The Prairie Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Jim Tallman, will celebrate the ensemble’s 40th anniversary concert on Friday, May 11 at 7:30 pm in the Illinois Central College Performing Arts Center, located on the East Peoria Campus. The ensemble, in residence at ICC, will present this special concert featuring special C selections, former conductors, 2017-18 Earl Barnes Student Soloist Competition winner Amy Zhou and saxophone players from area high schools.
The PWE has a rich history owed to its founder, Conductor Emeritus Dr. Donald Lewellen, who created the ensemble in 1977. Lewellen led the ensemble until his retirement in 2003. Lewellen has written a selection, Legacy, which will be premiered during this milestone concert.
Other musical selections for this concert will include: The Blue Ridge and Skydance, both written by Roberts Sheldon; Song for Lindsay by Andrew Boysen, Jr. and Prairie Wind, which was written for the ensemble several years ago by Greg Sanders, along with other selections important to the PWE’s history. Student soloist Zhou will perform Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsody. In a total contrast, Root Beer Rag will feature several area high school saxophone players, offering a variety of music for everyone coming to the concert.
Tallman is in his 25th year at Washington Community High School, where he is director of bands, department chair for fine arts and a speech communication teacher. He performed with the Prairie Wind Ensemble before being selected as its sixth conductor.
Lewellen has continued to be active in the field of music. He was commissioned to write a composition celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Peoria Philharmonic Chorale. He has completed two string quartets and two compositions for concert band. In addition, working with noted composer and flutist Gary Shocker, Lewellen transcribed several of Shocker’s compositions for flute and various accompaniments into flute and concert band. Lewellen spends his summers in Chetek, Wisc., fishing, reading and tying flies. He enjoys missing the cold weather by spending time in Florida in the winter.
George Foeller, former assistant conductor, is professor emeritus of music at Illinois State University, where he was director of bands and assistant chairman of the music department. Prior to his appointment at ISU, he taught bands and instrumental music in the public schools of Connecticut and Texas. He spent several summers on the faculty of the Saskatchewan School of the Arts. He is co-author of the treatise Bands of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and has contributed to the Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music and several Austrian publications.
Robert Sheldon, former conductor, is an internationally recognized clinician. Sheldon has conducted numerous regional and all-state honor bands throughout the United States and abroad. His teaching career included 28 years in the Florida and Illinois public schools as well as at the University of Florida, Florida State University, Illinois Central College and Bradley University. He also held the position of conductor of the Alachua County Youth Orchestra in Gainesville, Fla. He maintains memberships in several organizations that promote music and music education. He is lead author for the Sound Innovations for Band method books and is a co-author for Volume 1 of the Measures of Success method book and the Sound Innovations for Strings method books.
Dr. Joseph Manfredo, former conductor, spent 40 years of teaching at various universities and high schools, before retiring in June 2017 from Illinois State University. In constant demand as a guest conductor, clinician and adjudicator, Manfredo has conducted various all-state bands and honor bands throughout the United States and Canada. His collegiate bands have been selected to perform at national, regional and state conferences. Since August 2011, he has been conductor of the festival band for the Leonard Falcone International Euphonium and Tuba Festival.
Amy Zhou, 2017-18 Earl Barnes Student Soloist winner, is a junior at Dunlap High School and is the daughter of Suyun Geng and Jianxun Zhou. She began playing the clarinet at Guilderland Elementary School in New York in 4th grade. She is very involved at school; not only is she in several clubs, but she is an AP Student and has a 4.0 grade point average. She first studied privately with Ruth Clark and currently is a student of Sherill Diepenbrock. Her band director at Dunlap Valley Middle School was Tina Holloway, and she is currently under the direction of Jill Potts and Jason Shea at Dunlap High School. Zhou performs with the Central Illinois Youth Symphony, the Central Illinois Clarinet Choir and is principal clarinet of the Dunlap Wind Ensemble. This year, she placed third in the Peoria Symphony Orchestra’s Young Artists competition and also has won the Central Illinois Youth Symphony Concerto Competition.
The membership of the Prairie Wind Ensemble represents many professional backgrounds. Approximately 70 percent of members are current or retired professional music educators. The remainder represent a diverse set of occupations including recording technician, nurse, educator, anesthesiologist, information technologist, electronics technician, engineer, attorney, homemaker, electrician, retail manager and project manager. Members travel weekly from Knoxville, Canton, Macomb, Bloomington, Normal, Peoria Heights, Washington, North Pekin, Marquette Heights, Avon, Morton, Cuba, Galesburg, Chillicothe, Dunlap, Glasford, Mapleton, Bartonville, Metamora, Germantown Hills, Marseilles, Farmington, Elmwood as well as Peoria, East Peoria and Morton to perform with the group.
The event is the final concert of the PWE’s 40th anniversary season.
The Prairie Wind Ensemble is supported as an in-residence ensemble by the Arts at ICC, which has a rich history of enhancing the arts community and expanding education beyond the classroom. Arts at ICC presents more than 500 exhibits, performances, lectures, rehearsals, meetings, master classes, clinics, seminars, receptions, orientations, forums, auditions and tournaments annually.
Tickets cost $10 for the general public and $8 for students and senior citizens. Children under 12 are free. Tickets may be purchased online at ArtsAtICC.com or through the ICC Performing Arts Center box office in person or by phone at (309) 694-5136. Tickets are sold in advance as well as at the door the day of the performance, subject to availability.
Additional information, pictures, contacts and updates about the PWE can be found at the group’s web site, prairiewindensemble.com. Additional information about the group is available from PWE board chair Katrina Fitzpatrick at firstname.lastname@example.org or publicity chair Elizabeth Lehnhausen Driscoll at email@example.com.