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Thursday, May 4, 2017 12:01 am

Movie magic plus a minor in music

The ever-growing UIS Orchestra will perform movie music this Sunday at Sangamon Auditorium.
Photos by Clay Stalter Courtesy University of Illinois at Springfield


A special concert by the UIS Orchestra this Sunday at 3 p.m. at Sangamon Auditorium will also act as a sort of coming-out party for exciting changes to the university’s music program.

“We are starting an annual tradition,” said Yona Stamatis, director of the UIS Orchestra. “The plan is to have an orchestra concert every year that is half concert and half info session for high school students and their parents and anybody else interested in the UIS music program.”

The theme of this weekend’s concert is film music, with the orchestra interpreting crowd-pleasing themes from Star Wars, The Pink Panther and several iconic James Bond films. There will also be an unaccompanied performance from pianist Miaomiao Liu, winner of the music program’s recent solo competition, playing the “Warsaw Concerto,” a gorgeous and well-known  piece originally from Dangerous Moonlight, a British film from 1941. There will also be a movie trivia quiz during the intermission along with “some other neat little surprises in store,” according to Stamatis. After the performance, there will be a reception with refreshments and a presentation regarding the changes underway in the UIS music program.

This is the first year that the program has offered a minor degree in music and response has been positive. They offer a total of 16 $10,000-per-year Camerata scholarships, which cover in-state tuition. In addition to the Camerata, the music program offers several smaller scholarships in the range of $1,000.

The Camerata scholarship began four years ago, according to Abigail Walsh, who runs that program. “The intention of the Camerata is for students to perform around campus and outside of campus at various events,” she explained. Camerata students perform in small chamber groups five or six times each semester. “It’s been exciting coaching this group for the past four years,” said Walsh, who is also the department’s applied music specialist, directs the pep band and will begin teaching flute next semester. “We have been in the process of interviewing a whole slew of new adjunct instructors for various instruments and this fall we will be offering individual instrumental lessons,” she said. This new group of instructors will largely be made up of doctoral music students from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, along with people from the local community. “All of them are at a very high level,” Walsh said.

Yona Stamatis, director of the UIS Orchestra
“It’s a huge step forward,” enthused Stamatis, who, in addition to directing the UIS Orchestra, teaches ethnomusicology at the university, plays violin in the Illinois Symphony Orchestra and other area ensembles and hosts the NPR Illinois special broadcasts of the ISO’s performances. “We have several performance ensembles – orchestra, band, chorus – but without the help of individual instruction it’s hard because you’re trying to teach each student their individual instrument while also coaching the group.” With the addition of the new instructors, it will be much easier to address the needs of each individual student, from beginners who would like to learn an instrument, to people who may not have played for a while and need to brush up, to more advanced students who wish to keep honing their skills.

“When musicians who have studied all their lives are looking at colleges,” Stamatis continued, “one of the first things they want to know is who they will be studying with. And until now, the answer here was, nobody.  So having all these new instructors is an unbelievable recruiting tool.”

The department’s various performing groups – including the orchestra, band and chorus – are  open to the community as well as students, with the orchestra currently comprised of about half community members, having grown from between eight to ten people to almost 50 over the past few years with the addition of musicians from the area, according to Walsh.

“That is something we really cherish,” said Stamatis. “It grows our groups and helps us feel connected to people.”  

Scott Faingold can be reached at sfaingold@illinoistimes.com


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