Guy Stephens

Reporter

Guy Stephens produces news stories for the station, and coordinates our online events calendar, PSAs and Arts Calendar announcements.  In each of these ways, Guy helps keep our listening community informed about what's going on, whether on a national or local level.  Guy's degrees are in music, and he spent a number of years as a classical host on WNIU.  In fact, after nearly 20 years with Northern Public Radio, the best description of his job may be "other duties as required."

RSO

Rockford Symphony Orchestra Music Director Steven Larsen will be unable to conduct the orchestra's Holiday Pops concerts this weekend.

Larsen was injured in an accident last week and is recuperating in a hospital. Elgin Symphony Orchestra Associate Conductor Stephen Squires will lead the programs at the Coronado Performing Arts Center in his place.

The RSO says Larsen is expected to make a full recovery, but could not say when he would be able to return to the podium. 

Guy Stephens

Editor's note: Many performances of Handel's most famous oratorio invite audience participation. These are called Sing-Along Messiahs, Scratch Messiahs, People's Messiahs, and Do-It-Yourself-Messiahs. For this article about performances in which unrehearsed attendees serve as the chorus, we'll refer to each of them as "Messiah."

George Frideric Handel's oratorio "Messiah" shows up in concerts regularly this time of year.  But some performances call for the audience to join in.

Rockford Art Museum

When is a house not just a home? When it's the subject of an exhibition, called "Dwellings," at the Rockford Art Museum.   

 

Claire Buchanan

An Emmy Award-winning and Oscar-nominated actor and Illinois native returned to his hometown Tuesday and shared insights with students at Northern Illinois University. 

Richard Jenkins was born and raised in DeKalb and attended Illinois Wesleyan University. He later embarked on a career in theater, film, and television that now spans more than forty years and 111 credited screen roles — and counting.

Whitehouse.gov

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is coming to Illinois this week to drum up support for several Democratic congressional candidates.

Biden will host a rally Wednesday morning at the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles to urge people to vote for Lauren Underwood in Illinois' 14th District. Biden formally endorsed Underwood in September.

Biden and Underwood will also encourage supporters to vote early.

Guy Stephens

Two of Illinois’ most popular parks are getting bigger --- a lot bigger.  

The state is buying more than 2, 600 acres next to Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks from Lone Star Industries, Inc. The partially restored land had been used for mining, first coal and later limestone, since the early 1900s.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said the purchase will enhance the parks’ appeal.

Guy Stephens

For years, people in the Freeport area dreamed of creating a commercial-grade kitchen that could be shared by students and entrepreneurs in the community. That dream became a reality with the opening of Pretzel City Kitchens.

The back of the Wagner House, a former industrial warehouse in downtown Freeport, now houses a wine bar, an event space, and Pretzel City Kitchens. The large, brightly lit room is filled with professional cooking equipment, racks of utensils and stainless steel tables. 

NIU Department of Police and Public Safety

There were fewer rapes reported at Northern Illinois University in 2017 compared to previous years. Drug arrests took a steep drop as well. That's according to Northern Illinois University's latest Annual Safety and Security Report.

NIU

Illinois is a much easier place to vote than it was a couple of decades ago. That's according to a study that shows big changes with regard to voting across the country in both directions. 

Illinois tied for 12th with Minnesota among U.S. states in 2016 according to the study's "Cost of Voting Index." That's up 21 places from the 1996 presidential election.

Guy Stephens/WNIJ

Friday, Sept. 21, is National POW/MIA Recognition Day. It was established to honor prisoners of war and those still missing in action. 

Dr. Michael Belinson is with Vietnam2Now (formerly the Rockford chapter of Vietnow.) He said the group's ceremony at Loves Park City Hall will be one of many across the state, and worldwide.

Peter Medlin

Solar power has been used here and there in Illinois for a long time. But now the state is going for it in a big way. 

In the 19th Century, scientists discovered that you could generate electricity directly from sunlight when you arrange certain elements in a particular way. In the 1950s, scientists at Bell Labs took an element they were using to develop the first transistors – silicon – to create the photovoltaic, or PV, cells that we know today. 

Guy Stephens/WNIJ

Museum curators usually build an art exhibition around a particular artist's work or on a theme. But the Rockford Art Museum's Midwestern Biennial has an outside judge, lots of different artists and no theme. So how do you curate that? 

As Museum Curator Carrie Johnson explains, the Midwestern Biennial poses particular challenges. Normally, she spends up to two years vetting artists, assembling works, and picking a theme.

Contexts

The National Football League’s regular season is getting underway. One question for NFL observers this year will be how many players take a knee during the national anthem. A Northern Illinois University study found the action was given new life by President Trump’s call for the protesters to be fired.  

Guy Stephens/WNIJ

Rochelle has leveraged its location, and resources like its municipal railroad, to spur a lot of business activity in its corner of Ogle County. Now it’s set to move into neighboring Lee County in a big way. 

Parabon Nanotyping / DeKalb County Sheriff's Office

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office has released pictures of what the man who killed a rural Sycamore couple might look like. The images are based on DNA evidence gathered at the home where 85-year-old Patricia Wilson and her son, 64-year-old Robert Wilson, were found dead. 

Investigators determined the two died of blunt force trauma the night of August 14, 2016. The Sheriff’s Office says, despite thousands of man-hours, dozens of search warrants and work with state and national agencies, it has been unable to come up with the name of the killer.

Powering Lives Network - ComEd

Teams of girls will race solar-powered go-karts converted from recycled refrigerators this Saturday in Chicago. They got help from students at Northern Illinois University.

NIU engineering students worked with the girls participating in the ComEd Icebox Derby. NIU students had been working on designs since last September.

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

The Freeport Art Museum created an artist-in-residence position. So what does that mean, at least in Freeport?

In the city's downtown, a grassy vacant lot gets some attention. A group of young women, coached by several adults, spray-painted phrases like “good vibes only" and "women in power" on the exposed side wall of a building next door. 

Brian Nissen owns the building, where he and his wife run Abet Books & Games. He was happy to give permission for the mural.

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

A couple of years ago, Ronald Reagan’s first boyhood home in Dixon was, as The Washington Post put it, “falling apart.” Today, things are looking much better. But the museum’s director says there’s still more to be done.

Guy Stephens/WNIJ

Putting up a mural is often a community event. The art can be a point of pride for residents. But what happens when the paint peels? One city is trying to figure that out.

Illinois State Police

Jury selection began Monday in the trial of a Putnam County man accused of killing his sister-in-law in 2016. Clifford A. Andersen, Jr. faces charges of first degree murder in the death of Deborah Dewey.

Dewey went missing in late August 2016.  The Ladd resident’s body was found about a month later, in mid-September, in a shallow grave in Standard, Illinois. Soon after, Andersen -- Dewey’s brother-in-law and a Standard resident -- was charged with concealing a homicide. In November 2017, a Putnam County grand jury indicted him for Dewey’s murder.

 

Guy Stephens/WNIJ

Forget “knee high by the 4th of July.” Thanks to a combination of rain and high temperatures, corn is tasseling, or silking, much earlier than usual in parts of Illinois. Some people are already eating sweet corn. Soybeans are blooming early, too.  

Mark Tuttle farms in DeKalb County. He described his land as being in something of a “sweet spot” this year. Everything – both corn and soybeans – is developing fast. He said he’s not alone.

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

There’s no trash collection on a holiday, but a number of DeKalb residents likely have it on their minds. The city’s move to change waste haulers garnered a fair amount of attention in the community. And a recent vote by the DeKalb City Council on the matter proved to be anything but routine. 

Photo provided by RACVB

A baker's dozen of monumental sculptures will be coming to Rockford later in June. 

John Groh, President and CEO of the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said a public display of sculptures in 2015 proved to be very popular, and there seems to be an appetite for more. Groh said the Bureau and its partners had hoped to bring ten sculptures to the city – up from nine by two artists that were on display a couple of years ago. But Groh says fundraising exceeded expectations, and thirteen works by nine artists will make Rockford their home for the next two years.

Olson Funeral & Cremation Services

The memory of two Rockford teenagers killed by their father in February is being kept alive through a scholarship program. A benefit concert for the fund takes place Wednesday night at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles

Victoria Lunacek

A vehicle produced in Belvidere has topped a new list of cars with the most American content. 

Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep Cherokee came in at number one on the list created by Cars.com. The website looked at which cars were manufactured in America, had the most American parts, and support the most American factory jobs.   

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

Rockford’s mayor wishes his city’s fire department wasn’t the second-busiest in Illinois. But he’s pleased about a big drop in violent crimes. 

Tom McNamara said, for the first four months of the year, the city’s fire department has seen an increase in total calls compared to the same period last year, with a 26 percent increase in fire calls.

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

Thursday’s meeting of Northern Illinois University’s Board of Trustees was long, reflecting a lengthy agenda. What it wasn’t, was fraught or contentious.

Rockford Public Library

Between 30 and 40 people attended the Rockford Public Library’s 5th Community Envisioning Session held Wednesday at Rockford police Station District #1 to give input on a new main library. The library is looking to move to the next phase of the multi-year project.

city of Freeport

A new organization aimed at boosting economic development in Freeport and Stephenson County now has a name -- and a launch window.

The Northwest Illinois Development Alliance, Freeport/Stephenson County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Freeport Downtown Development Foundation and Freeport Area Chamber of Commerce joined with local officials to discuss forming the new organization, provisionally called “NewCo,” earlier this spring.

City of Rockford

Rockford’s mayor will get a chance to hone his leadership skills with a select group of peers this summer.

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said he was surprised and honored to be among the 40 Edgar Fellows chosen this year for the executive leadership program created by former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar. The group will attend the program at the University of Illinois in August.   

McNamara said he’s excited by the program’s nonpartisan emphasis on learning better ways to get things done for one’s community.

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