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Immersive classical performances.

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American composer Julia Wolfe has won one of the biggest windfalls in the arts world. She is one of this year's MacArthur Fellows, recipients of the so-called "genius grants" given to a wide range of talented figures from the arts, humanities, sciences and social services. The 2016 class of fellows was announced early Thursday morning.

When you think of an orchestra, you're probably picturing refined woodwinds, brass, and strings. But one ensemble I recently met is made up mostly of kids who play instruments made out of literal trash. This is the Recycled Orchestra from Cateura, Paraguay, and their group is the subject of a new documentary film.

Alastair Willis
alastairwillis.com

Join UIS Ethnomusicology Professor Yona Stamatis Wednesdays, 8-10 PM streaming here and broadcast on  NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS to listen to the Illinois Symphony Orchestra under Maestro Alastair Willis recorded live in concert last season. 

Derek Gripper was a musician with a problem. He'd been playing classical music since he was 6 years old — violin, then piano and finally guitar. He was poised for an international career as a classical guitarist. But he remembers going to the homeland of one of his favorite composers, Johann Sebastian Bach.

"It felt kind of strange," he says. "It felt strange to be in Germany playing Bach to them."

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.


As a 16-year-old, Pretty Yende was sitting with her parents in their rural South African home watching TV when a British Airways ad came on. As the sweet music swelled and voices intertwined, Yende was mesmerized. The only problem: She had no idea what to call the beautiful music she'd just heard.

Live at the Suggs: Sandeep Das

Oct 10, 2014
Sandeep Das playing tabla
Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

A tabla virtuoso is in Springfield. Sandeep Das has worked with greats like Yo-Yo Ma and Ravi Shankar. He will play with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, headed by Alastair Willis, on Saturday (CLICK HERE for more info.)

In this interview, UIS ethnomusicology professor Yona Stamatis speaks with Maestro Willis about the concert, called 'Beethoven Meets the Silk Road': 

Why Aren't Composers Writing More Symphonies Today?

Sep 17, 2013

At 8 years old, I scrawled my first and last Symphonies — nos. 1, 2, and 3 — on ruled notebook paper. They were short duets for clarinet and trumpet for myself and my brother to play. Why did I call them symphonies? I can't remember, but I suspect that it was a desire to tie these efforts — and me, by extension — to a grand and venerable tradition.

There are a lot of operas that end with heroines on their deathbeds, singing one glorious aria before they die. That's what happens at the end of Anna Nicole, the controversial new work that New York City Opera is presenting at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in September. But the company's artistic director and general manager, George Steel, says it could also be City Opera's last gasp.

Soundscapes In C, In Winter And In Alaska

Sep 17, 2013
Nicolas Kendall
Randy Eccles / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Violinist Nicolas Kendall, of the East Coast Chamber Orchestra (ECCO) and Time for Three, peforms at the WUIS Suggs Performance Studio previewing his guest role with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra.

Rhett Barnwell
Randy Eccles / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Harpist Rhett Barnwell joined Karl Scroggin to discuss music therapy and the Chiara Center's harp retreat weekend.

Prairieland Voices
Randy Eccles / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Marion van der Loo directs this preview performance before their holiday performance this weekend.

Jason Vieaux & Lidia Kaminska
Randy Eccles / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

A live performance by Jason Vieaux & Lidia Kaminska on Classics with Karl Scroggin from November 11, 2010.

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