark Tank

Father-daughter CVPA alumni score big on Shark Tank

What happens when you let Huskies into the shark tank? We found out in March, when Lindsey Valiulis Fleischhauer, ’04, and her father Stan Valiulis, ’84, presented their Totes Babies product to ABC’s critically acclaimed and multi-Emmy® Award-winning entrepreneurial-themed reality show “Shark Tank.”

Lindsey Valiulis Fleischhauer (’04) takes the product to “market.”

The father-daughter duo came up with a safe shopping cart baby carrier that allows parents to tote their babies while still having room for groceries in the cart. Lindsey realized there was a need for this kind of space-saving product when she was a new mom.

“When I had my first son, I dreaded going shopping with him because I could never get everything I needed, due to the car seat taking up the whole shopping cart,” she said. “If I tried taking him out of the car seat, he would scream and cry, so I knew there had to be a better way! I then went straight to my dad, who holds over 40 patents in the retail fixture trade, and we drew up some ideas and made our first prototype.”

The duo then applied to be a part of the reality show, hoping one of the show’s famous investors would see unique promise in their product and sink funds and resources into Totes Babies. Their hard work and preparation paid off when three Shark Tank investors made offers and the father-daughter duo ultimately sealed a deal with Lori Greiner, the famous “Queen of QVC,” for and investment of $100,000 and a 25% stake in their company.

“It’s been a lot of fun. We give each other ideas all the time, and Lindsey keeps me on task,” Stan said with a laugh. “(The Shark Tank experience) was challenging. We spent a lot of time preparing and getting our information together.”

Stan and his wife Carrie, who graduated from NIU in sociology in 1979, raised Lindsey and her brother and sister in Rockford, Ill. Lindsey grew up watching her father work on his inventions for his fixture and retail display company—Southern Imperial Inc. When he left the organization in 2015, the family-owned manufacturer and distributor to the retail store fixture and display markets was worth $86 million with 460 global employees and facilities in China, Georgia and Illinois.

“Post-retirement” and always up for a new adventure, Totes Babies is just one of the four organizations Stan currently owns.“My dad influenced me a lot as he has always believed in all of his kids and taught us an amazing work ethic,” Lindsey said. “He taught us that we can do anything we put our minds to and showed us that with his careers. I have really welcomed this kind of problem-solving and always wanted to be an entrepreneur because I enjoy thinking of new ideas that can help others.”

This innovative spirit runs in the family.

“I enjoy solving problems and consider them more like puzzles,” Stan said. “It is very rewarding to see my daughter involved and learning how to be an entrepreneur. And it is fun seeing how our product has really helped parents shopping with their babies.”

While Lindsey and Stanley both enjoy the challenge of finding solutions for problems, they have more in common. They both graduated with bachelor’s degrees from the College of Visual and Performing Arts, with Stan, who studied piano, receiving a B.A. in music in 1984. In college and after, he was involved in jazz and rock bands to make extra money and later owned a recording studio. Lindsey was interested in acting, singing and dancing before college, as well as varsity poms and synchronized swimming, before earning her B.A. in theater arts in 2004.

Lindsey and Stan

Lindsey and her dad, Stan, with the patent and the product.

“I chose NIU because I knew that the theatre department was great, and I loved that both of my parents were NIU alumni,” Lindsey said. “I was a theatre major and that helped me in so many ways in every aspect of my careers.”

After graduating, Lindsey went into sales with her brother’s online furniture business and then started working in different departments of her dad’s retail store fixture company, which offered plenty of sales experience. She has also had a health and wellness network marketing business with Arbonne International for over 15 years.

Lindsey and her husband Mark, who received his master’s from NIU, have two young sons. A diehard Huskie, she believes her experiences at NIU paved the way for her successes so far.

“NIU was so much fun, and I had great teachers and made friends that have lasted a lifetime,” she said. “I learned so much that has helped me with our business and life in general.”

Dad agrees. Stan believes the education he received at NIU was a big part of his many ventures and accomplishments over his career.

“I had great teachers and a great learning environment in the music department. It was very creative and cutting-edge, with modern and electronic music,” he said. “The caliber of musicians studying there was world-class. I would say it impacted my creativity in areas beyond music.”

Clearly, the pair have no shortage of inspiration. Even with all the work they put into the reality show pitch, the team sees the whole experience as enormously positive.

“It’s honestly been a dream come true to be able to be co-founders with and work with my dad!” Lindsey said. “My dad has been a huge role model to me my whole life, and I’ve learned so much working with him.”

This article appeared in the Winter 2022 edition of Northern Now. 

Huskie Spotlight: CVPA Dean Paul Kassel

Huskie Spotlight: CVPA Dean Paul Kassel

Paul KasselWhat year did you start working at NIU?
July 1, 2016

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
Geneva, IL

Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
I attended Miami of Ohio and have a B.A. in communications and theatre. I also have an M.F.A. from Florida State University/Asolo Conservatory.

In which department(s) do you teach?
School of Theatre and Dance

What do you like about working at NIU?
The people—students are eager, talented and committed. Faculty are talented, dedicated and caring. Staff is supportive, kind and tireless.

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Say yes to everything! Explore courses and activities and events. Take risks. Talk to people you don’t know. Never stop asking questions. Listen closely. Find the fun.

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
I’m teaching an honors seminar on the Evolution of Art. I’m very interested in the way the species evolved and how art-making seems to be part of that evolution. I’m also curious about how art itself has evolved. It’s all still contested, so the students and I engage in some speculation, which leads to good questions and hypotheses to be tested.

What do you hope students take away from your class?
Music, dance, theater, painting, sculpting, etc. all likely were the first means by which humans communicated. Art provides a vocabulary of feeling that captures what it means to be human. Everyone is an artist, and every art form is available to each of us to express ourselves in unique and powerful ways.

What is your favorite campus event?
Can’t pick one—the concerts, plays, dances and exhibits put on by and for our students. It’s wonderful and awe-inspiring to see their creativity flower.

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
The Art and Soul event we co-sponsored with the Center for Black Studies after the racial incident in 2020. The whole university was invited to paint Black Lives Matter on Castle Drive, and many came and did—even amid a pandemic. There was music and dancing, and all who came participated in making this powerful statement. For me, it truly reflected the Huskie spirit!

Who has influenced your professional path?
I’ve had many mentors throughout my life, but maybe the most important one was Joel Friedman. He was one of the founding directors of the New York Shakespeare Festival and was my acting teacher in NYC when I was starting out. He was not only a wonderful theater artist but also a gifted teacher. He knew what to say and, more importantly, how and when to say it so it was heard, understood and could be acted upon. He made all his students feel empowered. And I strive to do the same.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I always wanted to be a theater artist. My first roles were in kindergarten. I started formal lessons at age 10, got professional gigs starting at around 16 and was a professional for the next 20 years. I never thought I’d be a teacher, let alone a dean. But my mentors pointed out to me that I had some abilities, first as a teacher and later as an administrator. When I look back, I’m really doing the same thing, more or less—putting talent together and helping it flourish.

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I am a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association, the professional stage actor’s union; and the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. I maintain my membership and have worked on and off in the profession my whole academic career. I think it’s very important for artists to work in their fields to stay “in shape” and to stay current.

What community organizations are you involved in?
I am on the board of the Egyptian Theatre.

What do you do to relax or recharge?
I bike, hike, golf and read a lot of books. I also do the NY Times crossword puzzle every day, as well as the NYT Spelling Bee.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your NIU Huskie story?
I think what we do is important—ensuring that the next generation of artists, scholars and teachers offers the world their talents and abilities. It’s been a privilege and honor to serve as dean of this great college and university.

Thousands Strong kickoff featured several CVPA students

Thousands Strong kickoff featured several CVPA students

NIU’s annual Thousands Strong day of giving got off to a great start on Wednesday night thanks to the hard work and talents of several students in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

The kickoff show was hosted by Kate Drury, a BFA acting candidate and dance minor from the NIU School of Theatre and Dance.

The musical theme for the show was performed by the NIU Jazz Band and the Alma Mater was performed by the NIU Chamber Choir.

And, one of the students who was part of the surprise scholarship gift reveal was music major Alejandra Hernandez.

Here’s the video from the show:

Give to Thousands Strong to support our students and programs!

Give today to Thousands Strong to support our students and programs

Give today to Thousands Strong to support our students and programs

The Thousands Strong day of giving kicked off last night and we are off to an amazing start. As of 11 a.m. we have raised more than a half million dollars on more than 700 gifts.

You can support the university and the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Our giving priorities are:

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
Giving Challenges

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.

Thousands Strong ends at midnight tonight.

Give today!


David Maki, ’89, One of the Thousands Strong

David Maki, ’89, One of the Thousands Strong

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.

David MakiTeaching 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.