The DownBeat readers’ poll is in its 85 year. DownBeat is an American magazine devoted to “jazz, blues and beyond,” the last word indicating its expansion beyond the jazz realm which it covered exclusively in previous years. The publication was established in 1934 in Chicago.
Harlem Born, New York City raised, Bobby Broom has been heralded as “one of the most musical guitarists of our time” by jazz historian and author, Ted Gioia. Playing Carnegie Hall with Sonny Rollins and Donald Byrd at age 16, Broom recorded his debut as a leader, “Clean Sweep,” for GRP Records at age 20. He’s played and /or recorded with Kenny Burrell, Hugh Masakela, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Stanley Turrentine, Dave Grusin, Charles Earland, Miles Davis, Kenny Garrett and Dr. John, among others. As a leader he has recorded with the Bobby Broom Trio and the disbanded Deep Blue Organ Trio for the Premonition, Delmark and Origin labels. Bobby’s most recent, 2018 recording is “Soul Fingers” (MRI Entertainment/US, Jazzline/EU), which features his newest organ trio, ‘the Bobby Broom Organi-Sation.’ The album explores his reinterpretations of his childhood radio hits and was produced by the legendary drummer/producer, Steve Jordan.
Broom has released 12 recordings in total as a leader. Many have received airplay resulting in national jazz radio chart positions of #1 to #3, resulting in his being recognized as one of the top guitarists by Down Beat magazine’s annual Reader’s Poll in 2015, as well as their Critics Poll for four years, from 2012-2014 and again in 2017.
A dedicated jazz educator throughout his career, Professor Broom holds a Master of Music degree in Jazz Pedagogy from Northwestern University. His teaching experience began under the direction of NEA Jazz Master, Jackie Mclean, at the University of Hartford’s, Hartt school of Music. Prior to his appointment at NIU, he was a jazz faculty member at North Park, DePaul and Roosevelt Universities and the American Conservatory of Music. He continues to conduct clinics, master classes and lectures worldwide and is a teaching artist/instructor and mentor with the Herbie Hancock Institute and the Ravinia Jazz Mentor Program.
Amanda Brex-Castillo, the choral director at South Elgin High School and Kenyon Woods Middle School, received an unexpected visitor during one of her recent South Elgin online classes. Three-time Grammy Award winner Kelly Clarkson popped into the Zoom stream to interrupt the class as part of “The Kelly Clarkson Show” and Brex-Castillo’s students joined Clarkson in voicing their appreciation for her hard work and dedication.
Brex-Castillo earned her Bachelor of Music in Music Education from NIU in 2008.
Singers in the NIU University Chorus, conducted by Mary Lynn Doherty, Assistant Director of the School of Music, Associate Professor and Coordinator of Music Education, received a little extra assignment as they were learning the four part arrangement to the NIU Alma Mater.
They were asked to reflect on the beauty around them and what they love about NIU and the NIU experience. The goal of the exercise was to add meaning and expression to their singing.
Homecoming at NIU was a little different this year, with COVID-19 restrictions in place and a MAC football season that doesn’t start until November, but the Pride of the Midwest, the Huskie Marching Band put together a halftime show for everyone to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes.
The show is the end product of a lot of hard work from the current Huskie Marching Band with support from the Alumni Band.
Elizabeth Vieyra was little when she first noticed some of her peers did not have the same opportunities she did.
Vieyra was always musically inclined, playing flute and violin. But she realized not everyone in her hometown of Aurora who wanted to take up an instrument could do so.
“I saw people around me who really wanted to try music but didn’t have the resources to do it,” she recalls. “I thought if I studied music ed I could help people like them and kids like me who just really love music.”
When Vieyra, a sophomore, completes her music education degree, she hopes to teach music at a public school and offer private lessons at an affordable price to people in her hometown.
Vieyra is inspired by her teachers, whom she said are always willing to offer help, even outside of office hours. That collaborative attitude pervades the atmosphere of the Music Building, where Vieyra said competition feels good natured and working together is the primary focus.
“People here have a really strong bond and connection,” she said. “When something isn’t working, people come together and make it work.”
Receiving the NIU Foundation Impact Scholarship opened new doors for Vieyra, who can now afford to stay on campus instead of driving home every day. That means more time for practice, more time for study, and more opportunities to be involved, she said.
“I was so happy when I found out I received the scholarship,” she said. “I ran to tell my younger siblings about it. I told them they have no excuse not to go to college because I am doing it. I am getting the help I need, and they can, too.”
When her siblings are ready for college, Vieyra said, she encourages them to choose NIU. The university and the School of Music are providing her with more than an education – they are giving her a second family.
“NIU is a place where you can make your home,” she said. “I am at home.”
Learn more about students like Vieyra during Thousands Strong, a virtual event to celebrate the thousands of Huskies whose strength, impact and generosity change lives at NIU.