CVPA alums feature prominently in Netflix’s “Senior Year”

CVPA alums feature prominently in Netflix’s “Senior Year”

The new Netflix movie Senior Year features Rebel Wilson playing Stephanie, who was injured in a cheerleading stunt when she was 17 only to wake from a coma 20 years later and insisting on returning to finish out her senior year of high school and attend her prom. Mary Holland, who earned her MFA in Acting from the NIU School of Theatre and Dance in 2007, co-stars as Martha, Stephanie’s friend from high school who is now the principal and cheerleading coach.


Jermaine Stegall, who received his BFA in saxophone performance and composition from the NIU School of Music in 2000, was the music director on the film. Stegall most recently composed the music for Eddie Murphy’s Coming 2 America. 

Holland starred in The Happiest Season and co-wrote the film with Clea Duvall. The pair are currently writing a TV series for Lionsgate titled Day Job and Holland will play the lead character. She is also featured in the recently released Netflix comedy series The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window with Kristen Bell.

School of Music’s Gregory Beyer and percussion alumni featured on PBS’s “Now Hear This”

School of Music’s Gregory Beyer and percussion alumni featured on PBS’s “Now Hear This”

Gregory Beyer, Professor and Director of Percussion Studies in the NIU School of Music and percussion alumni Ethan Martin and Noel Streacker were recently featured on PBS’ “Now Hear This.” The three are part of Arcomusical, made up of Beyer and NIU Percussion graduate students and alumni, whose mission is “to spread the joy of the Afro-Brazilian musical bow known as the berimbau through the development of innovative and excellent musical repertoire.”

The episode is titled “New American Voices” and features American composers inspired by their immigrant roots: Brazilian-born Sergio Assad and Indian-American Reena Esmail.

“Sergio Assad, one half of the famous Brazilian guitar duo, the Assad Brothers, lives in Chicago,” Beyer said. “He reached out to me to be involved with him in the episode and together we co-composed a work for classical guitar and three berimbaus that is premiered in the first segment. Working with Sergio was a delight. He is a consummate professional and a lovely and sensitive musician and human being. Making music with him for us was a joy and an honor. And co-composing the work was also delightful. I sent him an initial idea, he composed something for himself above what I wrote, and we continued ping-ponging the score back and forth until we were together happy with the final result. We hope to continue this collaboration in the near future.”


Beyer is featured twice in the episode. The first time at 26:25 when Martin and Streacker join Beyer and Assad. Beyer is featured again at 40:06 when he joins Assad and members of Gingarte Capoeira Chicago.

Arcomusical recently released their third album, Emigre and Exile, which has received a number of excellent reviews, including:

“Every so often an ensemble comes along that is dedicated to some sort of stylistic-meta-acoustical  way of playing-listening. The berimbau ensembles are inspired, beautifully sonic and a major reason to listen. But also the compositional approaches are all worth your attention over and above the sonic wonder of it as an entirety. The music pulsates in engaging ways. Everything has a kind of tribal folk-avant forward momentum, an elementally riff-like tonality, with repetition ostinatos not at all formulaic. This is not an ordinary sort of album. It is uplifting and unusual. I recommend it if you are wanting something different, something off the well beaten path. Bravo.” – Grego Applegate, April 19, 2022, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

You can watch Arcomusical’s album release party, which was held at Chicago’s Constellation.

May 1 NIU Philharmonic concert a tribute to Jan Bach

May 1 NIU Philharmonic concert a tribute to Jan Bach

Jan BachThe Northern Illinois University Philharmonic Orchestra is dedicating their upcoming concert to Dr. Jan Bach, an award-winning composer, musician and educator who passed away in 2020.

The concert is Sunday, May 1 at 7:00 p.m. in Boutell Memorial Concert Hall in the Music Building on the NIU main campus in DeKalb. Tickets can be purchased online. And a livestream of the concert will be available at the NIU School of Music website.

The NIU Philharmonic, with guest artist Liam Teague, will be performing some of Jan Bach’s compositions as part of the concert.

The winners of the NIU School of Music Jan Bach Prize for Music Composition will also be announced at the concert.

Jan Bach taught in the NIU School of Music for nearly 40 years. He studied under famed composer Aaron Copland at Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Mass. As a member of the US Army Band he performed at the funeral of John F. Kennedy in 1962.

He was nominated six times for the Pulitzer Prize in Music, was named an NIU Presidential Professor in 1982, and was nominated for the Council for the Advancement of Secondary Education (CASE) Professor of the Year award six times.

More: Pandemic delayed memorial planned for Jan Bach, composer who taught at NIU – Chicago Sun-Times, April 15, 2022

School of Music’s Liam Teague selected as 2022 NIU Board of Trustees Professor

School of Music’s Liam Teague selected as 2022 NIU Board of Trustees Professor

Liam Teague, Professor of Music and Head of Steelpan Studies in the School of Music has added to his impressive list of accomplishments with his selection as a 2022 Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees Professor.

Liam Teague has been selected as a 2022 Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees Professor.

Teague is a world-renowned performer and composer. He is one of the leading figures in creating and commissioning new solo steelpan and steelpan orchestral works, many of which have been published and performed by esteemed ensembles like the National Steel Symphony of Trinidad and Tobago and soloists at venues like Carnegie Hall. He has performed at concert venues from Madison Square Garden, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, Symphony Center in Chicago, the Teatro Nacional de Panama in Panama City, Teatro Nacional de Costa Rico in San Jose, to The Queen’s Hall in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Teague was originally drawn to NIU as a student from Trinidad and Tobago to study under NIU Steelband founders Al O’Connor and Cliff Alexis. Teague was a 2018 recipient of an NIU Presidential Research, Scholarship and Artistry Professorship and has devoted the majority of the award to engaging composers to create innovative pieces for solo steelpan and with non-steelpan instruments (piano, violin, percussion ensemble, etc.) Several of these works have been embedded into NIU’s steelpan majors’ curriculum and Teague feels they will be beneficial to generations of steelpan musicians by providing access into musical avenues which have been largely untapped.

“Professor Teague is an inspiration. Deeply soulful and committed in his artistry, extremely careful and organized in his planning, Liam has cultivated a crystal-clear vision to transform the steelpan into an instrument of supreme virtuosity that can stand alongside the violin as a premiere concert solo instrument,” said Greg Beyer, Professor and Director of Percussion Studies at NIU. “As a result of his relentless pursuit of excellence, his reputation proceeds him nationally and internationally. He is known in percussion circles as the ‘Paganini of the steelpan.’ This is neither exaggeration nor hyperbole. Teague’s performances feature blistering virtuosity astonishingly delivered with clarity and grace.”

Recent NIU School of Music graduate Jaron Woodsley, who earned bachelor’s degrees in both music performance and music education, says Teague brings the world to the program. “He goes beyond the call of duty for his students, and others, in any way possible. Such is his commitment to his students that he does not want them to miss contact hours, so he has his lessons online wherever in the world he may be, even when there’s a significant time difference. He seeks out young and upcoming steelpan musicians from all over the world to study with him and other faculty members at NIU, broadening and further diversifying the program.”

Michael Bump, Professor and Director of Percussion Studies at Truman State University, first encountered Teague nearly 30 years ago when Bump, then a graduate student at the University of Illinois saw him perform on a tenor pan for U of I students and faculty. “None present had ever witnessed such flights of virtuosity on pan, the demonstration leaving an indelible awareness that a defining artistic experience had just taken place,” Bump said. “In the years since, Liam and I have had several opportunities to professionally interact, including on four different occasions when he has been my invited guest artist clinician at both Ohio State University and Truman State. Throughout this span of time, the young virtuoso of that first encounter has blossomed into an internationally revered performing artist, teacher, and composer. In Liam, the people of Trinidad and Tobago gifted the world a tireless ambassador of the unique musical voice that is pan. How fortunate the NIU community is to have such a dedicated life-long learner. One who embraces the art of the question, patiently and tirelessly sharing the wealth of his knowledge with those around him.”

Avery Attzs came to NIU to follow a similar path to Teague. He studied under him for six years. “As a young boy growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, the name ‘Liam Teague’ was a familiar one,” Attzs said. “Oftentimes it was used as a noun to describe someone who showed exceptional talent or promise when it came to playing the steelpan. Although incredibly humble, Liam Teague is considered a legend and is held in the highest regard by the global steelpan community. He continues to bring great pride to the people of Trinidad and Tobago as he promotes Trinidadian culture to the highest degree. Through his commissioning of new music for the steelpan and his dedication to bringing diverse musicians together, he continues to blaze the trail of excellence as he works to push the steelpan to new heights.”

Teague has also taught and performed for the past 25 years at Birch Creek Music Performance Center in Door County, Wisc., and has also taught and performed at the California State University Summer Arts Camp and at the Interlochen Academy for the Performing Arts.

Teague is the author of a steelpan method for beginners published by the Hal Leonard Corporation, the world’s largest publisher of print music.

He has created arrangements for the most celebrated steelband competition in the world, Panorama, for Nutrien Silver Stars Steel Orchestra, Harvard Harps Steel Orchestra, Starlift Steel orchestra, and Skiffle Steel Orchestra. He has many recordings to his credit, including Hands Like Lightning, For Lack of Better Words, Panoramic: Rhythm Through an Unobstructed View and Open Window.

Celebrate Thai New year with NIU

Celebrate Thai New year with NIU

SongkrauAs part of NIU’s World Music Festival you can celebrate Thai New Year with the NIU School of Music.

On Thursday, April 14, the Music Building will be the site of a Songkran Thai New Year Celebration hosted by the NIU Thai Language Program and the NIU Thai Music Ensemble. The event is free of charge and will feature trivia and prizes, Thai crafts, a Thai costume photo booth and a performance by the NIU Thai Music Ensemble.

There will also be several cultural information displays prepared for the event by Dr. Kanjana Thepboriruk, a Thai language instructor in the NIU World Languages and Cultures Department.

The free concert will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the NIU Recital Hall features two of the only three Thai ensembles at universities in the United States. It is the first time ever that the NIU Thai Ensemble and Kent State University Thai Ensemble have performed together.

Dignitaries from the Royal Thai Consulate in Chicago will be in attendance at the concert and will participate in a ceremony to recognize Dr. John Hartmann, retired professor of Thai languages and literatures at NIU, whose generous support helped establish the Thai music program in the NIU School of Music.

Malika Green, ’05, M.M. ’07, Forges Passion for Jewelry-Making Into Business

Malika Green, ’05, M.M. ’07, Forges Passion for Jewelry-Making Into Business

Malika Green has always been an artistic soul, and her passion for creating has manifested itself in several ways and stages throughout her life.

Growing up in Maryland in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Green was always an introvert, but she never shied away from expressing herself through her arts.

“I liked crafty things, making things with my hands, making necklaces and earrings with found objects, like wire and paper and cardboard, old keys and my mom’s old jewelry,” she recalled. “I liked music, too. I started piano at age 8, and at age 10, I heard a steelband and loved it. At 12, I visited Trinidad and learned to play the steel pan. Then everything changed, steel pan became my life. When I returned to the U.S., it was with a steelpan, and that was it!”

Green started college at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where she completed her first two years. Wanting to take steelpan more seriously, she transferred to NIU because Drexel had no pan program.

“At NIU, I studied with Liam Teague and Cliff Alexis,” she said. “It was a huge change to be in the middle of cornfields of Illinois. I’d never been there before. It was good place to focus, practice and hone my craft.”

Green credits her late instructor, Alexis, who anchored the program at NIU for decades, with teaching her this flexibility and patience.

“He was a person who always supported his students, in the steelband and outside of the steelband,” she said. “He would always call the hallway in the music building his ‘office’ because that’s where he learned everything he needed to know about his students. If he felt like you were going after something and were motivated, he’d be your cheerleader. I always appreciated someone like that in my corner.”

Green appreciated that support so much that she stayed at NIU after receiving her B.A. in music in 2005, and she earned her master’s in music in 2007. Her last year at NIU, she took a fine arts credit, and the experience brought another of her passions to light.

“I took jewelry and metalsmithing, and I fell in love with it,” she said. “I loved the physicality of it, the sensuality. I loved the fact that you can hit something and see its shape change immediately, like tapping a pan and hearing the sound. There is an immediate gratification, although I also love the designing and the constant problem-solving to create something beautiful and special.”

Malika Green metalsmithing

Green meticulously works on her jewelry for MR Designs.

Jewelry-making became a hobby, and because there were none of the distractions of the big city, Green continued the discipline of practicing every day, which he had learned with music.

“When I took the metalsmithing course, I learned how to solder things, how to use the flame, when I needed to sand something a bit longer to get it just right,” she said. “I practiced constantly, and years of doing that and seeing improvement from day to day, week to week, year to year, it’s a very transferable quality. You develop the patience to say, ‘I may not be good today, but I will be if I practice.’”

She moved back to Maryland and spent four years working for the Cultural Academy for Excellence (CAFÉ), a program her mother started. In this role, she used the steel pan as a tool to help kids excel academically. Then, Green spent the next eight years in the Midwest, working with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO), first as community engagement coordinator, then as director of the four steelbands she created. In her last years at CYSO, Green received a Fulbright Fellowship to study steelband pedagogy, which took her to Toronto, London and Trinidad.

Since moving to Trinidad in 2019, Green has worked with the University of Trinidad and Tobago Pan Fellowship but her passion for jewelry was always an undercurrent. Then, when she interned with a local jeweler—Robert Mouttet of Mouttet Jewelers—she was swept away by her passion for the process of making jewelry out of metal.

“I did a lot of repairs, fixing chains, making school rings, maybe doing simple designs for necklaces out of stones laying around the shop,” she said. “Then, when I was not in the workshop, I focused on my own work and commissions for people, creating Caribbean-themed bangles, working on new designs, finishing whatever items I needed to add to my stock at the store where my pieces were sold.”

Suddenly, this art took precedence over everything else.

“It was all I wanted to eat, sleep and drink,” Green said.

Today, through her business, MR Designs, Green sells handmade metal jewelry online.

Malika Green work
“I like to work with silver and gold. All my materials are recycled, and I like slow-made work. Everything is handmade. Even the tiny, tiny rings I use as connectors I make myself. I like having a hand in every part of creating the piece, from beginning to end,” she said. “I like knowing that every piece was thought out and made for that specific item and person and is not just a generic component bought somewhere.”

Malika Green workGreen also likes the tangible aspect of this work and the close relationship she must have with the metal.

“You have to know what it’s going to look like at each stage, so you don’t ruin it,” she said. “It’s just a few degrees between a melted piece and a masterpiece. I like the excitement, the risk of making a one-of-a-kind piece. And I get a huge sense of satisfaction when it’s completed.”

For Green, jewelry-making is fulfilling because of what it becomes for the customer.

“When you think of where people wear jewelry—at the neck, arm, fingers, arms, ears, the parts of your body that only they touch on a daily basis… There’s a joy in knowing that someone is so connected with something you made that they want to wear it on special occasions,” she said. “To be part of someone’s joy and journey in that way, it’s really fulfilling to me.”

In general, Green’s pieces are inspired by nature, and she likes to incorporate multi-colored stones that have many inclusions and can change shades at different angles.

“I love textures. I love flowers and leaves and shells and things you find in the sea,” she said. “That’s just an extension of my love for tangible things. I want to touch something, I don’t want it to be completely smooth, I want it to have a unique texture, a memorable texture.”

Today, while she is temporarily working in the U.S. with CAFÉ in Maryland, Green splits her time between arts administration and teaching, and making her own jewelry—a perfect balance of two loves. Whether it’s with the steel pan or with a metal piece of jewelry, Green is proud of her work.

“I’m proud of the new body of work I’m now doing with jewelry,” she said. “II’m now using a technique that’s new to me—wax carving followed by lost-wax casting. I’ve fallen in love with that technique, and it’s changed my approach to making my pieces. It’s more daring, more artistic and I’m really excited about a collection I’m bringing out late in March.”

Green credits Cliff Alexis with giving her the peace of mind to know it’s okay to leave music and pursue other passions.

“He’d seen so much in his life, and he’d done so many things and taken risks,” she said. “At the age of 20, he couldn’t imagine getting an honorary doctorate and influencing so many young people. He was always the one to say, ‘It’s okay, you don’t owe anyone anything, it’s your life, live it with joy.’”

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