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."

Guy Stephens

Six months to the day and even the hour since an employee of the Henry Pratt Company facility in Aurora shot and killed 5 people there, families of the victims and company employees gathered to dedicate a memorial to the fallen.

A public vigil held just after the shooting to honor Russell Beyer, Vicente Juarez, Clayton Parks, Josh Pinkard and Trevor Wehner drew a large media contingent and hundreds of people, despite freezing rain. By contrast, the August 15 ceremony, held at Pratt under a blazing sun and blue skies, was a small, almost private affair.   

Guy Stephens

The law allowing recreational marijuana in Illinois takes effect next year, and people are trying to get ready. The law calls for expungement of criminal records for some past convictions involving possession of marijuana. One person working on that is Winnebago County State's Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross, and she has a number of concerns.

Guy Stephens

Illinois 17th Congressional District Representative Cheri Bustos is touting a report released Monday that brings rural Midwestern voices into the discussion on how to address climate change.  

Bustos said the plan for a ‘Rural Green Partnership’ is a way to make sure her part of the country isn’t left out in the response to an issue of national importance. She said some proposals to fight climate change don’t pay much attention to those in agriculture.

Guy Stephens

A Beloit College alum is walking across the country to draw attention to two veterans' issues -- suicide and homelessness. Tom Zerhellen is an English professor at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He's spending his sabbatical walking from Portland, Oregon to Marist to promote his campaign. He stopped at Beloit College during his journey through Wisconsin, where he spoke with WNIJ's Guy Stephens about what led him to take on his cross-country challenge.

Guy Stephens

The law allowing recreational marijuana in Illinois takes effect next year, and those in enforcement are getting ready. This includes a special category of police. Sergeant Nick Cunningham leads the Canine Unit in the Winnebago County Sheriff's Office. Guy Stephens spoke with Cunningham recently. Guy began by asking what effect the new law will have on his work.

ilhousedems.com

The law allowing recreational marijuana in Illinois takes effect next year, and people are trying to get ready. State Rep. Maurice West (D-Rockford) says he is holding conversations about implementing it with the mayor of Rockford, the Winnebago County State's Attorney, and others in his 67th District. Guy Stephens spoke with West about the law, and began by asking why he voted for it.

A northern Illinois company on Wednesday cut the ribbon on a new solar array that will supply 100% of its power needs for the next 25 years. The company's president said it will make back its investment within 5 years, with the next 20 in the plus column for its bottom line.

A lawmaker at the event applauded the state’s move to renewable energy, but said Illinois needs to take a thoughtful approach as it embraces the new technology. A solar industry representative said he just hoped the current boom in the industry continues.

 

Dixon Park District

The kids playing in a new splash pad park opening July 6 in Dixon probably won't be thinking about a convicted former city official. But money gained in a settlement of Rita Crundwell's embezzlement case helped pay for the attraction.

ArtGarfunkel.com

Art Garfunkel comes to Rockford's Coronado Performing Arts Center Thursday night. 

Art Garfunkel is perhaps best known as one half of Simon and Garfunkel. He says his on-again, off-again association with Paul Simon actually started when they were kids.

He says he taught Simon how to sing, and sing harmoniously, at age 11. But this middle child of three boys in a middle-class Jewish family in Queens said he started much earlier than that, in the 1st grade.

Guy Stephens

Two arts organizations are using state grants to help extend their seasons – in different directions.

On a visit in early June, Timber Lake Playhouse Executive Director Dan Danielowski points to work being done on the lobby – really an open walkway outside its theater – by a team of electricians. The schedule is tight. But so far, so good.

Two northern Illinois members of Congress issued statements in reaction to remarks made by Special Counsel Robert Mueller at a press conference this week. Mueller discussed the special investigation he led into Russian interference in U.S. elections, and the legal reasoning behind its conclusions on Wednesday.

Peter Medlin

The DeKalb Park District and the City of DeKalb are making plans to relocate city hall functions to the Park District's historic downtown property at 164 E. Lincoln Highway. The former Nehring building dates back to 1892 when it was occupied by the DeKalb National Bank and Sheets and Knodle Hardware. It was owned by First National Bank of DeKalb from 1902 to 1966. 

DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas said the move makes financial sense. 

Peter Medlin

Companies that had community solar projects picked in last month’s lottery by the Illinois Power Agency say their projects are just the tip of the iceberg.

The selected projects became eligible to obtain renewable energy credits. The credits help make the projects viable. Solar development companies behind the projects are now looking ahead to building the arrays or "solar gardens" at sites across Illinois.

 

Guy Stephens

Beverly Garcia ushered me into her studio in Grand Detour. Lots of space – she converted it from a three car garage – but full with art everywhere: flowers, still life, portraits. Mostly oils. She used to do pastels but storage became an issue.

Garcia didn't start out wanting to be an artist. When she was 50, she wanted to learn how to decorate a cedar chest for a wedding present. As time when on, she got in deeper and deeper.

"And then I took, oh, a gazillion classes and workshops," she said. 

Northwestern Illinois’ Stephenson County is one area where changes in the status of cannabis are being embraced. The people doing it are not necessarily the ones you’d expect.

Guy Stephens

Rockford’s mayor sent an open letter to Chicago’s mayor-elect asking her to join a push to add casinos in both their cities.

The letter to Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot was published as a full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times newspapers. It was signed by Mayor Tom McNamara and Rockford Chamber President Einar Forsman. McNamara said the two cities -- and other Illinois border cities -- have a lot in common. That includes wanting to tap into money that now goes to casinos out-of-state.

Randy Sager

During World War II, Jewish prisoners in the Nazi concentration camp at Terezin learned Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem and performed it 16 times. This weekend at Northern Illinois University, that story of affirmation and defiance toward their captors will be commemorated through Verdi's music, historic film footage, testimonials from camp survivors, and narration. The program, Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin, will be led by its creator, conductor Murry Sidlin. He's conducted it close to fifty times around the world.

Starved Rock State Park

A bill to impose a parking fee at Illinois’ most visited state park fell one vote short of passage in the Illinois Senate April 11. But the lawmaker behind it said she’ll keep trying because the need for the revenue is still there.  

Peter Medlin

Illinois consumers are getting closer to having solar as part of their energy choices – without having to build their own array.

Companies seeking to sell solar generated electricity to the public in the state find out Wednesday, April 10 if they’ll be able to proceed this year. The Illinois Power Agency holds a lottery Wednesday afternoon to select which proposals will be eligible for the renewable energy credits needed to make them viable.  

Martin Cherry

Violinist, composer, and educator Tracy Silverman comes to Rockford next week to perform at the Rockford Area Music Industry or RAMI Awards. He'll also lead a free workshop on his Strum Bowing Method. Silverman is the leading exponent of the six-string electric violin, performing rock, jazz, and more. He's been a member of the Turtle Island String Quartet and premiered works by Terry Reilly and John Adams.

This year's Weissberg Chair in Human Rights and Social Justice at Beloit College is Joel Simon. Simon, a journalist and author, has been executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) since 2006. Friday night, Simon will give a public lecture on freedom of the press. Saturday, Simon will take part in a panel discussion called "Valuing Fact and Truth in the Age of Fake News." WNIJ's Guy Stephens spoke with Simon for this week's Friday Forum.

Guy Stephens

This weekend, families in Freeport will have the opportunity to share their American story at the Freeport Art Museum. It's part of a collaboration that includes the Freeport Public Library and the museum's current show, "I Am American."

Standing in a gallery at the Freeport Art Museum, guest curator Sergio Gomez talked about one of the striking displays in the exhibit – a row of decorated animal skulls, each set against, and covered by, a bullseye. They're by Mexican-born Chicago artist Salvador Jimenez-Flores.

Guy Stephens

The Pick Museum of Anthropology at Northern Illinois University is presenting an exhibit this spring that examines the relationship between dogs and humans. 

The first thing you see when you enter "For the Love of Humans: A History of Dogs" is a dog and fire hydrant; a little humor to break the ice. But there's much more to know about the canine-human connection, according to the museum's acting director, Rachelle Wilson-Loring. She curated the exhibition.

University officials are praising Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed budget increases for higher education. 

It would provide more money for student aid and gives colleges a five percent boost in their operating budgets. Northern Illinois University President Lisa Freeman says the increase won’t undo the damage from previous cuts and the 700 day budget impasse. But it’s a good first step.

Guy Stephens

This Saturday, Beloit College's Ferrall Artist-in-Residence will present a sound installation at the college's Wright Museum of Art. In the performance, she will collaborate with works created by Beloit College students.

BIFF

The Beloit International Film Festival begins its 10-day run next week. Organizers say it represents the best in filmmaking. On today's Friday Forum, Guy Stephens found this year’s festival also reflects a shift in film culture.

Marty Densch is executive director of the festival, commonly referred to as BIFF. He said, in some ways, the 14th festival is much like it's been in recent years, with a full slate of offerings.

NIU

A man once described as the “the Stradivarius of the steelpan” and a co-founder of Northern Illinois University’s steelpan program died Tuesday.

 

A native of Trinidad & Tobago, Clifford Alexis started playing steelpan when he was 14. He was a member of the country's National Steelband when it toured the U.S. in 1964. In 2018, the country gave him its highest honor for his steel pan contributions. 

Guy Stephens

A Rockford choir is one of several ensembles picked to perform this week at the Illinois Music Educators Conference in Peoria. The choir and its director were excited about the opportunity to perform. They also looked forward to sharing a program of hope and faith.

Rockford Christian Schools Choral Director Andy Bruhn said his group is one of just four in Illinois selected to perform for music educators from across the state this year.

Bruhn noted that the 53 members are not part of some elite ensemble with strict entrance requirements.

Sarah Jesmer

Democrat Lauren Underwood got a lot of attention when she upset incumbent Randy Hultgren to take the seat in Illinois’ 14th Congressional District. She became the youngest African-American woman elected to Congress. And she won with a progressive platform in what was considered a heavily Republican district.  In this week's Friday Forum, we hear Underwood’s thoughts on her new job.

Guy Stephens

The representative of Illinois’ 14th Congressional District went back home this weekend to reaffirm and celebrate her new job.

 

Democrat Lauren Underwood took the official oath of office with the rest of her colleagues Jan. 3 in Washington, D.C. The ceremonial swearing-in at her old high school, Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, was a chance for supporters in her district to bask in her triumph.

 

Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois Ruben Castillo administered the oath while Underwood’s father held the Bible for her.

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