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

Peoria Symphony Orchestra

This week, we're talked with young pianist Harmony Zhu, and with George Stelluto, Music Director of the Peoria Symphony Orchestra. Zhu is the featured soloist in the PSO's upcoming concert, which features the works of three musical prodigies -- Mozart. Mendelssohn, and Beethoven. Zhu offers us a look inside the life of a young performer. Stelluto talks about how he became aware of her, and invited her to perform with the PSO.

The Peoria Symphony Orchestra's concert, "Prodigies," will be performed tomorrow night at 8:00 at Grace Presbyetrian Church in Peoria.

This week, we're talking with David Commanday, Artistic Director of the Heartland Festival Orchestra. Their next concert, "Mozart's Masterpieces," is tomorrow night at 7:30 at Five Points Washington. The program includes two pieces by Mozart, accompanied by works of Luigi Boccherini and Giovanni Paisiello. Commanday talks about the works in the concert, about pairing Mozart with his two contemporaries, and about the orchestra's community partner for this concert.


This week, we're speaking with two local artists and preservationists who are turning a historic Peoria church into an international art destination. 

Natalia Villanueva and Earl Power Murphy purchased the aging Hale Memorial Church on High St., with hopes of converting it into an interactive art space and destination for artists around the world to do residencies. Their non-profit Yaku, which means "water" in Quechua, aims to serve as a bridge that connects people of different cultures through art. 

Bradley University Theatre

Our guest this week is Scott Knoff, who's directing "Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play" at Bradley University. The play features three retellings of an episode of "The Simpsons:" as a tale told around a campfire, again as a performance by a group of re-enactors, and finally as a grand opera. Kanoff says the play is an exploration of the act of storytelling and the function stories have in a our culture. He also talks about some of the "table work" the company did in its preparation, and about audience response to the show's opening weekend.

Peoria Art Guild

This week, we're joined by Cathi Hawkinson and Ardelle Wright, from the Peoria Art Guild's Fine Art Fair. This year's fair includes 150 participating artists, along with food vendors, live music and other activities. We talk about two of the spotlight artists, and how they were recruited; the economic impact the fair has on the community; and some of the logistical and behind-the-scenes work that goes into organizing the event each year.

The Fine Art Fair runs tomorrow and Sunday, from 10 to 5 each day, on the Peoria Riverfront.

Peoria Symphony Orchestra

This week, we're on the phone with jazz legend Ramsey Lewis. The Peoria Symphony Orchestra kicks off its new season in a concert with the Ramsey Lewis Trio this weekend. The program includes jazz standards, and Lewis' own "Concerto for Jazz Trio" and orchestra. Lewis talks about the genesis of his piece, which was first written for the Joffrey Ballet. He also connects the work to the improvisational traditions of the Baroque era, and reflects on the state of jazz today.

David Commanday is with us this week, talking about the first concert in the Heartland Festival Orchestra's upcoming concert. Their eighth season opens, fittingly, with a performance of Beethoven's Symphony no. 8. The orchestra is also joined by violinist Rachel Barton Pine in Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D. Commanday talks about both of those pieces, about some of the events Barton Pine will be presenting ahead of the concert, and about the orchestra's featured community partner, the Community Workshop and Training Center.

This week, we're talking Jack Manis, about the Peoria Blues and Heritage Music Festival. The Festival is even bigger than in past years -- and features a new name, as well. Manis talks about some of the musicians and bands who will be featured this weekend, how the festival has grown, and the experience the organizers are hoping to provide for attendees.

The Peoria Blues and Heritage Music Festival runs Friday from 6:00 p.m. to midnight, and Saturday from noon to midnight, on the Peoria Riverfront.

This week, we're joined by Lyndsay Byers, from Dramatic Crossroads. The concert presents what the group calls "a new spin on what you think of as opera." The program blends opera and classical music, with musical theatre, and contemporary music performed in an operatic style. The intent is to show the parallels between opera and musical genres, and to make opera more accessible to concert-goers.

"Hip-hOpera" will be presented Saturday night at 6:30 at t

he Contemporary Art Center in downtown Peoria.

Galactic Cowboy Orchestra

Nathan Irwin talks by phone John Wright, founder of the Galactic Cowboy Orchestra. The band is playing tonight at the Contemporary Art Center in downtown Peoria - part of the CAC's weekly "Live at the Five Spot" concert series. Wright talks a little bit about the style of music the band plays, which grew out of the myriad interests and influences of the band members. He also talks about the band's busy touring schedule and output of new CDs.

The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra performs tonight at 5:30 at the Contemporary Art Center, 305 Water Street in Peoria.

We're talking with this week with Lyn Roth, one of the artists participating in Fashion Ignite at Ignite! Peoria on Saturday. Fashion Ignite gathers designers, models. hair and makeup artists, and photographers to present a full-sepctrum look inside the world of fashion and haute couture. This year, Fashion Ignite is moving to the show floor, alongside the other Ignite! events and exhibits. Roth talks about what event-goers can expect to see and experience.

Ignite! Peoria and Fashion Ignite runs tomorrow (Saturday) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Peoria Civic Center.

Corn Stock Theatre

We talk with Eric Ewan and Cheri Beever, from Corn Stock Theatre's production of the musical, "The Spitfire Grill." They talk about what sets this show apart from other musicals -- it's smaller in scale, and the score borrows as much from bluegrass and folk music as it does from Broadway. They also talk about the advantages the Corn Stock Tent offers as a venue for a production like this one.

"The Spitfire Grill" opens tonight, and runs through August 13th at Corn Stock Theatre.

This week, we're talking with Pam Orear. She's directing a production of "The Lion King Jr.," which is being presented in conjunction with Ignite! Peoria in August. The show is also an attempt to boost the profile of the performing arts in the District 150 school system, and it features a cast more than 100 young performers.

Orear talks about the unique workshop program that accompanies the rehearsal process, about her hopes for the show, and about the educational value it offers the students.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth / Twitter

The Illinois Attorney General's office says a settlement in the workplace retaliation lawsuit against Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth is final and the plaintiffs can't back out even if no paperwork was signed.  

The two women who sued Duckworth said this week they wanted out of the agreement because they felt the congresswoman was tarnishing their reputations by calling their allegations false. But Attorney General spokeswoman Maura Possley said Thursday the agreement reached last month with a judge is final.

Police in suburban Chicago have released a report filed by former state Rep. Ron Sandack over an "internet scam," but it's almost completely blacked out.
Downers Grove police released the report Tuesday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from The Associated Press. Sandack, a Downers Grove Republican, announced his resignation Monday after six years in the Legislature. He cited a fight he had over "cybersecurity" issues. He told The Chicago Tribune Monday that someone harassed him with fake social media accounts.

Prairie Center of the Arts

We're joined this week by Dawn Gettler, Program Manager at the Prairie Center of the Arts, about their Summer Maker's Market Bazaar. The event featured local artists and their work, activities for kids, and entertainment. We talk about the kind of work that will be available for sale, about the history of the Prairie Center, and about how the bazaar ties in to the Center's other activities.

The bazaar runs Saturday from 1:00 to 5:00 at the Prairie Center of the Arts.

This week, we're talking with Cindy Hoey, Manager of Corn Stock Theatre. Their new production, "Seussical the Musical" opens tonight at the Tent in Upper Bradley Park in Peoria. The show is based on the works of children's author Doctor Seuss, and features many of his beloved characters. With a cast of 80, this production provides plenty of opportunities for new performers of all ages, and for family members to be on stage together.

Wheels O' Time Museum

This week, we're talking with Bobbie Rice, from the Wheels O' Time Museum. She talks about some of the items in the museum's permanent collection, and the rotating exhibits that are featured in July and August. The latter include a collection of tractors, and a set of three military vehicles. She also talks about ongoing restoration efforts at the museum, and about how they make decisions about new acquisitions.

Corn Stock Theatre

In this week's Out and About podcast, Cindy Hoey gives us a taste of what to expect with "Cheaper By The Dozen", now playing under the Corn Stock Theatre tent this weekend.

This summer represents the end of an era in public radio.

In July, Garrison Keillor will host his last broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion. And earlier this year, we learned that another long-running weekend program – Whad ‘Ya Know? – will end production.

Taken together, these two events herald a shake-up of Peoria Public Radio’s weekend programming. It also creates an opportunity for us to look at some newer programs, and think about what kind of listening experiences will define public radio for the next generations – much as A Prairie Home Companion and Whad ‘Ya Know? have helped define public radio now.

Beginning in July, you will hear some new programs and new voices on Peoria Public Radio – and some shows that we already carry will air at different times.

The final live broadcast of Whad ‘Ya Know? will be on Saturday, June 25th. The following week, we will re-broadcast the episode recorded at Five Points Washington, back in March, 2014. The show featured a special central Illinois edition of “All the News That Isn’t,” and interviews with Illinois Poet Laureate Kevin Stein, the “Bread Monk” Father Dominic Garramone, trumpeter David Hoffman, and Kristin Williams from J. K. Distillery.

We think it’s a fitting way to bring the curtain down on a program that’s kept listeners here and around the country entertained for all these years. Please join us as we visit Whad ‘Ya Know’s visit to central Illinois – Saturday, July 2nd, at 10:00 a.m.

Eastlight Theatre

This week, we're joined by Travis Olson. He's directing "Disney's Beauty and the Beast," which opens tonight at Eastlight Theatre. He talks about his previous experience with the show -- as both performer and designer, about the creative team he's put together for this production, and about what makes the show an audience favorite. "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" runs thorugh July 2nd at Eastlight Theatre, at East Peoria High School.

We're talking with sculptor Nikole Cooney, and with the Contemporary Art Center's William Butler. An exhibit of Conney's work is on display through June 24. Cooney talks about some of the pieces in the exhibit, about the process of creating her work, and the stories she envisions behind each of her creations.

Pekin Civic Chorus

We're talking with Marcia Jansen from the Pekin Civic Chorus, about their concert, "Hooray for Hollywood." Jansen talks about the history of the chorus, and some of the work that goes into the concerts they present every other year. She also talks about the repertoire in this year's concert, and about the chorus's rehearsal process as they get closer to performance week.

"Hooray for Hollywood" continues with performances Friday night, Satuday night and Sunday afternoon in the F. M. Peterson Theater at the Pekin Community High School.

Heartland Festival Orchestra

We're talking this week with David Commanday, Artistsic Director of the Heartland Festival Orchestra. They're finishing their 7th season by joining forces with the Peoria Area Civic Chorale to perform Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana." The program also includes music by Dvorak and Arvo Part. Commanday talks about all three works, about the logistics of bringing the orchestra and chorus together, and about the community partner featured in this concert. The performance is tomorrow night at 7:30 at Five Points Washington.

This week, we're talking with Mike Reams. He's directing the production of "Sugar" which opens Corn Stock Theatre's summer season. The musical is an adaptation of the 1950s movie, "Some Like It Hot." Reams talks about his cast, the show's story and score, and why he thinks it's a good show to open the new season.

"Sugar" runs June 3rd through the 11th, under the Corn Stock tent in Upper Bradley Park in Peoria

The Great Work Begins Theatre Troupe

We're joined this week by Jess Hemmis and Rebekah Dentino. Hemmis directs, and Dentino performs in, The Great Work Begins Theatre Troupe's production of "Seascape with Sharks and Dancer." They talk about the play itself, about how their production has changed since a previous performance last year, and about moving the show into a different performance venue.

Performances of "Seascape with Sharks and Dancer" are tonight and tomorrow in the Broadway Lounge at the Waterhouse in downtown Peoria.

This week, we're talking with sculptor Matt Matheney, His piece "Eternal Flame" is featured in the inaugural Sculpture Walk Peoria. He talks about that piece, about his choice to work in stone, and about his experiences as a participant in the event's first year. Next year's Sculpture Walk begins on June 4th.

Jim Dwyer / Peoria Riverfront Museum

We're talking with the Peoria Riverfront Museum's Kristan McKinsey, about Peoria artist Nita Sunderland. Last year, Sunderland made a donation of art to the museum, and many of those pieces are featured in the current exhibit, "Figures of Strength." McKinsey recaps Sunderland's career, her history with the museum, and what makes her work distinctive.

"Figures of Strength: Artworks by sculptor Nita Sunderland" is on display through July 10th at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

This week, we're talking with Tengku Irfan. The young pianist is  the featured soloist in the Peoria Symphony Orchestra's concert this weekend. Called "American Classics," the program features works by George Antheil, Aaron Copland, and Leonard Bernstein. We talk a little bit about the three pieces, each of which incorporates elements of jazz. We also talk about balancing a busy concert schedule with academic commitments, and about Irfan's double interest in performing and composing.

Peoria Journal-Star

This week, we're talking with Brent Goken from Illinois Central College. He's the coordinator of the event "ICC Presents: Jim Maloof's Legacy of Love for the Arts in Central Illinois," now in its fourth year. He talks about the history of the event, which began as a tribute to the late Peoria mayor, and about moving the performance to ICC this year. He also talks about Maloof's long ties to the central Illinois arts community and the St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.