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

This week, we're talking about the premiere of "Ruth: The Musical" with composer David Getz, and Courtney Huffman, who sings the role of Ruth. As Getz explains, the work has been seven years in the making; a crucial turning point came last year when he performed in a musical for the first time. The musical tells the Biblical story. Getz and Huffman say it's a story of emotional contrasts that lends itself well to a musical treatment.

"Ruth: The Musical" will debut Saturday night at 7:00 at Grace Church in Morton.

Our guest this week is Bruce White, talking with us about the "Show Tunes Sing-Along" this weekend at Peoria Players Theatre. He says the theatre was looking for a unique experience to offer in the run-up to it's 100th season; the result was this event, which encourages audience members to join in singing favorite show tunes from favorite musicals. A cast of familiar veterans will lead the performance, and lyrics will be projected on a screen, so the audience can follow along. Songs are arranged thematically, and shows coming up in the theatre's upcoming season are highlighted.

John Jost is with us to talk about the Peoria Bach Festival. As in previous years, the festival presents an array of activities--lectures, recitals and concerts--over the next week. Jost talks about several of those events, about Bach's particular versatility as a composer, and about his enduring place in the world of music.

The Peoria Bach Festival opens with an organ concert, tonight at 7:30 at Westminster Presbyterian Church. More concerts and events continue through June 10th at Trinity Lutheran Church.

This week, we're talking with Leigh Ann Brown and Rachel Berchtold about the Fourth Friday Tazewell Art Loop. Like First Fridays, these monthly events are intended to showcase local artists and musicians; however, the Tazewell County effort also includes a partnership with local small businesses. Berchtold and Brown talk about the value of building partnerships between the business and arts sectors, and about some of the special events on tap for tonight. There's also a scavenger hunt that runs all summer.

Our guests this week are Michelle Nielsen Ott from Sculpture Walk Peoria, and Sharon Gramm with the Peoria Riverfront Market. The two groups are working together this year: Peoria Riverfront Market begins tomorrow morning; and Sculpture Walk's opening day celebration begins later in the day, just across the street. The idea is to give residents and visitors a double incentive to visit downtown Peoria.

Our guest this week is Bill Barr, the stage manager for "Mamma Mia" which continues this weekend at Peoria Players Theatre. He talks to us about his role with the production, and about the work that the technical team puts into the show even before it's been cast. He also talks about the public response to the production; it's sold out, despite the addition of extra performances. And he previews two special performances at Peoria Players this summer: "Broadway Backwards" later in May, and a "Show Tunes Sing-Along" in June.

This week, we're talking with George Stelluto, conductor of the Peoria Symphony Orchestra, and soloist Naomi Louisa O'Connell about the PSO's upcoming concert. "Great Cities: Rome" features Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony, Respighi's "Pines of Rome," and "The Song of Memories" by Giuseppe Martucci.

They talk about the works on the program, and about O'Connell's earlier trip to Peoria last month, which included a number of appearances at local schools.

The Peoria Symphony Orchestra presents "Great Cities: Rome" Saturday night at 7:30 in the Peoria Civic Center Theater.

Eight social-service agencies have written Illinois lawmakers urging checks and restrictions on moving hundreds of thousands of Medicaid patients to managed care health care.  

The letter to key legislators this week questions the ability of HealthChoice Illinois to provide sufficient physicians and other health care providers, the low reimbursement rates for medical equipment providers, the inclusion of very ill "medically fragile" children and more.

The issues arise from the state's move of 800,000 Medicaid clients to managed care to cut costs.

Heartland Festival Orchestra

David Commanday, Artistic Director of the Heartland Festival Orchestra, is with us again to talk about the HFO's next concert. "Jazz in Spring" features Mendelssohn's "Midsummer Night's Dream Overture" and Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring." The second half of the program includes two different interpretations of the music to "Peer Gynt:" Edvard Grieg's original compositions, and Duke Ellington's jazz interpretations of those same melodies.

Bradley University

Our guest this week is John Jost, with the Bradley University Music Department. He joined us to talk about this weekend's concert with the Bradley Community Chorus. It's a double milestone for the choir -- the ensemble is celebrating it's 60th anniversary, and this will be Jost's final concert as conductor.

The program consists of a selection of popular opera choruses, including the "Toreador Song" by Georges Bizet and Borodin's "Polovtsian Dance." Narration by Lee Wenger will introduce each of the composers and pieces.

Peoria Riverfront Museum

This week, its a Bicentennial bash! Nathan and Jen talk with the Peoria Riverfront Museum's Bill Conger, Curator of Collections & Exhibitions to go over some of the highlights of their exhibit titled "Celebrate Illinois: 200 Years in the Land of Lincoln."  As you'll find out, the exhibit that runs through June 3rd is rich with artifacts and stories that depict Illinois' fascinating history. 

Corn Stock Theatre

Bob Parkhurst is with us to talk about Corn Stock Theatre's "Vaudeville and Whiskey Revue." The show is an homage to Peoria's vaudeville history. It includes 38 different acts in the classic Vaudeville tradition -- solos and ensemble pieces, skits, tap numbers, and even a magic act. The show is also a nod to Peoria's whiskey tradition; each performance includes optional whiskey tastings.

Parkhusrt talks about the inspirations behind the production, the work that went into rehearsing 38 different acts, and the backstage logistics that keep the show moving.

We're talking with Chas Killen, director of Peoria Players' production of "Bonnie and Clyde: The Musical." It's the first community theatre production of the show in this area, and as such, it's drawn performers from across the region. Killen talks about the show's score, which includes elements of rockabilly, gospel and bluegrass music; about the decision to cast the show early; and about the response the production received for its opening weekend.

"Bonnie and Clyde" continues tonight through Sunday at Peoria Players Theatre.

Our guest this week is Jerry Kolb, from public television station WTVP. They're hosting a concert, "State and Water 'Spring String' to Benefit WTVP" tomorrow night. We talk about their program "State and Water," which spotlights local musicians and bands and is now gearing up for its third season. The concert features performances by four bands who have appeared on the program. It's also the first event being held in the Monarch Music Hall (the former Limelight Eventplex).

Our guests this week are Rebekah von Rathonyi and Jessica Smith, with Central Illinois Ballet. They're presenting four performances of "The Firebird" this weekend at their new home at 830 West Main Street in Peoria. The facility includes a small "black box" theater, and this is the company's first performance in that space. Act II of the program includes two new pieces by guest choreographers.

There are four performances of "The Firebird" Friday night through Sunday afternoon at 830 West Main Street in Peoria.

tinyclipart.com

Illinois’ economy measured at 104-point-6 on the Flash Index for February. The monthly economic gauge from the University of Illinois rose one-fifth of a point from the previous month.

Economist Fred Giertz says the Flash Index is at its highest level since last May.

“The Illinois economy is doing very well, especially compared to years ago, when we had the recession and major slow-down. But we’re not doing as well as the rest of the country.”

This week, our guests are Sarah Salazar-Martin and Trevor Bety. They're the director and assistant director, respectively, of "Dead Man's Cell Phone" at Bradley University Theatre. The play tells the story of a woman who answers a stranger's phone, and finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into that man's life. Along the way, it explores issues of connection, isolation and intimacy. Salazar-Martin and Bety say that those themes have particular resonance for a generation that has grown up with smart phones and their promise of instant, ubiquitous communication.

Palmetto State Armory

The gun debate continues at the Illinois state capitol. 

Sen. Ira Silverstein is targeting weapons like the AR-15, a popular semiautomatic rifle used in the recent Florida school shooting.  

“I don’t know why people need these guns in the first place. They’re highly sophisticated powerful guns.”

But his plan goes further.  It classifies several guns and attachments as “assault weapons.” Todd Vandermyde, a pro-gun lobbyist, says the title is misleading.

This week, we're talking about Corn Stock Theatre's production of "The Curious Savage," with director Kerri Rae Hinman Ryan and actress Helen Engelbrecht. They both talk about the message of the play, and about the cast's work to embody that message in their performances. It's Hinman Ryan's directorial debut, and it's a show that has a particular significance for her. Corn Stock is also featuring local charitable organizations during the run of the play.

"The Curious Savage" continues tonight, tomorrow night and Sunday at the Corn Stock Winter Playhouse in Peoria.

Barry Cloyd

Our guest this week is singer/songwriter Barry Cloyd. He's presenting a concert tomorrow night at 7:00 at the Forest Park Nature Center. It's part of their "Songs from the Woods" concert series.

This has become an annual event for Cloyd - he refers to it as his "home concert," and uses it an as opportunity to reunite with other musicians he's worked with for years. He says this concert will include plenty of new songs. He also talks about why he values the Forest Park Nature Center, both as a performance venue and as a source of inspiration for his music.

This week, we're talking about Peoria Players Theatre's production of "Sunset Boulevard" with director Steve Bortolotti, and with Cheri Beever, who plays Norma Desmond. The musical is adapted from the 1950 film, and tells the story of a faded silent-movie star hoping for a dramatic comeback in Hollywood. The score is by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Beever and Bortolotti talk about the opportunity to finally bring this musical to a central Illinois audience, what the show has to say about the entertainment industry, and about the complex characters who inhabit the story.

Our guests this week are are Jennifer Costa and Steph Van Doren. Their work is featured in the exhibit, "Flora and Function," now on display at Illinois Central College.  They each talk about their own work, how their chosen media complement and contrast one another, and the process of curating the exhibit.

"Flora and Function" continues through February 9th in Gallery 336B at the ICC campus in East Peoria.

We're talking with Chris Peterlin. He's directing Corn Stock Theatre's production of "Leaving Iowa." It's a "memory play," in which writer Don Browning goes on a road trip to scatter the ashes of his late father, with multiple flashbacks to a fateful family vacation. The play was written by two alums of Bradley University; this production is the first time it's been presented in central Illinois. Peterlin talks about the emotional tone of the play, and about the challenges of staging the multiple scenes that take place in the family car.

The Penguin Project

This week, we're talking with Andrew Morgan about The Penguin Project and their production of "Mary Poppins, Jr." Now in its 14th year, The Penguin Project was created to give young performers with with special needs and disabilities the opportunity to participate in theatrical performance. Their model has now been replicated by dozens of other companies across the country. Their work was also recently recognized with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.

Heartland Festival Orchestra

This week, our guests are David Commanday, Artistic Director of the Heartland Festival Orchestra; and soloist Sal Viviano. The HFO kicks off 2018 with a concert, "New Year's Greeting - That's Amore." Inspired by the Vienna Philharmonic's tradition of New Year's Day performances, this concert blends classical and popular repertoire. The musical traditions of Italy will be front and center -- represented by operatic works from Puccini and Rossini; and by the music of Italian-American singers Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

This week, we're talking Dawn Maloney from the Time Gallery in East Peoria. Their current exhibit features a collection of mosaic Christmas cards by Rolan Johnson. The oversized cards were screen-printed, and sent to a limited number of recipients over a span of about 30 years. Maloney talks about the meticulous process that went into creating the cards, and about the subject matter they depict.

The exhibit will be on display through December 29th at the Time Gallery. 201 Clock Tower Drive in East Peoria.

Peoria Symphony Orchestra

Conductor George Stelluto and Concertmaster Marcia Henry Liebenow are with us this week to talk about the next concert with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra. The concert is called "Winter Dreams," and it offers musical reflections on the season by Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, Max Bruch and others.

Peoria Players Theatre

This week, we hear from Mary Keltner. She's directing "Home for the Holidays," which opens next weekend at Peoria Players Theatre. The production is a holiday-themed musical revue, featuring familiar music of the season, dance and variety acts. It's built around a script that tells the story of one family over the course of several decades, and how they celebrated the holidays over the years. Some of their stories are drawn from the real-world experiences of Keltner's production team.

Our guest this week is Eric Ewan. He's directing "The Gifts of the Magi," which opens tonight at Corn Stock Theatre.

The show is a musical adaptation of two short stories by O. Henry, both of which revolve around the winter holidays. Ewan characterizes it as an ensemble production, with a cast of just six performers. Two of those function as a sort of chorus, and help bridge the two narratives.

He also talks about the musical itself. Though it's more than 30 years old, it's a bit less well-known and has been infrequently performed in the area.

This week, we're talking with Kim Thrush about some of the holiday events coming up in Bishop Hill. Those include the village's Julmarknad (or Christmas Market), this weekend and next; and "Lucia Nights" the weekend of December 8th and 9th. The events are intended to showcase the businesses and artists in Bishop Hill, and to celebrate the village's unique Swedish heritage. Hands-on activities and events for children are also heavily featured.

The Juhlmarknad events run November 24-25, and December 2-3 in Bishop Hill. "Lucia Nights" will be December 8th and 9th.

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