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.

Second annual Thousands Strong event begins Nov. 10 at 5:30 pm

Second annual Thousands Strong event begins Nov. 10 at 5:30 pm

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.

You can support the initiatives of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, which include putting the crowdfunding campaign over the top for three amazing Steelpan Studies graduate students from Trinidad and Tobago.

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.

New adaptation of “Three Sisters” opens in School of Theatre and Dance

New adaptation of “Three Sisters” opens in School of Theatre and Dance

A new adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s classic “Three Sisters” opens Friday, November 5 in the NIU School of Theatre and Dance. This world-premiere of a new adaptation translated and directed by Alexander Gelman, the school’s Distinguished Engagement Professor and Head of MFA acting, and breathes new life into Chekhov’s taut story of a family in the provinces hoping for a better life–always almost “going to Moscow.”

Tickets are available in the school’s online box office and are $7. NIU students are free with a pre-reserved ticket. Performances will be held Friday, November 5 and Saturday, November 6 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, November 7 at 2 p.m., and again, Thursday, November 11 and Friday, November 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, November 13 at 2 p.m. All in the Sally Stevens Players Theatre in the Stevens Building on the NIU main campus.


NickNicholas Bishop (Rode) is a junior actor at NIU. You may have seen him in past shows such as “Everybody”, “Love and Information”, and “Macbeth.” Hobbies include; guitar, basketball, and skateboarding. He is super EXCITED to be a part of this show.


Noah BunchNoah Bunch (Solyony) is a fourth year BFA in acting candidate from Louisville, Kentucky. His credits at NIU include Narcissus in “Polaroid Stories”, Flake in “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”, Blick in “Time of Your Life”, and Jay in “Something, Like Happiness.” Outside of NIU, Noah’s credits include Angelo in “Measure for Measure” (Commonwealth Theatre Center), Lysander in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Commonwealth Theatre Center), Herr Swetts in “A Bright Room Called Day” (Commonwealth Theatre Center), Conner in “Good Kids” (Commonwealth Theatre Center), and Benjamin Saar in “The Yellow Boat” (Alley Theatre).


KaitlynKaitlyn Cheng (Irina) is a third year MFA acting candidate who hails from California. Previous NIU credits include: “The Wolves” (#8), “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” (Clark), “Bike America” (Penny). It has been a joy to share this experience with a room full of generous people. It feels good to be back.


TomasTomás Dakan (Andrei) was born and raised in Pasadena, Calif. and received a B.A. in Theatre from Occidental College. He is thrilled to be back in a physical space to work on “Three Sisters” as his final project role, especially after the room has been so eager and hungry to find the beautiful moments in this play. His previous credits at NIU include Todd in “Bike America”, Felix in “Bird in the Hand”, and Edmund in “Summertime.” He wishes to thank all the NIU faculty and staff that have helped him up to this point and hopes you enjoy the show as much as he has enjoyed working on it.


Hannah HammelHannah Hammel (Olga) is a third year MFA in Acting candidate. She is the co-founder and marketing and PR mirector of Spicy Witch Productions, a feminist theater company based in New York City. Outside of NIU, she has performed with the Walnut Street Theatre, Newnan Shakespeare in the Park, Aftershock Entertainment, Truth Be Told Productions, Ritz Theatre Company, ReVamp Collective, Ignoble Shakespeare, Family Stages, Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival, and many others. At NIU, she’s been seen in “Angels in America: Millennium Approache”s (Hannah Pitt, Rabbi, Ethel Rosenberg), “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” (Old Dogsborough), and “A Bright New Boise” (Pauline). BA English – Haverford College. |

ZacZac Harness (Fedotik) is a third year BFA actor who is incredibly happy to have his first in-person appearance on a NIU stage. Previous NIU credits include “The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui“ as Gaffles/Fish/Bodyguard and “Town Hall” as B. He is so excited to be in a front of a live audience again and hopes that you enjoy the show!


James HendleyJames Hendley (Kulygin) is a third year MFA Acting student originally from Newnan, Ga. Previous shows at NIU include “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches”, “Love and Information”, and “Summertime.” Regional credits include the Nurse in “Romeo and Juliet” (Great River Shakespeare Festival), Haemon in “Antigone” (Barter Players), and Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet” (North Carolina Stage Company). James is also the proud co-founder and artistic director of Newnan Shakespeare in the Park, which produces free performances of the works of William Shakespeare every summer in Newnan, Ga. Much love to RJA always. Enjoy the show!


KazKaz Qutab (Chebutykin) is a third-year Acting MFA candidate from central Massachusetts. “Three Sisters” is his first live production at NIU. He offers his deepest gratitude to the people who made this production, the people who came from many miles away to see it, and his person. Previous credits: Nick in “The Time of Your Life”, Givola in “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”, and Death in “Everybody.”


James Arthel ReillyJames Arthel Reilly (Vershinin) is a third year MFA Acting candidate from the great state of Pennsylvania. He has previously appeared at NIU in “Summertime”, “Love and Information” and “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches.” James is a writer, actor, teacher and filmmaker. He is enormously grateful to be back to work and cannot dream of a better group of people with which to take this journey.


AndreaAndrea Shapiro (Natasha) hails from Ann Arbor, Mich. She is a fourth year BFA Acting candidate, professional singer, and working on feeling solid enough to put “dancer” in her bio. NIU credits: #14 in ”The Wolves” and Arthur/Momus in Franz Kafka’s “The Castle.” Other credits include: Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” (Stage Coach Players), cast member in “Stockwell” (Intermission: A Virtual Theatre Festival), as well as multiple productions at Chicago’s Second City.


GavinGavin Struempler (Tuzenbach) is an Alaskan born and raised, fourth-year BFA acting candidate at Northern Illinois University. He was last seen on the live stage as K in “The Castle” and Lysander in Goodly Creatures “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He has performed with Convergence Theater Collective and is a founding member of NYC’s movement theater group Babel. He’s so incredibly thankful to have you here, and hopes you enjoy the show.


Rachel YoderRachael Yoder (Masha) is a third year MFA Acting candidate hereat NIU. Favorite credits include, NIU: “The Wolves”, “Girls and Dolls”, “Everybody.” Regional: “Sleepy Hollow” (Capital Repertory Theatre) “A Christmas Carol”, “Amadeus” (Geva Theater Center) “Richard III”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “As You Like It”, “Othello”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “The Winter’s Tale” (MaineStage Shakespeare) “Love’s Labour’s Lost”, “Two Gentlemen of Verona” (Shakespeare in the Valley) New York: “Fifth of July, Independence” (The Stella Adler Studio of Acting) “Pretty Theft” (Jordan Bean & Co). Rachael also serves as managing mirector of The Outer Loop Theater Experience, overseeing partner projects in Tanzania with her husband Michael. She is a proud member of Actor’s Equity Association. More at For more information on The Outer Loop, please visit

Production Team

Alexander Gelman (Director/Adapter) is a Russian-born and American-trained director, who received his training at Boston University. Mr. Gelman has worked as a director and translator of plays from Russian to English. His many productions include “Eugene Onegin”, “L’Incoronazione di Poppea”, “Turn of the Screw”, “L’Italiana in Algeri”, “Camelot”, “Twelfth Night”, “Side by Side by Sondheim”, “As You Like It”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “Die Fledermaus”, “The Threepenny Opera”, “The Taming of the Shrew”, “Stage Struck”, “Barber of Seville”, “La Traviata”, “Carmen”, “School for Wives”, “Waiting for Godot”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “Journey of the Fifth Horse”, “Tartuffe”, “Tango”, “The Lion in Winter”, and “The Burning Fiery Furnace.” He has worked at such theatres as American Repertory Theatre, Arena Stage Company, Canterbury Opera (Christchurch, New Zealand), Chicago Lyric Opera, Utah Opera, Ashlawn-Highland Music Festival, Chattanooga Opera Association, Hartford Stage Company, The Acting Company, New York Shakespeare Festival, Minneapolis Children’s Theatre Company, Emmy Gifford Theatre, and The Juilliard School of Drama.

Professor Gelman served as Director of the School (2001-2021). Prior to joining NIU, he taught at University of Utah and University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he headed MFA directing programs. Mr. Gelman has also assisted such notable East European directors as Andrei Serban, Yuri Lyubimov, Lucian Pintilie, and Yuri Yeremin.

Shannon Austin-Goodin (Stage Manager) is a third year BFA actor here at NIU and is from Louisville, Kentucky. This is her first time stage-managing at NIU and she is so thankful to have been a part of this show process, and hopes you enjoy the show!

Aidan Murphy (Lighting Designer) Originally from Colorado, Aidan Murphy is an MFA candidate in Lighting Design. Recent designs include The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane at the CS Fine Art Center.

Adam Rager (Technical Director) is a first year Grad Student with a BS in Theatrical Arts from The University of Southern Indiana 08’. Over his 13 year leap between undergrad and Graduate School he works for Regional Theatres across America. He has also worked for National tours of Damn Yankees, Elf The Musical, Paw Patrol Live and Smokey Joe’s Cafe. Adam is excited for his first Technical Director position with NIU SOTD.

Amanda Ranallo (Assistant Stage Manager) is a third year BFA in Acting candidate. She has appeared in Love and Information and Town hall online with NIU. This is her first show stage managing and she hopes you enjoy.

Director – Alexander Gelman
Assistant Director – Hani Jung
Stage Manager – Shannon Austin-Goodin
Assistant Stage Manager – Amanda Ranallo
Lighting Designer – Aiden Murphy
Light Board Operator – Avery Flores
Props Director – David Doherty
Technical Director – Adam Rager
Properties Crew – Jack Gordon, Emma Mansfield
Running Crew – Caroline Byrne, Sonya Dunn, Qwayland McGowan


Concerto Competition Final Round – November 6

Concerto Competition Final Round – November 6

A long running tradition continues when the NIU School of Music holds the final round of its annual Concerto Competition, Saturday, November 6 in Boutell Memorial Concert Hall. Performances start at 4 p.m. Admission is free of charge.

Here are the performers and times:

4:00 p.m. Amanda Perez, Viola  
Roberto Sierra Viola Concerto
Song Ahhae, Piano Accompaniment

4:07 p.m. Ian Rigg, Trombone
Gordon Jacob Concerto for Trombone 1st movement
Song Ahhae, Piano Accompaniment

4:15 p.m. Alex Hassib, Trombone
Henri Tomasi Trombone Concerto
Heewon Cha, Piano Accompaniment

4:24 p.m. Annika Roberts, Cello   
Dmitri Shostakovich Cello Concerto 1st movement 
Heewon Cha, Piano Accompaniment

4:32 p.m. Crystal Bragg, Flute   
Charles Griffes Poem 
Heewon Cha, Piano Accompaniment

4:43 p.m. David Coons, Oboe  
Johan Wenzel Kalliwoda Concertino for Oboe Con Fuoco Adagio, Vivace
Song Ahhae, Piano Accompaniment


5:10 p.m. Zachary Green, Viola
Bela Bartok Viola Concerto 1st movement              
Song Ahhae, Piano Accompaniment

5:23 p.m. Abria Shaw, Voice
W.A.Mozart “Ach, ich fühl’s” and “In uomini, in soldati”
Joy Hyounkyoung Kim, Piano Accompaniment

5:31p.m. Nicholas Haddock, Alto Saxophone
Alexandre Glazunov Concerto in Eb Major 1st movement
Elizabeth Vaughan, Piano Accompaniment

5:46 p.m. Mitchell Nelson, Trumpet
Alexandra Pahkmutova Trumpet Concerto
Ting Yun Wu, Piano Accompaniment

6:00 p.m. Gianna Capobianco, Flute
Jaques Ibert Concerto for Flute and Orchestra 3rd movement
Joy Hyounkyoung Kim, Piano Accompaniment

6:10 p.m. Andrea Newsome, Voice
G.F.Handel “Cara Spoza” from Rinaldo, Georges Bizet “Sequidilla” from Carmen
Joy Hyounkyoung Kim, Piano Accompaniment

6:20 p.m. Jury deliberation