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Community can learn art, music, theater at NIU

July 31, 2013

Community School of the ArtsRegistration is open for the fall semester at the NIU Community School of the Arts, sponsored by the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

The community school offers year-round programming, with 80 teachers and 400 students who come from 50 towns and cities for classes, lessons and ensembles. Programs for children and adults begin in September.

For more information, call (815) 753-1450 or visit Room 132 of the NIU Music Building.


Financial aid is available for students 18 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 deadline for the fall semester is Monday, Aug. 22.


Traditional private music lessons are taught on a weekly basis and are available on all instruments. Private lessons are also available in art and theater. Music lessons using the Suzuki approach (combining private and group lessons) for young children are taught on violin, cello, piano and guitar.

Lessons are taught in the NIU Music Building on a weekly basis. Participating students are invited to participate in recitals at the end of each semester. Lessons begin the week of Sept. 2.


Prelude is a group music class with singing, dancing, and rhythm and music games for toddlers ages 1 to 3. It is taught by Laurie Rodriguez and meets from 10 to 10:30 a.m. Saturdays. The class begins Sept. 7 and meets for 12 weeks.

Development is for children ages 3 to 5 and continues with the activities of the Prelude Class, with some demonstrations of music instruments. The class meets from 10:35 to 11:05 a.m. Saturdays. Taught by Laurie Rodriguez, the class begins Sept. 7 and meets for 12 weeks.

Piano Starter for Children meets from 4 to 4:40 p.m. Tuesdays. This small group class is limited to four children ages 5 – 7 and is ideal as a beginning class for children who might begin private lessons in the future. It is taught by Barbara Wirz-Ellsworth and meets for 12 weeks beginning on September 10.


Guitar Basics is taught Wednesday evenings by Quentin Dover. Section 1 is ages 9 to 12 and is from 6 to 6:55 p.m. Section 2 is for ages 13 and older and is from 7 to 7:55 p.m. The class begins Sept. 1 and meets for 12 weeks.

Square One Piano and Piano Forte are for ages 13 to adult. The classes meet Mondays, beginning Sept. 9. Square One Piano meets from 6:15 to 7:10 p.m. and is for beginners. Piano Forte meets from 7:15 to 8:10 p.m. and is for intermediate players.


Musicians often enjoy an ensemble experience as a way to share a love of music with others. The community school offers seven ensembles in fall. Some are for young musicians and some are for older children and adults. A recital is scheduled for every ensemble at the end of the semester.

CSA Sprites is a new ensemble for string players ages 6 and older. The group meets from 5 to 5:55 p.m. Tuesdays, beginning Sept. 24. Director Tom Cappaert works with members on reading and musicianship skills. The group plays many different types of music, from classical to blues to tango.

CSA Symphonette is a string orchestra for ages 8 to 16 that rehearses from 4:45 to 5:55 p.m. Tuesdays. Designed for early readers, this group plays lively and challenging music and performs twice during the year. It is directed by Linc Smelser. The first rehearsal is Sept. 24.

Smelser also directs CSA Sinfonia. This full orchestra for ages 14 to 20 meets from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays, beginning Sept. 4. This high-level regional orchestra plays a wide variety of music and performs three times during the year. Call to ask about openings; this is an audition-only ensemble.

NIUkulele Ensemble is a fun ensemble for beginning and intermediate ukulele players ages 9 to adult. The group is directed by guitar teacher Eric Schroeder. Beginners receive instruction; intermediate players are given more complicated parts to play. All types of ukuleles are welcome, but everyone must have an instrument. The group meets from 7:30 to 8:25 p.m. Mondays, beginning Sept. 16.

CSA Guitar Ensemble meets from 8 to 8:55 p.m. Wednesdays and is directed by Quentin Dover. Designed for beginning and intermediate players ages 14 to adult, the group works on building confidence and skill on the instrument. The first rehearsal is Sept. 11.

CSA Steelband is a great way for people to become familiar with an instrument with a unique sound. The group is directed by Yuko Asada and is for ages 14 to adult. The steelpan family ranges from soprano to bass and each student chooses an instrument. The group plays many types of music, including calypso, classical, rock, and rhythm and blues. The group rehearses from 6:30 to 7:25 p.m. Mondays, beginning Sept. 16. No previous experience on the instrument is needed, but it is recommended that students be able to read music.

CSA Children’s Choir rehearses from 4:45 to 6:15 p.m. Wednesdays, beginning Sept. 11. Mary Lynn Doherty is the director. Placement auditions are held Wednesday, Sept. 4, and are required for all members; call the office at (815) 753-1450 to arrange a time. The chorus rehearses challenging and varied repertoire from all over the world. Children develop sight-reading and musicianship skills.


Art Express is for ages 4 to 12 and meets from 1 to 3 p.m. for six Saturdays, beginning Sept. 21. Students learn more about art and the world as they create original artwork. Teachers are art education students supervised by a School of Art instructor. The curriculum is new every semester and the classes are organized by age and limited in size.

Creating Comics is taught by NIU School of Art graduate Nathan Crocker. Students ages 8 to 13 learn to develop their own characters, to tell a story with pictures and words, and to express action with drawings. The class meets from 4:15 to 5:45 p.m. for four Thursdays,  beginning Sept. 19.


Sketch Improv with Masks is for children ages 6 to 10 who enjoy play-acting. At the first class, each student creates a mask that becomes the basis for a new character in a play created by the group. The class is based on a type of theater called “Sketch Theater” and is a great way for children to stretch the imagination and learn to improvise. The class is taught by experienced theater teacher Stepher Eng and meets for from 10:30 a.m. to noon for six Saturdays, beginning Oct. 19.