Nathan Irwin

Program Director

Nathan Irwin has been WCBU’ s Program Director since 2001. Prior to that, he was a talk-show producer and announcer for New Hampshire Public Radio. His first radio job was KFJM-FM in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He grew up in upstate New York, Wisconsin and Karachi, Pakistan. He graduated from the University of North Dakota with a degree in political science.

Outside the studios, Nathan spends most of his time as an actor and singer. He has performed with Corn Stock Theatre, Peoria Players and the Bradley Community Chorus.

Ways to Connect

Corn Stock Theatre

This week, we're talking about "Of Mice and Men" with director Paul Gordon, and actor Chris Peterlin. The production opens Friday, February 12th at the Corn Stock Winter Playhouse. Gordon, who describes himself as a fan of author John Steinbeck, says he eagerly accepted the opportunity to direct this play. Peterlin , who plays Lennie in the show, is returning to community theatre after a long absence for this production. He talks about how he approached the challenging role.

Peoria Riverfront Museum

Kristan McKinsey from the Peoria Riverfront Museum joins us to talk about the exhibit, "Stitched for Pleasure and Purpose: Quilts and Samplers." The quilts are drawn from the museum's permanent collection, and span the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We talk about the history of quilting in America, and its functions -- both practical and social.

"Stitched for Pleasure and Purpose" continues through March 20th at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

Contemporary Art Center

This week, we're talking with the Contemporary Art Center's William Butler, and with artist Larry Jon Davis. Davis is one of two artists featured in the exhibit "Inspired by Nature." Davis' works have been described as "earthscapes" -- abstract, impressionistic images inspired by the natural world. In this exhibit, his work is paired with sculptures by Dwight Crane. Butler talks about the process of selecting artists in the CAC's exhibits, and finding the best way to display their work in the Center's gallery space.

The Penguin Project

This week, we're talking with Andrew Morgan, from The Penguin Project. He's directing their 2016 production, "Singin' in the Rain, Jr." The Penguin Project aims to provide opportunities for children with special needs to participate in the performing arts. It's now expanded, with a program for older performers at Illinois Central College, and similar productions around the country. Morgan talks about those developments, and about the unique mission of The Penguin Project.

Performances are Friday night through Sunday afternoon at Eastlight Theatre in East Peoria High School.

Heartland Festival Orchestra

This week, we're talking with David Commanday, Music Director of the Heartland Festival Orchestra. The HFO kicks off the new year with a concert called "New Year's Greeting - Broadway Rhythm." Broadway performers Bev and Kirby Ward will be featured in selections from the Great American Songbook. We talk about the repertoire in the concert, the parallels between American musical theatre and Viennese waltzes, and about the orchestra's community partners -- Crittendon Centers.

The concert is Saturday night at 7:30 at Five Points Washington.

Peoria Area Civic Chorale

This week, we're talking with Dr. Joseph Henry, conductor of the Peoria Area Civic Chorale. They're presenting their holiday concert, "An American Family Christmas" this weekend at Five Points Washington. We talk about the Chorale's repertoire of sacred and secular works -- including John Rutter's "Gloria." We also talk about the history and development of the concert, the rehearsal process, and Henry's recent return to PACC after a few years' sabbatical.

Performances are tonight, tomorrow night, and Sunday afternoon.

Central Illinois Ballet

This week, we're talking with Richard Smith and Brett Benedict of the Central Illinois Ballet. The company is in its debut season, and they're presenting two performances of the holiday classic, "The Nutcracker." We talk a little bit about the new company, and about finding a distinctive "take" on a work that's performed so often. We also ask how dancers feel about performing "The Nutcracker" so frequently.

Performances are Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. at the ICC Performing Arts Center in East Peoria.

This week, we're talking with Shawn Degenhart, from GospelFest Ministries. They're presenting a holiday concert, "Christmas in the Country." Degenhart talks about gospel music as a genre, how it differs from other choral traditions, and some of the works in the program. He also talks about being able to make the concert free of charge for the first time this year. The performance is Saturday night at 7:00 at Five Points Washington.

We're joined this week by John Jost, conductor of the Bradley Community Chorus, and Bradley Symphony Orchestra conductor Tim Semanik. They're both conducting this weekend's concert, which features Mozart's "Mass in C" and Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Dona Nobis Pacem." They talk about the contrasting moods of the two selections -- the Mozart is a boisterous, joyful work; the Vaughan Williams is more solemn. They also talk a little about the process of rehearsing the two ensembles separately, before joining them in the final few rehearsals.

Kristan McKinsey is our guest this week, talking about the exhibit, "Making Their Mark: Illinois Women Artists, 1940-1960" at the Peoria Riverfront Musuem. We talk about the significance of that era in women's history, about the work of the featured artists, and teh legacy they left for the artists who followed in their footsteps. The exhibit runs through January 17th.

This week, we're talking with Scott Kanoff, from the Bradley Theatre Department, about their production of "High Fidelity." The musical is an adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel (and the subsequent film), and features a score that draws inspiration from several decades of rock and pop music. Kanoff talks about some of the music featured in the show. He also talks about introducing his students -- raised in a world of iTunes and Spotify -- to vinyl LPs.

Performances of "High Fidelity" continue Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon at the Hartmann Center on the Bradley campus.

This week, we're with Artistic Director David Commanday, and soloist Michael Brown, talking about Saturday's concert with the Heartland Festival Orchestra, which features an all-Beethoven program. They share a few thoughts about some of the works on the program -- including the Piano Concerto no. 3 and the Seventh Symphony, about how they approach Beethoven's compositions, and about the composer's distinctive style.

George Stelluto, Music Director of the Peoria Symphony, is with us this week to talk about the orchestra's upcoming concert. It features a performance by Tony and Grammy Award winner Audra McDonald. Stelluto talks about the logistics of finding artists for the PSO's World Artist series, about the repertoire that will be featured on the program, and about McDonald's unique artistry. The concert is Saturday night at 8:00 at the Peoria Civic Center Theatre.

The musical “The Addams Family” is based on the familiar presents a new story with familiar characters dating back to the 1920s. Stan Strickler reviews a production now on stage at Peoria Players Theatre, for Peoria Public Radio and the Live Theatre League of Peoria. Opinions expressed are those of the reviewer, not those of Peoria Public Radio or the Live Theatre League.

Springdale Cemetery

On this first weekend of autumn, Nathan and Jenn invite Charles Brown into the studio for a preview of the upcoming historic Springdale Cemetery tours. Brown, a performer with Prairie Folklore Theatre , says this year's tour will focus on the contributions of Peoria's Jewish families. 


This week, we have another look at "Making Their Mark by Illinois Women Artists." We also preview the Peoria Riverfront Museum's "Gypsy Coeds Ride the Silver Streak," which has beautiful works that include quilts that have never been seen before.

We're talking with Cathi Hawkinson about the Peoria Art Guild's Fine Art Fair. The annual event returns to the Peoria Riverfront Saturday and Sunday, with 150 participating artists. We talk about the reach of the event, which now draws artists from 25 different states, and two from outside the U. S. We also talk about some of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into organizing the fair each year, and about the event's economic impact on the Peoria area.

The Fine Art Fair runs Saturday and Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day.

For this week’s Hidden Treasures we explore several different artists. The first is Gerda Meyer Bernstein with "Marginalized" at the Hartmann Gallery. Then we go to the Studios on Sheridan to see "ME," an exhibition of self-portraits. Lastly, we talk about "Making Their Mark by Illinois Women Artists from 1940-1960."

This week, we're talking with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra's George Stelluto, and with violinist Charles Yang, who performs with the PSO in their upcoming concert. They talk about some of the pieces on the program, which includes music from John Corigliano's "The Red Violin" and a piece by Edward Jospeh Collins inspired by Mardi Gras. They also talk about some of Yang's appearances and activities, in conjunction with the PSO's Resident Artist Week initiative.

The concert will be presented Saturday night at 8:00 at the Peoria Civic Center Theatre.

We preview two more upcoming art exhibits this week. First, at the Peoria Art Guild, we look at works by Joy Christiansen Erb and Trina Perry Carlson. These works are from the brilliant minds of a photographer and a mixed media artist. Then, we see "Postcards for Barbara" at the Prairie Center of the Arts.

This week, we're talking with Jack Mertes, author of the new play, "The Springfield Experiment." It explores a chapter in the life of Mary Todd Lincoln, who had been committed to an asylum and sought to regain both her autonomy and control of her finances. Mertes talks about about why he chose this particular moment in Lincoln's life to dramatize, about the long process that led to this production, and what he hopes audiences will learn about Mary Todd Lincoln. The play will be presented Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 at the Inspired Arts Academy in Morton.

Peoria Fiber Arts Guild

Autumn on the Prairie: This week, we look at two more upcoming exhibits. Works by the Prairie Fiber Guild will be shown at the Peoria Library Art Gallery this October. Then we find ourselves at the Exibit A Gallery in October for "Double Vision: Hiram Torrasson and Rick Melby."

Heartland Festival Orchestra

David Commanday, Music Director of the Heartland Festival Orchestra, is with us to talk about the orchestra's concert on Saturday. The performance features return appearances by Nick Cannelakis and Elena Urioste, who team up to perform the Brahms Double Concerto. We talk about the soloists, the Double Concerto itself , and the orchestra's featured community partner for this concert.

We travel to the Exhibit A Gallery to find paintings by Don Kettleborough. Then we find ourselves looking into the Heuser Gallery to look at Envisioned Worlds: Lithographs from the Hokes Archives. Both are great opportunities to look into the local art scene.

John Martin is with us, to talk about about Erin Feis. The annual Irish festival is back, and runs Friday through Sunday along the Peoria Riverfront. He says that music is the highlight of the event, and talks about about the work that goes into finding all the featured performers, and scheduling them among multiple performance stages. He also talks about some of the festival's cultural programming.

Corn Stock Theatre closes its summer season with the regional premiere of “The Color Purple.” It’s a musical adaptation of the best-selling novel. Stan Strickler has this review of a production at Corn Stock Theatre, for Peoria Public Radio and the Live Theatre League of Peoria.

Opinions expressed are those of the reviewer, not those of Peoria Public Radio or the Live Theatre League.

There are several beautiful pieces at the Contemporary Art Center. First we hear about Got Jazz, Fiber Artists Coalition, and  we learn about sculpture by Barbara Cooper. Both can be seen at the Contemporary Art Center September through October.

Corn Stock Theatre

This week, we talk Molly Burroughs and Sharon Reed, the co-directors of the musical "The Color Purple" at Corn Stock Theatre. The musical is an adaptation of the novel and motion picture. They talk about why they chose this production in particular, and what they saw in its story and its music. The show features an entirely African-American cast and a racially diverse crew - things they think are important in local community theatre.

This week’s Hidden Treasures takes us to the Foster Art Gallery at the First United Methodist Church.  Here we will find works by Sherri Burritt & Florence Gaffney.  Then traveling to the Heuser Gallery we find Painting by Michiko Itatani.

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