Alumni Spotlight: Adam Hucke

Adam Hucke is an Assistant Professor of Music at Southwestern Illinois College. He is the director of the SWIC Jazz Band and teaches music theory and history classes. Adam performs regularly in the St. Louis area and is a member of many bands including The Funky Butt Brass Band, The Blu City All-Stars, Musica SLESA, Sophisticated Babies, Street Fighting Band, and The Circus Harmony Orchestra.


The SIUE Music Dept. was the perfect size for a student like me. SIUE gave me the opportunity to learn and perform a wide variety of musical styles, and the resources and skills to focus on my individual musical growth.

Student Testimonial: Alfredo DeLeon

DeLeon.jpgI came to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville because of its affordability and convenient location from where I live. The campus is beautiful, and the feel of it is relaxing. The positive interactions I had with the professors at various events such as the Bi-State Band festival also helped me in my decision to attend the university. In my short time here at SIUE, I’ve made some great connections, met good people, and made some incredible friends. The professors make it a point to try their hardest to help each individual succeed, and to make time to help outside of class. I’ve had many great experiences at SIUE, and I’m sure there are many more to come.

Alfredo DeLeon

Music Education
President of NAfME, SIUE Collegiate Chapter
Class of 2019

Student Testimonial: Renae Eldridge

Renae.jpgI first studied music at Lewis and Clark Community College, where I fell in love with music theory.  However, shortly after completing my associate’s degree, my husband and I started a family, and it was important to me to be at home with my children while they were small.   I therefore put my formal education on hold.

Though I continued to work on my musical skills during my sixteen-year scholastic break, I positively ached for someone to teach me more.  Once all five of my children were old enough to enter grade school, I decided it was time for me to get back to my formal education.  Words can not describe how grateful I am for the opportunity to learn that SIUE has provided me!  Sixteen years of being away from education produced in me a deep hunger to learn and to grow.  So grateful was I to be back that I literally teared up while sitting in a music theory classroom for the first time in so many years.

I am of course grateful for the opportunity to earn a degree, and to further my employment opportunities, but for me, education is not just a hoop to jump through in order to gain a career.  I am here because I positively crave to learn everything that SIUE has to offer me.  I am profoundly grateful to the wonderful teachers and staff here at SIUE.  I have found the music program at SIUE to be just what I was looking for.  The staff is full of wonderfully caring and experienced professionals. The music department is big enough to provide plenty of opportunities for growth, and the class sizes are small enough so that every student is able to receive personal attention.  I cannot say enough about how happy I am to be able to study here. 

Renae Eldridge

Music Theory/Composition

Class of 2019

Faculty Insights: “I Wish You Would Compose” by Kim Archer


Dr. David Maslanka, Dr. Kim Archer, and Dr. Chris Werner at the world premiere of Symphony no. 3 (Central High School – La Crosse, WI)

I was 32 in 2005, when I started as an Assistant Professor at SIUE. I was so fatigued from the process of finishing a doctorate, hopping across two temp jobs, and finally starting the tenure track that I couldn’t compose anymore and thought I might be washed up. Frustrated and impatient to have the whole rest of my life resolved as soon as possible, I called a mentor composer – David Maslanka – for a diagnosis. David chuckled good-naturedly and invited me to spend a week’s retreat at his home in Montana. He said I needed rest.

David had a bigger plan than that, though: he also invited a young conductor who had just finished his first year in a new job in Wisconsin, and was equally fatigued and frustrated: Chris Werner.

We both needed David, but we needed each other more. Chris and I bonded over sneaking away for coffee (not allowed at David’s house) and dissecting episodes of Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. We suffered devastating Scrabble losses to David. Mostly, we lamented the deteriorating state of our shared profession – the wind ensemble and its repertoire. David suggested we try collaborating.

The next year Chris commissioned my Symphony no. 3. By doing this, he held open a space for me to fully and freely create. I, in turn, delivered a worthy conducting challenge for him: a 30-minute monster, requiring all manner of special equipment and color instruments, alternately laughing and roaring from the page. I spent two weeks in residence with Chris and his high school band, where both of us chafed at our colleagues’ certainty that it was impossible for high schoolers to negotiate such lengthy and difficult music, that neither of us had the skill or maturity to undertake such a project, and that we were hotheaded youngsters who would soon know better, if only by failing.

Not one chance, we decided. After all, there was nothing magic about demanding the best of yourself and being brave enough to expect it of others. Chris was a force of nature – a black hole whose sheer gravitational force dragged out every ounce of effort and musicianship from his band. He railed and shouted and sweated buckets from the podium, practically calling down the lightning, as if he could elicit their sound from his own body. He stormed and praised in equal intensity. He scared me, even! We spent our off-hours half in an exhausted stupor, and half barely speaking to each other. Often, a rage simmered between us. It took me a long time to realize this was a rage he’d assimilated from the music, which he was living in himself so he could conduct it and shape it. He was terrifying. He was amazing. It was a mad dash from the day I arrived to the final ringing note of the premiere, all hot with electricity. Chris swears he remembers nothing from that night, but I remember every second. That symphony wasn’t as much a “birth,” as Chris always called a premiere performance of new music, but more of a nuclear blast!

For years after that, we sat in coffee shops sketching the book we were going to write. We’d experienced – more like survived – something incredible and it had to be shared. Over those years and our work together, Chris developed a new model for building a band program in high schools, for training student teachers, and for bringing an entire school district into sync for fostering true, independent artistry. Kids can do so much more than most educators think, he insisted, and some of this plan hinged on the collaboration between a conductor and composer. So we were just going to write a book, just like that, because doing the right thing is so simple if you are fearless and willing to work hard. Obviously, all that was missing in the world was somebody’s saying that. We used to look up at each other from over our laptops – excitedly mapping out a table of contents, a paragraph here or there – to promise each other that we would never become complacent like the ranks ahead of us. We swore we would always push each other to the next big thing. We’d be 70 years old together, retired, and still showing the world how it’s done.

The problem was I couldn’t call down the lightning at will, the way Chris could. I have always struggled with insecurity and writer’s block. Then, Chris was there urging me on – you have this, you’ve done it before, it’s there, keep going, creativity is messy. I was in Chris’s gravitational pull and there was no escaping it. Next came a piano concerto. Then a symphony. Then a song cycle. It was painful and terrifying; it was slow, messy work; it always will be. But how could I give less to my art than Chris gave to his, or believe in myself less than he did?

Somewhere around 2012, we both began to discuss perhaps leaving education and maybe leaving music, too. We were both tired again, both burned out. Up in Wisconsin, Chris felt isolated. Conducting didn’t always feel fun or challenging anymore. He wondered if he’d rather become an administrator. I suggested he try to rejuvenate his creativity by feeding his other interests, like cooking or playing the clarinet. Down here in Illinois, I understood exactly what he felt. Composing is difficult. It was easier to talk with him about dumb meetings and academic politics.

We stopped being crusaders and became middle aged and complacent. It was so gradual we didn’t even notice.


13442496_10101504177757888_196651960539315342_oOn the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I sat at Chris’s bedside. The cancer took most of his digestive system a year ago. It had invaded his liver and brain. We had college football on TV, as was always our habit together, but I almost couldn’t recognize the man next to me. This wasn’t the same vibrant, energetic guy who helped paint my house a few summers ago, who trekked through Scotland with me, or who used to invent gourmet meals when we’d visit. I almost couldn’t recognize him – but there were still his eyes. They were the same.

“What about our book?” I asked.

“It’s percolating in your brain now,” he replied.

“Are you scared? Do you know what’s going to happen?”

“No, I don’t know. I think I’ll just go to sleep and that’s it. But I’m not scared. I’ve had a long time to get used to this idea.”

A long pause. “Did you have a good life?”

“I think I made a difference. Yes. I like to think I did good things.”

We were quiet for a while, watching Nebraska lose to Iowa. I thought about his many student teachers who’d gone on to careers in music and about a restaurant he used to love called “Diggers” where we’d talk for hours about new band music.

Finally, I asked, “Give me advice, Chris. What do I do now, without you?”

A small smile. “Have patience. Make other people feel heard, even when you know you’re right. I should have done that more. Be patient about your music, about life. Things will come, but only when it’s time. You have to be patient.”

He started to fade into sleep, but mumbled, “Compose. I wish you would just compose.”

Then, asleep, he began conducting. I couldn’t believe that’s what I was seeing, but I know his gestures so well: the pointing cue, the curl of his fingers, the interplay of his hands. He was humming a faint note now and then, his emaciated face rising and falling with dream music. I don’t know how long that went on, but I was stunned, devastated, fascinated … and most of all, grateful to have witnessed something important even though I didn’t understand.

He surfaced for a moment and looked surprised, as if I’d caught him talking to himself.

“Was it good music?” I asked. “The Chicago Symphony?”

He shrugged. “I don’t remember. Maybe it was the Medford Middle School Band.” His tiny little hometown. A small knowing smile, almost a wink, and he was asleep again.

Chris never wanted to leave music, any more than I do. He certainly never wanted to stop conducting. It was all that other stuff: paperwork, meetings, politics, evaluations, bills, groceries, family squabbles, laundry, etc., that got in his way. That stuff was simpler and easier to talk about than the demands of being an artist. Even cancer was easier, perhaps. I realized, though, that when all the noise is stripped away, what’s left is what matters. When everything else was taken from him, including his body, Chris held on to his music and to conducting.



A few mornings later, in the long hours before dawn, I held my best friend’s shoulder while spasms wracked his body. The first MP3 I could find on his laptop, hoping music might soothe him, was Maslanka’s Trombone Concerto. It sounded terrible through laptop speakers, but it brought Chris up from the fog. Lucid for the first time in many hours, he looked straight at me, smiled that broad smile of his, and whispered, “Serendipitous, that.”

I’d remembered the Trombone Concerto was beautiful and affirming, but had forgotten it was written in memory of someone who died of cancer.

The morphine started to work. He was quieter then, maybe listening. I asked, “Do you remember that day, Chris? We went to that first rehearsal together, and heard the first measures, and we were stunned at how beautiful it was.”

His eyes went glassy again, but he whispered, “It was amazing … lonely,” before he slipped back into sleep.

It was amazing. The work features a cello on equal standing with the trombone soloist. All those years ago, overwhelmed by a power we didn’t expect in a mere rehearsal, Chris had leaned over to me and said the cello was “the embodiment of loneliness.” Afterward, sharing a tub of cookie dough with spoons, staring at the television, we were too stunned to even talk about how that music showed us that we, ourselves, were lonely. All we could do was allow an unspoken poignancy and be together, present in the moment. Very shortly after that rehearsal, though, I began to write for Chris my Concerto for Piano and Wind Ensemble. It was a work worthy of being “his,” a work speaking to our shared loneliness. I put a cello on equal standing with the piano soloist. Symphony no. 3 roars; that piano concerto contemplates and weeps.

Chris never was able to conduct it. He never had a band that could do it. Maybe he does now, on that stage in his dreams.


Chris conducting the U. Nebraska at Lincoln’s high school summer camp


The hospice nurse came later that day. She said he had 48 hours left, maybe 72. I didn’t think Chris would wake again, but knowing I had to leave for home, I sat one last time at his side. Patient. Listening. He did wake and looked right at me, took my hand and held it to his chest, squeezed it as hard as he could between his. We didn’t speak … sharing an unspoken poignancy, present in our last moment together, as tears rolled down my face. He never wanted me to cry when he talked about what was happening to him; in fact, the day he called with the diagnosis, he threatened to hang up on me if I cried.

This time, he smiled and said, “Thanks for the visit.” That’s what we always said to each other, after every premiere, at the airport.

You can’t go, Chris.”

It is what it is, Kim.”

 “I love you, Chris.”

 “I love you, too.”

He drifted back into sleep. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t go. Then he released my hand and began conducting again. I kissed his forehead, whispered “goodbye,” and left.

I will never see my best friend again, but I hope I, too, can come back — as he did — to focus whatever time I have left on what really matters.

Be patient.

Listen to others.


Student Testimonial: Tyler Green

TylerGreen.pngMy experiences at SIUE have been incredible. The caring faculty, the challenging curriculum, and the great students have shaped me into the musician and person I am today. As a vocal performance and music business major, I have gotten a very well rounded education. The amount of experience I have gained in my undergraduate career is staggering. I have sung in 8 productions on campus and stage directed 2 full-scale operas. I would not have had those types of opportunities at most universities. SIUE is special in that way. Opportunities are abundant and the faculty want you to succeed. I am very blessed to be a part of this institution and I hope other people will get the same life-changing experiences that I have.



Alumni Spotlight: Chelsea Silvermintz

csilvermintzChelsea Silvermintz has been a band director in the Lindbergh School District (St. Louis, Missouri) since 2008. At Lindbergh, she instructs 6th through 12th grade band, including the “Spirit of St. Louis” Marching Band, the Concert Band, the Freshman Band, Woodwind Choir, 6th grade clarinets, and 7th grade woodwinds. She and her six colleagues team-teach a total of approximately 800 band students on a daily basis. Prior to teaching at Lindbergh, Mrs. Silvermintz taught band at McDowell Middle School in Hondo, Texas and worked previously with the Racine Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps as a brass and visual instructor.

A Texas native, Chelsea received her Bachelor of Music in Music Studies from the SIUE in 2010 while working full time as a band director. She felt that the ability to pursue this degree while working in the field enhanced her educational experience and made her a better teacher. Chelsea graduated from SIUE with her Master of Music in Music Education in 2014 and was the recipient of the Kurt W. Engbretson Music Education Award.

Chelsea Silvermintz studied in the trumpet studios of Ray Crisara, Ray Sasaki and John Korak and has been a member of the St. Louis Brass Band since 2009, performing on both cornet and baritone. While studying at the University of Texas, Chelsea traveled the country as a member of the Longhorn Marching Band and the Cadets Drum & Bugle Corps.

Chelsea Silvermintz is an active member of the Music Educators National Conference, Missouri Bandmasters Association, Phi Kappa Phi, and the National Education Association. Chelsea also currently serves as the band vice president for the St. Louis Suburban Music Educators Association. She lives in St. Louis with her husband Ben Silvermintz, a music teacher in the Parkway School District, and her sons Sawyer and Conrad.

Statement Regarding SIUE Education

The opportunity to conduct graduate work at SIUE while teaching full time increased my effectiveness in the classroom. Whether through content-specific action research projects or the deep study of music history and educational theory, I gained insights and fostered new understandings that directly impacted student learning on a daily basis.


Alumni Spotlight: Erika Lord-Castillo

2016-02-18 09.07.31.jpgErika has been a full time faculty member and Assistant Administrator in the SIUE Suzuki Program since 2012. She also serves as the co-director of the SIUE Suzuki Tour Group. This group travels and performs internationally, most recently visiting the Baltic Countries of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in summer 2016.

Erika’s undergraduate degrees include a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance and a Bachelor of Literature, Sciences, and Arts from the University of Iowa in 2005. As a violinist and violist, she earned her Master’s in Music Education with an emphasis in Suzuki Pedagogy from SIUE in 2010. Erika pursued intensive Suzuki training before coming to SIUE, studying with renowned Suzuki teacher trainers Michelle Higa George, Moshe Neumann, Judy Bossuat, Nancy Jackson, Christie Felsing, and William Preucil, Sr. These training opportunities led her to seek out in-depth Suzuki pedagogy training with Vera McCoy-Sulentic at SIUE.

Erika taught in the Corvallis, Oregon public schools through the Corvallis Youth Symphony’s Elementary Strings Program, and after her graduate degree, taught for three years as a 4th-12th grade orchestra director in the Ferguson-Florissant School District in North St. Louis County.

Soon after graduating from SIUE, she was honored to be selected to present her Master’s Thesis “John Kendall’s Early Contributions to Suzuki Education in the United States” at the American String Teachers Association National Conference. In 2015, the Suzuki Association of the Americas awarded her the prestigious Certificate of Achievement. Her articles “John Kendall’s Early Contributions to Suzuki Education in the United States” and “Imposter Syndrome: What it is, Why Suzuki Teachers May Be Susceptible, and How to Overcome It” have been published in the American Suzuki Journal.


 I chose to attend SIUE because of the reputation of the Suzuki pedagogy program, which was established by John Kendall in 1965. As the first long term Suzuki training program in the United States in a university setting, the program is now celebrating fifty years! The opportunity to teach young students in the Suzuki program, while earning an assistantship, made this program my first choice and allowed me to gain practical experience from the very start. The sense of community within the SIUE Suzuki Program creates a distinct environment where the director, faculty teachers, graduate assistants, parents, and children all work together and learn from one another.

Many SIUE Suzuki Master’s Degree Graduates have gone on to become well known leaders in the worldwide Suzuki community. I am astounded by the immediate connection I have had with so many people at Suzuki Conferences, Leadership Retreats, and other string teaching events, simply because of a shared background at SIUE.

Although I attended SIUE because of the Suzuki Pedagogy program, my music education degree gave me ample opportunity to work on solo repertoire, become an accomplished orchestral and chamber musician, and to increase my experience in and knowledge of teaching and education in general. I feel grateful to have become a well-rounded teacher and musician.

After finishing my Master’s degree, but before returning to work at SIUE, I got the opportunity to work as a Cooperating Teacher with a Student Teacher in my orchestra classroom in the Ferguson-Florissant School District. I discovered a whole new aspect of teaching that I never realized I would enjoy; helping a new teacher learn to be a teacher. I value very much being able to continue this relationship at SIUE through my interactions as a faculty teacher with the current group of graduate students. I am working toward becoming a Suzuki Teacher Trainer so that I can continue teaching teachers in a more formal setting.

As somebody who would probably love to be in school my entire life, if it was feasible, I found my classes and degree in general to be really satisfying. When I finished my degree, I was admittedly a little sad. I was delighted when there was the chance to return to SIUE and to teach in the Suzuki program where I studied