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."

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.

Alzheimer's Association

The holidays can be particularly stressful for families of someone living with Alzheimer's. That includes long distance trips to visit loved ones. An advocacy group is offering tips to help people cope.

Melissa Tucker is Director of Helpline and Support Services for the Illinois Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. Tucker said, rather than worry about traditions, caregivers should ask a basic question.

SteuartPittman.com

People donate art to museums from time to time. But a really large donation – a whole collection – can help define a museum's very identity. 

Laura and John Fraser, both artists, have collected contemporary art together for decades. Over the years, they amassed a large set of pieces rich - if that's the right word for so subtle a collection – in abstract images and shapes, with the occasional bit of whimsy.

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.

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