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Community School of the Arts announces classes, lessons, ensembles for springtime learning, fun

January 4, 2011

Community School of the Arts: Art ExpressRegistration is open for the spring semester of lessons, classes, and ensembles at the NIU Community School of the Arts. Information is available online and by mail. Programs are available for children and adults and most activities begin in late January or early February.

The NIU Community School of the Arts is sponsored by the College of Visual and Performing Arts. There are about 80 teachers offering lessons on most musical instruments, as well as in art and theater. Teachers are NIU faculty, community artists and NIU students. 

More than 400 people from nearly 50 towns and cities travel to DeKalb each semester for lessons and classes.


Traditional private music lessons, taught on a weekly basis, are available on all instruments for people of all ages. Private lessons are also available in art and theatre. Music lessons using the Suzuki approach are available on violin piano, cello, and guitar for young children. The Suzuki approach combines private and group lessons.

Adult Classes in Guitar, Piano and Music Theory

Group Piano for Adults: Adult classes in piano for both beginners and intermediate players ages 18 and older are taught on Monday evenings. These 12-week classes are taught by Susan Breitner-Hurm.

Guitar Basics: Guitar classes for ages 13 and older meet on 12 Wednesday evenings and are taught by Quentin Dover. Students gain a working knowledge of the instrument.

Paper Free Music Theory: Musicians interested in improving their reading, memorization, and improvisation skills will enjoy this low-key theory class. Eric Schroeder teaches the class on 12 Monday evenings.

Music Classes for Young Children

There are several options for small children to get a head start on a lifetime of musical enjoyment. 

Prelude and Development: Two classes meet for 12 weeks on Saturday mornings. Prelude is for ages 1 to 3 and Development is for ages 3 to 5. These classes offer a wide array of musical activities that build skills in rhythm, dynamics and musical patterns. Both classes are taught by Laurie Rodriguez.

Musical Tales: Beginning this spring on Tuesday evenings is a class taught by Sara Vogeler. The class combines the reading of classic children’s books with music for a delightful mix of activities that include finger play, action poems and rhythm games. This class is for ages 3 to 5 and is taught in two six-week sections.

Classes for Older Children

Theatre Boot Camp meets for three Saturdays in January and is for dramatic youngsters ages 8 to 14. The class is taught by Alice Pacyga, who provides a broad overview of theater techniques in this action-packed class.

Guitar Basics for ages 9 to 12 teaches beginners how to read music, play songs and construct and play scales and chords. The class meets on Wednesday for 12 weeks.

Art Express is a popular class that meets on five Saturday afternoons. Students ages 4 – 12 enjoy a wide variety of interesting art projects taught by NIU art education students. 


Ensemble playing is a great way to consolidate musical skills and, at the same time, have fun with others.

CSA Symphonette is a string ensemble for ages 8 to 16. The ensemble is directed by Linc Smelser and meets on Tuesdays for 12 weeks. 

CSA Sinfonia is a full orchestra for high school age students ages 14 to 20. This group is directed by Linc Smelser and meets for 14 weeks on Wednesdays. Players are expected to audition; call the office at (815) 753-1450 to ask about openings and to arrange a time.

CSJazz Band is a high school age jazz band for ages 14 to 20. The ensemble is directed by Donnie Norton and meets on 13 Sunday evenings. Players are expected to audition; call the office to ask about openings and to arrange a time.

CSA Children’s Choir is for children ages 8 to 13 who love to sing. The group is directed by May Lynn Doherty and meets on 13 Wednesdays. Placement auditions are scheduled for new students on January 12 and 19. Call the office to set up a time.

CSA String Quartet is a new ensemble for string players between the ages of 10 to 18. Players may be individuals interested in joining a group or members of a pre-existing group. Call the office for more information. Laurie Rodriguez directs the groups, which meet on Thursday evenings for seven rehearsals.

Bring A Friend Day. The children’s choir and both orchestras welcome interested students to join the group for an open, free rehearsal early in the semester. The dates are Wednesday, Jan. 26, for CSA Sinfonia; Wednesday, Feb. 9, for CSA Children’s Choir; and Tuesday, Feb. 15, for CSA Symphonette.

Financial aid is available for students 18 years old and younger who want to pursue their study of the arts but who cannot afford the cost. Applications are available online and by calling the office. The application deadline for financial aid for spring semester is Monday, Jan. 10.

More complete course descriptions, biographies of teachers and both the scholarship application form and the registration form can be found online at or call (815) 753-1450. The NIU Community School of the Arts is located in Room 132 of the Music Building.