NIU, area high schools present The Big Sing to celebrate choral music

NIU, area high schools present The Big Sing to celebrate choral music

A live choral concert with a chance for the community to sing-a-long at various points, promises to be a fun-filled afternoon at the newly renovated Egyptian Theatre, September 19 at 3 p.m. “The Big Sing” features local choral ensembles Cor Cantiamo, the Northern Illinois University Concert Choir and the concert choirs from DeKalb High School and Sycamore High School.

“The Big Sing” will celebrate the passion and artistry of choral ensembles in the DeKalb County area and welcome audiences back to live performances.

“We are all so excited to return to live concerts and share our music again with in-person audiences,” says Dr. Johnson. “This will be a great opportunity for the community to come experience the power of live music and learn about all the wonderful choirs we have in our county.”

Each choir will perform a 12-15 minute solo concert and in between the choir performances, the audience will be asked to join in community sing-alongs led by different participating conductors.

Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors and $5 for children twelve and under. “The Big Sing” is sponsored by the City of DeKalb and the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Cor Cantiamo is a professional chamber choir whose creative programming and artistry weave contemporary music with choral masterworks to present concerts designed to inspire and engage audiences. This ensemble-in-residence at Northern Illinois University School of Music has achieved critical acclaim and recognition for their musicality, impassioned performances, and versatility.

Pokorny Low Brass Seminar brought musicians from all over the country to NIU this summer

Pokorny Low Brass Seminar brought musicians from all over the country to NIU this summer

For four days late in July, the NIU Music Building was full of the sounds of some of the best tuba and trombone players from around the country sharing tips, learning new things and enjoying being able to play in person with others for the first time in a while.

NIU was the site of the Pokorny Low Brass Seminar, a regular event brought to DeKalb by Andrew Glendening, the director of the NIU School of Music who hosted similar seminars when he was in charge of the music program at the University of Redlands in California.

The first such seminar at NIU was scheduled to happen in 2020, but was postponed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 100 artists from around the country attended the four day seminar, including professional symphony musicians, freelancers, college teachers, graduate and undergraduate music majors, advanced high school students and dedicated amateurs.

Gene Pokorny, the Arnold Jacobs Principal Tuba Chair of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was the seminar leader.

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“It’s really interesting the way this has evolved,” said Glendening. “Gene has had an incredible career–among a lot other things, he played on the Jurassic Park soundtrack–and we brought him to Redlands to give an honorary doctorate, and we talked about doing a seminar. He wanted to do something different, and it started with just tubas. We had between 20 and 30 for the first one, and it has expanded every year. Bringing it to NIU was a benefit because being in the middle of the country it’s more affordable for students to travel to, and even with the cancellation last year, most every student who signed up then was able to come this time.”

Tim Higgins, principal trombone of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra said he enjoys the opportunity to catch up and play with others in a unique setting. “I’ve been coming to these since 2011, and it’s so much fun to touch base with everyone and meet people from all over the country,” he said. “You rarely get a chance like this. For the students, it’s a huge thing to meet and play and learn from some great people.”

NIU faculty members enjoyed having all that talent come together under their own roof.

“It was my first experience with it, and it really well run,” said Timothy Riordan, instructor of trombone. “It was highly educational for our students with the professionals sharing ideas inside and outside of the seminar. Plus, having 60 trombones playing at the same time was a blast.”

Scott Tegge, instructor of tuba and euphonium said, “Everyone was learning from each other both faculty and students, and it was great for all of us to come together. Many hadn’t played with other people in 16 to 18 months. So it was nice to see people from different parts of the country at different points of their careers coming together to play.”

Register for lessons, classes and ensembles at NIU Community School of the Arts

Register for lessons, classes and ensembles at NIU Community School of the Arts

The NIU Community School of the Arts has provided high-quality arts education opportunities for community members of all ages for more than 30 years.  CSA programs and activities currently offered for personal enrichment include music and art classes, music ensembles, and music lessons for in person or online participants.

Registration is open now for the 2021-2022 school year.  Enroll in classes and ensembles one week prior to the start date and sign up for music lessons to begin as soon as August 23.  Early registration is encouraged, and an installment payment plan is available.

For the safety of all participants, in-person activities in the NIU Music Building will require safety measures outlined by Northern Illinois University and the Community School of the Arts.  Safety information is available at the CSA website


The CSA is committed to making arts education accessible in our community regardless of income level.  Funding for scholarships is provided through private donations and fundraising activities, and with support from the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation Fund.

Financial assistance is available for students ages 18 or younger who want to pursue their study of music and art.  Families with an adjusted gross income less than 75K annually are encouraged to apply.   Scholarship applications are available at the CSA website and by calling 815-753-1450.  Need-based scholarship applications for the fall semester will be accepted through October 1, 2021.

Music Lessons – Traditional and Suzuki

Anyone can learn to play a musical instrument!  The CSA offers traditional private music lessons on nearly all instruments – violin, guitar, piano, voice, cello, percussion, brass, woodwinds, ukulele and many more.  Music lessons using the Suzuki approach and combining private and group lessons are taught on violin, cello, and guitar by certified Suzuki instructors.  Music teachers meet with students for weekly lessons in person or online, and students are invited to prepare for and participate in a showcase recital at the end of each semester.  Fall music lessons begin as soon as the week of August 23 and fall recitals are scheduled in early December.

Music Classes for Young Children

Piano Starter for Children Limited to four children ages 5 – 7, this small group class provides an excellent way for parents to prepare children for private music lessons.  This fun introductory class is now offered online or in person.  Piano Starter Online meets Mondays from 4 – 4:40 p.m. online beginning September 13 with teacher Soo-Yon Choi.  Piano Starter In-Person meets in the NIU Music Building Tuesdays from 5 – 5:40 p.m. starting September 14 with teacher Jodeen Coulter.  Early registration is recommended for these popular classes.

Guitar for Kids Teacher Quentin Dover introduces children ages 8 – 12 to guitar playing through a fun, song-oriented approach to learning.  Exposure to music fundamentals such as scales, chords, rhythm, melody, and harmony helps students begin to build their own toolbox of musical skills, promoting confident and comfortable playing.  No previous guitar experience is required, and each student will use their own guitar during class.  Guitar for Kids class meets online on Wednesdays from 5 – 5:50 p.m. starting September 8.

Music Classes For Older Children and Adults

Guitar Basics and Intermediate Guitar These classes are taught by guitarist and long-time CSA teacher Quentin Dover on Wednesday evenings.  Students bring their own guitar to this online class and learn to play songs, scales, and chords along with beginning music theory and guitar techniques.  A lesson book is provided.  Guitar Basics meets online from 6 – 6:50 p.m. and Intermediate Guitar meets online from 7 – 7:50 p.m.  Both classes welcome students ages 13 – adult and begins on September 8.

Piano Basics Designed for beginners, this fun introductory class is now offered online or in person.  Adults and teens learn to play piano tunes in a group learning atmosphere.   Piano Basics Online with teacher Soo-Yon Choi meets Mondays from 6:15 – 7 p.m. online beginning on September 13.  Piano Basics In-Person meets in the NIU Music Building on Mondays from 6:15 – 7 p.m. beginning on September 13 with teacher Jodeen Coulter.

Music Ensembles

Musicians share a love of music and learn to play with others through the ensemble experience.  The NIU Community School offers several music ensembles, some for young musicians and others for older children and adults.  Every ensemble performs a concert at the end of each semester for friends and family to enjoy.

CSA Symphonette A string orchestra for ages 8 – 16, Symphonette musicians rehearse in person in the NIU Music Building on Tuesdays from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.  Linc Smelser directs the ensemble which plays lively and challenging music.  The first Symphonette rehearsal is on August 31.

CSA Sinfonia Directed by Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra conductor Linc Smelser, Sinfonia is a full youth orchestra, meeting in person for rehearsals on Wednesdays from 7 – 9:30 p.m. beginning September 1.  Sinfonia musicians play a wide variety of music and perform on the NIU Concert Hall stage twice each year.  Musicians ages 14 – 20 are admitted by audition and first-time members should call the NIU Community School to schedule an audition.

CSA Steelband Everyone is encouraged to experience the unique sound of the steel pan.  Directed by Yuko Asada, CSA Steelband welcomes members ages 12 – adult.  No previous experience on the instrument is needed, but it is recommended that students can read music.  The steel pan family ranges from soprano to bass, and each member chooses an instrument.  Ensemble members rehearse many types of music arranged for steel pan, including calypso, classical, rock, and rhythm and blues, and perform in concert several times during the year.  CSA Steelband meets for in-person rehearsals on Mondays from 6:30 – 7:25 p.m. in the NIU Music Building beginning on September 13.

Art Classes

Art Express Students ages 4 – 12 learn about art and the world as they create original arts and crafts.  Art Express meets in person at the NIU Art Building on Saturdays from 1 – 3 p.m. beginning September 18.  Taught by NIU art education students supervised by an NIU School of Art instructor, the curriculum is new every semester.  Classes are organized by age and limited in size – early registration is recommended for this popular activity.

The NIU Community School of the Arts is sponsored by the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Northern Illinois University.  More information, including the scholarship application form, class and ensemble descriptions, teacher biographies, safety protocols, and online registration can be found at or by calling (815) 753-1450 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

NIU School of Music well represented on Corn Fest Community Stage

NIU School of Music well represented on Corn Fest Community Stage

Several ensembles from the Northern Illinois University School of Music will be performing on the Community Stage at this year’s DeKalb Corn Fest. The Community Stage is located in the newly renovated (and air conditioned!) Egyptian Theatre. There is no entry fee and the concession stand and bar will be open.

Banda NIU is a new ensemble at NIU that honors the tradition of the great bandas of the western Mexican statae of Sinaloa. The most popular subgenre of regional Mexican music, Banda relies solely on an instrumentation of wind instruments (unlike Mariachi and Noteño) featuring brass, clarinets, percussion and singers. Banda NIU will kick off the Community Stage performances at 5 p.m., Friday, August 27 at 5 p.m.

NIU World Music Ensembles will perform at 2 p.m., Saturday, August 28.

The NIU Steelband plays at 12:30 p.m., Sunday, August 29, followed by Projeto Arcomusical at 1:15 p.m.

Here’s the full schedule of performances:

Friday, August 27, 2021
5:00 PM – Banda NIU
5:45 PM – Ovation Performing Arts Studio
6:30 PM – Jon Babin
7:15 PM – Huskie Hunks
8:00 PM – Jazz in Progress

Saturday, August 28, 2021
11:00 AM – Cohesion
11:45 AM – Stage Coach Players
12:30 PM – Sycamore/Rochelle Performing Arts Academy
1:15 PM – DeKalb High School Band
2:00 PM – NIU World Music Ensembles
2:45 PM – Dimensions Dance Academy
3:30 PM – CCT
4:15 PM – Ethan Larson
5:00 PM – Live Wire Brass

Sunday, August 29, 2021
11:00 AM – Kishwaukee River Boys Traditional Jazz Band
11:45 AM – Just For Kix DeKalb
12:30 PM – NIU Steelband
1:15 PM – Arcomusical
2:00 PM – Northern Illinois Dance Center
2:45 PM – Beth Fowler School of Dance
3:30 PM – NIU STEAM Demo Show