Meet the Pros...
Ramona M. Wis, Mimi Rolland Professor in the FineArts and professor of music is not only a renowned choral conductor of North Central’s Women’s Chorale, she’s also a published author and sought-after speaker. Her book, The Conductor as Leader: Principles of Leadership Applied to Life on the Podium, describes her belief that conducting is not a dictatorship but instead a collaborative effort that welcomes ideas from chorale members to achieve a successful performance.
Lawrence Van Oyen, associate professor of music and director of bands, has discovered a distinctive performance opportunity for the College’s Concert Winds. Every spring, the band plays a public concert that is designed for families who have children with autism or other developmental disabilities. It’s a rare chance for these families to attend a musical event where they are welcome and accommodated. “For this concert, there is a shift. It’s not about the musicians,” Van Oyen says.“It’s about the audience.”
Brian Lynch, fine arts director, brings a wealth of experience to every show he directs. Many of North Central’s best productions have been inspired by his direction and choreography, honed while touring nationally as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, and Rum Tum Tugger and other characters in Cats. He says of students arriving at North Central to study musical theatre: “Many are serious about pursuing this field as their profession. The quality of students we are attracting is amazing.”
Deborah Palmes, professor of theatre, loves the fact that many students participate in theatre solely for an artistic experience. “The goal of theatre at North Central is to make the process memorable and create a collaborative community while also pleasing the audience,” she says. “Theatre is something that enriches you, which is an important part of a liberal arts experience.”
Thanks to Associate Professor of Art Barry Skurkis, North Central art students display their work each year at the Paramount Theatre Art Gallery in Aurora, IL as part of an “Aspiring Artists” series. “This exhibition is a learning experience to help them prepare for a professional exhibit,” said Skurkis. “Each student goes through a competitive jury process with the College’s art faculty.” Skurkis shares the knowledge he’s gained from involvement in international competitions and through exhibiting his own art nationally and in the Chicago area.
Janice Borla, visiting lecturer of jazz studies, founded the Janice Borla Vocal Jazz Camp at North Central and the annual “Hot Jazz – 6 Cool Nites” Concert Series, cited by Jazziz Magazine as “one of the most innovative and dynamic summer jazz educational programs in the country.” Janice’s current CD, “Agents of Change,” was named “The No. 1 Jazz CD of the Year” by WBEZ-FM Chicago Public Radio. She has performed as a guest artist and clinician at high schools, colleges and festivals throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.