Alumni Spotlight: Chuck Willett

ChuckWillettPhotoChuck Willett (BM, Clarinet Performance & Theory/Composition, 1983; MM, Clarinet Performance, 1984), has been a member of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in Washington, DC, since 1989, where he has been a frequent soloist and chamber musician, performed at numerous White House ceremonies and events (to include six presidential inaugurations), and participated in funeral services for Marines at Arlington National Cemetery. He has also served as one of the band’s tour coordinators, advancing and functioning as on-site manager during the band’s annual concert tour. As a member of “The President’s Own”, he has performed with a variety of artists, including Aretha Franklin, Marilyn Horne, Audra McDonald, The Manhattan Transfer, Michael Feinstein, Shirley Jones, Frederica von Stade, Patti LaBelle, and John Williams. He has been seen on “The Kennedy Center Honors”, “From Vienna: the New Year’s Celebration” and “A Capitol Fourth” on PBS, and “The Today Show”.

At SIUE, Chuck studied clarinet with Dr. George Mellott, theory and composition with Dr. James Woodard, and voice with Dr. Luther Stripling. While a student at SIUE, he was active in the Symphonic Band, University Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Concert Chorale, and Opera Workshop. He was a three-time winner of the SIUE Student Soloist Competition, a five-time recipient of the Outstanding Clarinetist Award, recipient of the Senior Performance Award, Friends of Music Award, Mark Gerdelman Award in Musical Composition, the Presser Scholarship, and an SIUE Graduate Fellowship. He also served as the Music Dept. Theory Assistant. After graduating from SIUE, Chuck earned a Premier Prix in Clarinet from the Conservatoire d’Orléans in Orléans, France, and a DM in Clarinet Performance from Florida State University.

Of his education at SIUE, Chuck says: I could not have asked for a more well-rounded education than what I received at SIUE. First and foremost, the dedicated and knowledgeable faculty, each an expert in their field, were and are the core of the music program; so much talent, experience, and wisdom to impart, and always willing to take time with students to ensure they were receiving the maximum quality education. I was also fortunate, by virtue of double-majoring, to take additional classes that broadened my horizons beyond the basic course requirements; and they were all mutually beneficial. Theory, analysis, and composition classes helped strengthen my understanding of solo and ensemble works that I was performing. Voice lessons and choral work improved my instrumental phrasing and stage presence. Perhaps most importantly, frequent performance opportunities in a variety of ensembles with an extensive repertoire provided rewarding experiences that strengthened my abilities and confidence, and prepared me for a career as a performer.

If I had one piece of advice to give to current students, it would be: take as many different classes, and perform in as many ensembles, as your schedule allows. It will pay off in unforeseen ways for the rest of your life!

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