Champaign's mayor now has a distinction shared by the late rock and roll singer turned U.S. Congressman Sonny Bono, the President of Haiti, and a leader of the band Midnight Oil.
MTV just came out with this list of the top five musicians with political credentials. At number five is Champaign Mayor Don Gerard, who had a 20-year tenure as a rock and roll artist. He performed with LeRoy Bach, who went on to play with Wilco, Liz Phair, and Iron & Wine.
Gerard was also in the 90's band 'Steve Pride and his Blood Kin' with former Wilco member, the late Jay Bennett. Gerard was also a founding member of the local band 'The Moon Seven Times.'
"At the time, it was a completely different landscape," he said. "I think for the most part we really wanted to make music, put gas in our van, have a couple of beers, meet some girls, and maybe you know, put out a record and sell a thousand copies. Back in the day, it was kind of innocent."
Gerard credits his music career for propelling him into public office.
"Politics is a lot like being in an independent band," he said. "You're trying to do your best. You're trying to put something out there that people are going to like, and you get out and try to promote it and spread the word, and try not to screw up."
You will no doubt be hearing a lot of "The Star Spangled Banner " during Fourth of July parades and ceremonies. For some people, it is the sound track of national loyalty. But one small private college in North Central Indiana is pulling the national anthem from its sporting events. It says the anthem does not fit its religious outlook. As Illinois Public Radio's Michael Puente reports, critics of that decision are calling the college unpatriotic.
Warren York was a plumber by trade, but audiences in Champaign knew him as a self-taught musician. For nearly 20 years, York entertained audiences at the city's Virginia Theater. After restoring the Wurlitzer in the old vaudeville house, he played in between movies at Roger Ebert's annual film festival, and during other events.
In a 2006 interview with WILL, York talked about his efforts to care for the organ.
"In some instances, when you've got a pretty good sized organ, it may take a year or so to rebuild it," York said. "But this one (the Virginia's) we like to keep in their (audiences) ears a little bit."
Longtime Virginia theater manager Leonard Doyle says the man's talents never ceased to amaze him.
"The notes and everything were in his head," Doyle said. "He played with no music, and somebody would ask him to play a piece of some sort, and he knew it. But he was a tremendous organist, and Warren is going to be very much missed in the community."
A series of health problems forced York to quit playing the organ in 2009. He passed away Monday morning at the Illiana Health Care system in Danville. York was 73. Graveside services are Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Clements Cemetery in Urbana.
There's already an effort underway to honor Warren York, benefiting the ongoing restoration of the organ. Donations may be made to the Warren York restoration fund at the Champaign Park District.
For nearly 150 years, a largely black private university in Nashville has prided itself on its liberal arts studies and its music. Vocal ensembles at Fisk University have been there about as long as the campus itself, but as Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert reports for NPR, the songs performed there could have sounded very different if it had not been for the efforts of one of the school's first music directors.
A longtime instructor of a course on The Beatles has greatly boosted his student base... and popularity... via the web. University of Illinois at Springfield Communication and Liberal Studies professor Michael Cheney has taken his love for the Fab Four and condensed it into a series of on-line lectures. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talked with Cheney about his Beatles course, and a podcast that's drawing fans worldwide.
The Art Theatre in Champaign will roll out a new series this month with an emphasis on the performing arts.
The theater is teaming up with the digital film company, Emerging Pictures, to feature operas, ballets, and Shakespearean plays in High Definition and surround sound. The first selection in the series is this weekend's presentation of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, recorded from London's Globe Theatre. Sanford Hess, the operator at the Art Theatre, said he hopes the showings will offer audience members a close representation of what it is like to see a live performance.
"You get close-ups of the performers that you would never get when you're sitting in the theatre," he said. "At the same time you still get that kind of communal experience of watching it with many other people who are also opera lovers or who love to see ballet."
Hess said he plans to invite speakers to give a presentation before each showing to provide some background about the stories and help explain the staging of each production.
"With the Shakespeare (plays), I think it's not so much the story that you need, but sometimes it's fascinating to know the historical context that some of the plays take place in," he explained. "I know Richard III has been staged in sort of World War II time frame. So, they're trying to make a point and have somebody give some context before you start; it's great."
Ticket prices for operas will be set at $20 for adults, and $18 for children, students, and senior citizens. All Shakespearean plays and ballets will be priced at $15 for adults and $13.50 for children, students, and senior citizens. Audience members can get discounted rates by purchasing a three-show package. The 2011 Winter/Spring season starts next month with a free showing of Verdi's Aidia on January 1st and 2nd.
Hess said the Art Theatre also plans to start showing digitized classic films early next year with works by British director Alfred Hitchcock, Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, and filmmakers from the French New Wave movement.
This week marks the anniversary of one of the largest efforts to raise money for the nation's farmers, who in 1985 were battling lower land values and higher interest rates. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers looks at how this benefit concert has helped small family farms in the last 25 years.
Twenty five years ago this week, the Champaign area was all about Farm Aid. The 12-hour event in Champaign, Illinois featured more than 40 acts, including organizers Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young. It drew in more than $9 million dollars to help the nation's struggling farmers. But beyond raising money, Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports that the concert helped shed light on the challenges facing farmers in the 1980s.
Dan Fogelberg will long be remembered for songs like 'Longer' and 'Same Old Lang Syne', but a few years before he wrote and recorded those hits, he was a student at the University of Illinois, attracting crowds to a local coffeehouse. The Peoria native died Sunday at the age of 56. AM 580's Jeff Bossert talked with one of Fogelberg's earliest collaborators.
A century-old barn in Allerton Park will be the home of a new sonic experience for central Illinois. The Allerton Music Barn festival opens for the very first time in Monticello. The festival will feature five performances ranging from American classical to Balinese gamelan. AM 580's Michael Koliska has the first sound check of the new venue.