INA, IL (Nov. 1, 2016) - Local high school and community-member musicians can both find exciting opportunities as part of Rend Lake College’s Music Department. From scholarships to free performances to bands open to public participation, the program offers something for everyone.
Director of Instrumental Ensembles at RLC, Joseph Ryker is doing everything he can to put Rend Lake performers in the public eye and local music back on the map. That initiative has led to the revitalization of ensembles and concerts and has led to some cool opportunities.
“I just started the Jazz Band last spring. The students had a lot of fun, and I had a lot of fun. So, we were really excited to keep that going this semester. It has worked out really well,” Ryker said.
It did work out really well, the jazz ensemble was honored to be personally invited by Kroger in Mt. Vernon to provide entertainment for the store’s renovation grand reopening. The store was very appreciative. Ryker said he hopes further opportunities like that present themselves in the future.
“I think giving these students the opportunity to play outside of college is a great thing. It’s something that I’ve really been trying to focus on. Sometimes we get stuck in our own little world at the college, but getting them out into the world, playing in different venues challenges them and lets them have new and exciting experiences. I think that’s important, especially to future musicians,” Ryker explained.
In addition to his work with the Rend Lake College bands, Ryker goes out into the community to participate as a conductor and musician for other ensembles. From time to time, Ryker extends those opportunities to his students, furthering his goal of getting RLC musicians out there to participate and learn from others.
Experiences run that gambit, from musicals to pit orchestras to other ensembles, each opportunity presenting the musicians with different styles and configurations to expand their knowledge and expertise.
Ryker said he is hopeful the program continues to generate interest. As funding continues to tighten, Music and Art classes at the younger ages start to get cut, causing a ripple effect upward. Ryker said it is also part of his hope that getting Rend Lake College musicians out in the community might generate and maintain interest in the area’s younger musicians.
Scholarships are available to musicians interested in attending Rend Lake College. Scholarships are awarded after auditioning and are available to instrumentalists, vocalists and accompanists. Prospective students do not need to be a music major to receive a music scholarship. Anyone interested in auditioning must complete the Liberal Arts Scholarship application and the Music Program application to their audition. Times and dates for the 2018 auditions are TBA.
In addition to the jazz band and concert band, Ryker also works with the Community Orchestra, an ensemble open to members of the district. The Community Orchestra rehearses Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m. and is completely free to participate in for those interested.
“We are really trying to get that Community Orchestra back in the public eye,” Ryker said. “It’s just such a great opportunity to get our students playing with a larger orchestra. We’ve got former band directors in the area that participate. This year, we are actually splitting up our performances. Last year, the Community Orchestra played with the concert band, but we will be splitting them up this year to try and highlight the community orchestra a little more.”
In addition to providing a positive experience for RLC students, the Community Orchestra also provides a great opportunity for anyone in the community to come and be involved. It’s a win-win situation, allowing veterans and hobbyists alike to come together and learn from each other while having a fantastic time.
Every semester, the musicians perform two to three times. However, Ryker said he hopes to expand that number so they branch out and explore numerous pieces of music. To that end, the Music Department brought back the Halloween Concert as an opportunity for the students to have a fun and relaxed venue to perform an additional time during the fall.
The next performance slated for the Music Department is the Fall Orchestra Concert set for 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13th in the RLC Theatre. That is the standalone concert fully featuring the community orchestra.
Then, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17th at the RLC Theatre, the Rend Lake Concert Band and Concert Choir will take the stage for the 2016 Fall Concert. Admission is free for both events and the community is invited to attend.
Community members and prospective student can also check out the Music Department’s new Instagram account at rlcmusicprogram. Ryker is utilizing the account to showcase behind-the-scenes looks at the day in the life of an RLC musician.
For more information on the Rend Lake College Music Department, music scholarship opportunities or to become part of the Community Orchestra, contact Ryker at or Music Associate Professor Sara Alstat at 618-437-5321, Ext. 1817, .