Perrino tribute airs Thursday

URBANA — WILL-TV will pay tribute to the late Dan Perrino in a new program airing at 8 p.m. Thursday, called "Medicare Man: Remembering Dan Perrino and Medicare 7, 8 or 9."

The program looks back at the popular Mr. Perrino and the group he founded, via concert footage, new interviews with band members and others, archival photos and excerpts of previously taped interviews with the musician, who died Aug. 17, 2012, at age 91.

In 1969, Mr. Perrino, then a University of Illinois professor of music, along with other professors and graduate students staged an impromptu Dixieland jazz concert at the Illini Union, where students typically gathered in the South Lounge to castigate the administrations on campus and in Washington, according to a news release.

When the group performed, the room filled with people, and for once they weren't yelling at each other, the news release states. For the next 30 years, the band played more than 2,000 performances throughout Illinois and in more than 35 states.

The 90-minute program, produced and edited by WILL's Tim Meyers, features interviews and musical footage, in equal parts, from previous WILL-TV specials produced between 1982 and 2005.

New interview subjects include vocalists Dena Vermette and Abby Crull; former UI associate dean of students Willard Broom; former UI Alumni Association director Lou Liay; Medicare band members Gregg and Jeff Helgesen, Carl Johnson, Donnie Heitler, Jordan Kaye, Rick Murphy and Morgan Powell; Chip McNeill, head of the UI jazz studies program; Scott Schwartz, head of the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music on the UI campus; and Mr. Perrino's wife, Marge.

Since he died last year, Mr. Perrino's friends and colleagues have had time to reflect on his legacy and that of the group he founded, said WILL's Les Schulte, project manager for the program.

"I think people's comments may reflect a different perspective now that some time has passed," he said.

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