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Grad Profiles – Paul Perrilles

Grad Profiles – Paul Perrilles

The spring class of 2020 hasn’t had a traditional conclusion to their studies, but they do have a lot of great stories.

Over the summer months we’ll be profiling some of them.

Paul PerrillesPaul Perrilles

Degree Earned: Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies
Hometown: Peoria
High School: Metamora Township High School

What are some of your best memories of your time at NIU?
I have a lot of good memories. Three stick out in particular. During my sophomore the NIU Jazz Ensemble did a tour of Mexico during the fall semester and that was a great experience. It was my first time outside of the country and it was great seeing the culture difference and great to see the landscape and some different cities. Later that year we took a tour to Texas for the Jazz Education Network conference. We played in Dallas and Austin so that was another fun experience my sophomore year. Others would be the outings that we did with NIU Jazz orchestra under Professor [Reggie] Thomas’ direction. We went to several high schools in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin.  Those were always fun because we got a chance to talk with high school students about NIU and the programs that they offer and different kinds of opportunities. We also gave master classes and tips and suggestions on how to better play the charts they were working on and the music that they were working on at the time.

What’s next?
That is still to be decided because of the whole virus situation. Right now I’m just planning to move to the Chicago area to teach and perform music full time.

What is one piece of advice or something you learned that you know you’ll be leaning on as you start the next phase of your career?
The biggest piece of advice was something that Dennis Mackrel said, he was a visiting artist. He’s a drummer who has played with Count Basie, Village Vanguard, some really big time names. He said to savor every bit of music that you make or hear because one day you’ll be gone and you know you’ll be unable to enjoy the arts as we know it. I had thought of it that way but just the way he said it was very impactful and it taught me to not take any of this for granted because it’s a big blessing that we’re able to play and interact via music. I just think it’s a beautiful thing and it’s something that is very temporary.

How was your experience at NIU different than what you expected when you started?
I couldn’t have expected the amazing sense of community within the School of Music. Everyone from the students to the faculty and everyone who works in the administration and the music offices were very warm and welcoming from the very beginning.  That really helped, by providing performance opportunities or teaching opportunities. Everyone is just very open to exchanging the knowledge they’ve received, either in the time at Northern or elsewhere. That was valuable for me during my first couple of years at Northern and then it felt great to be able to help the newcomers as I became an upperclassman and shared my knowledge of the things that I learned. It’s kind of a cycle and it was just something that you can only hope for in a music school. I think it’s very prominent with NIU.

If you could thank someone, or more than one person, that you didn’t get a chance to think before you left now considering how it all happened who would it be?
There are a lot of people–especially since it ended so suddenly. There are some people that I wish I could see one more time especially certain jazz study professors I was really closest to such as Reggie Thomas, Geof Bradfield, Tom Garling and my primary lessons teacher Rodrigo Vilanueva. I would tell them that they taught me so many lessons and tips that I’ll be using for many years to come. They spent a lot of time with me individually and also in group settings. I just learned so much from them. Two others I would say are Greg Beyer and Ben Wahlund, the percussion professors.  I wasn’t technically a percussion major, but they definitely treated me like one and they were very open to donating their time to me whenever I had a question. They were very welcoming to me, and offered me a lot of tips on everything percussion, even and though you know that isn’t exactly my field of expertise. They  were always very open to answering the questions that I had.  And, then I had professors in class that taught me so much about music like David Maki, Brian Hart, John Novak. They really cleared up a lot of grey areas as far as how music works so I really want to thank them for that.

What is something you’d like to come back and do one more time?
I would love to come back to perform in Boutell [Memorial] Concert Hall again. I had so many formative experiences on that stage. Thinking back to when I first got here I definitely i had a different set of knowledge. I had a different playing style and through the years of taking lessons and going to class and in practicing and teaching myself I would always come back to that stage and refine what I was doing. I played in Boutell quite a bit more than the Recital Hall, with the Jazz Ensemble or the Jazz Orchestra and with orchestras like the Symphonic Band or the Philharmonic. I would love to play with friends and teachers again on that stage.

Cannonball Adderly and Nancy WilsonOK what is all the things you’re most proud of from your time at Northern?
I performed with my group under the recommendation of Professor Thomas at the first College of Visual and Performing Arts Winter Arts Convocation in 2016. I am pretty proud of that. I did both my junior and senior recitals in the Recital Hall and I’m very proud of those performances. I was also able to get NIU Jazz Studies started doing the Faculty/Student Engagement Concert. I was able to play in that during my freshman year and we performed tunes off of a record called Cannonball Adderley meets Nancy Wilson.  That was a very very fun concert to play in. I’m also really proud of performances with the NIU Jazz Orchestra and the graduate combo, The Jazztet.

If you could give some advice to the high school class of 2020 who will be starting at NIU in the fall, what would it be?
I would tell an incoming student that there are music professors that are incredibly knowledgeable about their individual crafts so spending even just a little bit of time talking with each of them will prove to be incredibly useful in the long run.  The time is very short. I barely realized how fast four years could fly by. You never really know when like the last time you’ll be able to speak to some of these professors will be. I think about Cliff Alexis and how he suddenly passed. I didn’t get a lot of chances to talk with him but the times that I did they were very they’re very fruitful and very informative. Each each professor is very generous with their time and knowledge. Use it to your advantage. Do not be afraid in go ahead and speak with every professor that you can because they are there for your benefit.

Keep an eye out for more profiles of the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts class of 2020.

Grad profiles – Jorge Brito

Grad profiles – Jorge Brito

The spring class of 2020 hasn’t had a traditional conclusion to their studies, but they do have a lot of great stories.

Over the summer months we’ll be profiling some of them.

Jorge Brito

Jorge BritoDegree earned – Bachelor of Music, Emphasis in Music Education Minor in Spanish
Hometown/High School – Cuernavaca, Morelos Mexico
Transfer from Elgin Community College

What are some of your best memories of your time at NIU?
I commuted to NIU so most of my time spent there was when I had classes, lessons, concerts or workshops. But one of the best memories I have from NIU is the day the philharmonic played Verdi’s Defiant Requiem. We were 200 people on stage (musicians, singers and actors). It was very exciting to see so many people participating in the same goal. The auditorium was full and for more than two hours we all enjoyed that moment. We shared the stage with professional and amateur musicians.

What’s next for you?
Right now, I have been subbing at two different districts (U46 and D33). I am applying for jobs for the next school year. My goal is find a job in the elementary level; I want to teach general music to kids. I’m also open to the idea of teaching beginning orchestra. I hope at the same time I’m teaching that I can get certified in the Orff method, which it will help me become a better teacher for my students.

What is one piece of advice or something you learned that you know you’ll be leaning on as you start the next phase of your career or education?
Networking. I’ve been very fortunate to meet people that are helping me to navigate this difficult transition between being a student and becoming a professional.

How was your experience at NIU different than what you expected when you started?
It was more difficult than I thought. This is my second career and it is definitely harder to go to college when you are older and have a family to look after and care for. However, the support I received from my family was one of the things that made me go ahead and graduate for the second time in my life. I thank the teachers who understood my situation and supported me to get ahead.

If you could thank someone (or more than one person) that you didn’t get a chance to thank before you left, who would it be, and what would you say?
I would like to thank one more time to Dr. [Ted] Hatmaker for believing in me and for taking the time to help me to become a better musician. Also, I would like to thank you, Dr. [Mary Lynn] Doherty, for being there every time I needed a helping hand.

What is something you’d like to come back to do one more time?
I would love to play one more concert with any of the music ensembles. I was always in the NIU philharmonic but I always wanted to play in the Middle Eastern or Chinese ensembles.

What are some of the things you are most proud of from your time at NIU?
One of the things that I’m most proud of is that I found a group of musicians who helped me to grow a lot and who supported me in difficult times. This group of musicians became good friends. Something I appreciate about NIU is the diversity of its students which made it easier for me to find the type of music and band in which I wanted to participate. Of course, graduating is one of the things I’m most proud of as well.

If you could give some advice to the high school class of 2020 who will be starting at NIU in the fall, what would it be?
Try to get involved and participate in extracurricular activities. Of course, it is important to have good grades and focus on studying but it is also important to create connections with other people who think differently than you do. Take advantage of the time to network and get to know other things different from what you are planning to study.

Keep an eye out for more profiles of the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts class of 2020.

Grad Profiles – Ricardo Quiñonez

Grad Profiles – Ricardo Quiñonez

The spring class of 2020 hasn’t had a traditional conclusion to their studies, but they do have a lot of great stories.

Over the summer months we’ll be profiling some of them.

Ricardo Quiñonez

Ricardo QuinonezDegree earned – Double Major in Music Education and Music Performance (Tuba)

Hometown/High School: Aurora IL / East Aurora High School 

What are some of your best memories of your time at NIU?
It’s hard to really think of specific memories that stand out. My time at NIU wasn’t defined by big events, it was the little things I’ll remember. Times I spend between classes in the music building lobby drinking coffee with friends either doing homework or goofing off. Spending nights watching TV longer than I should have and having to wake up early enough to walk my dogs while still making it to class on time. All the time spent finding new things to do with my girlfriend. More than anything though, my piece of junk Suzuki Sidekick. 

It’s all the little moments that come to mind when I think of my time at NIU. Sure there were big events here and there, but the memories I’ll cherish most are the moments that happened in my day to day life. 

What’s next for you?
I’m planning on being a band director. I enjoy music, I want to teach, and being able to go into this profession is something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. I’ve got an offer I’ve accepted, but until I sign all the paperwork I’m keeping it a bit hush. 

What is one piece of advice or something you learned that you know you’ll be leaning on as you start the next phase of your career or education?
That I don’t know everything and never will. I think too often people assume because they are knowledgeable about a topic (whether they’ve earned a degree, worked in the field for a long time, or educated themselves in some way) that we tend to have a hard time stepping back and looking at things from different perspectives. I’m going to be certified to teach K-12 music, but that doesn’t make me an expert in it. There are things I’m comfortable with and uncomfortable related to music, and that’s ok. The drive to continue learning and growing as both a musician AND educator is what will help me succeed. I won’t know everything, and I never will, but I’ll always continue to grow and learn in some way to better myself for my students. 

How was your experience at NIU different than what you expected when you started?
Honestly, for a long time I was never planning on going to college. I didn’t really care about school. The plan was to start working as early as I can, make it my priority, and MAYBE graduate. Because of that, I didn’t put much effort into my classes, failed a lot, and didn’t have the full education I should have when I graduated. It wasn’t until my late junior/early senior year of high school I decided to take school in general a bit more serious.

I didn’t decide on pursuing music until December of my senior year and because of that, everything went by fast and kind of fell into place. The only expectation I had was that I’ll graduate in four years, and that didn’t happen. There were definitely classes I struggled with and failed at NIU because I didn’t develop many of the basic learning skills I needed during high school (and that’s not anybody’s fault but my own).

I didn’t really know how to write a paper. Time management/organization were skills introduced to me during freshman year of college. It took me a long time to figure out how to study in a way I would actually retain information and even still, it doesn’t really work as well as I feel it should. While the only real expectation I had didn’t happen, looking back it was definitely for the best. I had more opportunities to take things a bit slower and find what worked for me. I got to grow and mature a bit more both as a person and as an educator which helped me realize how much I truly want to do what I’m doing. 

If you could thank someone (or more than one person) that you didn’t get a chance to thank before you left, who would it be, and what would you say?
During my last semester I was student teaching. Usually, we have little contact with our supervisors and professors during this time. With the COVID pandemic happening, we were able to meet more often than we would have otherwise, with gave our student teaching group a chance to meet with our music ed professors/coordinators on a weekly basis. I know we said sorta said goodbyes already, but thank you Lynn [Retherford], Dr. [Mary Lynn} Doherty, and Dr. [Christine] D’Alexander for all the help through this program! 

The one person I haven’t had a chance to thank is my tuba professor, Scott Tegge. For four years we had weekly hour long lessons plus studio classes when possible. He’s been an inspiration to me, a huge mentor, and the person at NIU who I could go to about anything. He cares about his students, he is always finding ways to grow and better himself, and has this crazy drive that you don’t see in just anybody. Scott, my pride will never let me say this in person (just like yours won’t ever let you stop teasing me about my dogs), but you’ve been more impactful in my development than anyone else. The things I’ve learned from you both about music and life are things that will start with me for the rest of my life. It’s been an honor to be your student at NIU and I’ll always be thankful for having such an awesome mentor like you.

What are some of the things you are most proud of from your time at NIU?
My junior and senior recitals. My junior recital was special because it’s the first time I was able to perform solo literature for friends and family. I didn’t realize how different performing like that would be compared to playing in ensembles, which caught me off guard. My senior recital was the culmination of all the work I had put in at NIU and I was able to showcase that to friends and family. That recital was a bit easier in the sense that I felt a bit more comfortable in that environment but it still felt surreal. Neither performance was perfect, there were lots of mistakes throughout, but I put my all into the music and left happy with the results of my work. 

If you could give some advice to the high school class of 2020 who will be starting at NIU in the fall, what would it be?
My soapbox advice is to put your all into what you’re doing. You came came to study something you’re passionate and care about and because of that, do everything you can to succeed in it. Take the extra time to study for that class you don’t like but know is important. Find those outside opportunities that sound interesting and take them no matter how big or small. Make friends with similar interests and ideals and do your best to help get each other through your field. You might doubt yourself along the way, and that’s ok. Do everything you can and make sure at the end of the day, you feel like you’re going in the right direction, even if that means finding a different trajectory and career goal. It goes quicker than you realize so do what you can to make sure you finish where you want to. 

On a more serious note, don’t think “all you can eat” in the dining halls, think “all you should eat”. Eat a vegetable once in a while cause I sure didn’t. 

Anything else?
You know, it ’s weird. If you ask anybody who I’m close with they’d probably tell you to ask me about how much being the first college graduate in my family feels like, or how being a first generation citizen impacts me/my decision to go to school/my experience at NIU. Ask my extended family and they’ll tell you to ask “why music?”, usually followed by “why not major in something else”. A bunch of (in my opinion) weirdly specific questions. I don’t really have an answer for any of those, we could have long conversations about any of the above, and if anybody really wanted to reach out and ask I’d be more than willing to have that conversation. Ultimately, my responses boil down to this. 

I decided to do what I want, study what I want, and go into a a career that I want. It wasn’t easy and there were definitely doubts along the way, even still to this day. I don’t know what exactly the future holds, but I’m going to put my all into whatever it is I plan to do and I hope that I can get my students, or anybody else for that matter, to see that they can do whatever they want to too.

Keep an eye out for more profiles of the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts class of 2020.

Grad Profiles – Robyn Clarke

Grad Profiles – Robyn Clarke

The spring class of 2020 hasn’t had a traditional conclusion to their studies, but they do have a lot of great stories.
Over the summer months we’ll be profiling some of them.

Robyn Clarke

Robyn Clarke

Bachelor of Music, Music Education
Hometown – Joliet, IL
Transfer from: Joliet Junior College

What are some of your best memories of your time at NIU?
My favorite memories are of my friends and me during our frequent all-night study/practice sessions. Lots of snacking, humor, and nap intermissions involved!

What’s next for you?
I have accepted a job offer and am excited to announce that I will be entering my first year of teaching in the fall! I will be teaching General Music to grades K-5 in the Joliet Public School District.

I do hope to further my education later in life to study trumpet performance or music education at the graduate level.

What is one piece of advice or something you learned that you know you’ll be leaning on as you start the next phase of your career or education?
Even as a teacher, one should never stop learning. Our education system changes rapidly. It is important to keep reading, asking questions, and reflecting in order to offer our students the best education possible.

How was your experience at NIU different than what you expected when you started?
Being a first-generation college student, I did not know what to expect upon transferring to NIU. I was in shock during my first full week on campus. Being a transfer student on top of everything, I was put into upper-level classes with students who had already known each other for years, so I imagined making friends would be complicated. Three other students transferred from my community college’s music program with me, so we were sort of our own little unit during our first few weeks. However, it did not take long before I started branching out. The music community is very tight-knit, by the end of my time there I felt very close with everyone and have established lifelong friendships.

If you could thank someone (or more than one person) that you didn’t get a chance to thank before you left, who would it be, and what would you say?
The music education program at NIU is extremely fortunate to have Professors Dr. D’Alexander, Dr. Wang, and Dr. Doherty. Each of these empowering women brings such unique experiences and expertise to our program and I feel fully confident going into my first year of teaching after learning from them. I would not trade all of the wisdom, tools, and skills I’ve gained from them for the world! Thank you all for all that you do!

Additionally, I would like to thank our teacher-coordinator Lynn Retherford for the copious amount of work she does to ensure that our program runs so smoothly! She always goes above and beyond for everyone!

What is something you’d like to come back to do one more time?
I would love to perform in a concert at NIU. Even though I majored in Music Education, I put the same amount of emphasis and effort into improving as a player as I did into learning effective teaching strategies. It is so important not to lose sight of the passion that inspired us to become Music Educators in the first place, and that is performance. Personally, I strive to have successful careers as both a performer and an educator. I will forever miss being fully-immersed in music at NIU with peers who are just as dedicated to their craft as I am.

What are some of the things you are most proud of from your time at NIU?
I struggled immensely with stage fright for most of my life, but I am proud to have faced my fears at NIU.  I joined every ensemble that I possibly could and even agreed to ensemble “cameos” whenever asked (such as playing conch shell for a piece or offstage trumpet solos) hoping that the more I performed, the easier it would get. I originally planned on studying trumpet classically but ended up focusing on jazz trumpet with Professor Art Davis. I was terrified at first as I knew next to nothing about jazz; to a strictly classical player, jazz felt like a foreign language. I committed to learning everything I could about jazz, stopped worrying while I playing, and had fun, even during juries! I am thankful for the opportunities and professors that forced me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to grow.

If you could give some advice to the high school class of 2020 who will be starting at NIU in the fall, what would it be?
Take advantage of your professors’ office hours. Every single time I made an office hour visit, it was extremely positive and beneficial. Most of your classes will be a lot larger than your high school class sizes, so getting lots of one-on-one help from professors is not always possible unless you utilize their office hours. Whether you have a question that is directly related to your class or assignment or need support in some other way, go. Every teacher I have visited has been happy to help and I also enjoyed getting to know them better as individuals in the process.

Keep an eye out for more profiles of the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts class of 2020.