Getting Personal: Linda Moorhouse
Getting Personal is a Q&A with a local personality. Here, a chat with Linda Moorhouse, interim director of bands at the University of Illinois.
So ... what's new with you?
Right now I am preparing for a few upcoming concerts on June 19, July 3, July 17 in the area and one special one in Nashville in March 2015. The Nashville concert is part of a national conference of the College Band Directors National Association. Our Illinois Wind Symphony was one of seven ensembles selected nationwide through a blind audition process to perform. We are playing the grand finale concert on Saturday evening. The last time Illinois was selected to perform at this prestigious conference was in 1987.
How long have you been at the UI?
It's hard to believe I am beginning my fifth year here. I was on the faculty of Louisiana State University for over 20 years before moving here. And yes, I do like the weather. Growing up in the South, I never experienced the four seasons.
What instruments do you play? What is your instrument of choice?
I first began on piano, then clarinet served as my high school and college instrument for my degree program. I also have a dance and color guard background as well. I guess you could say "baton" is my current instrument of choice.
Do you also compose music?
No, I don't compose.
Why and when did you begin to offer an annual concert aimed at families with autistic children? Will you be doing that every year?
The year before I left LSU, I held a special concert here in April and have continued the series since moving here. Autism affects a significant segment of our population, which is growing unfortunately very rapidly. Many of the families who have loved ones on the autism spectrum never have an opportunity to attend a live concert, due to fear of judgment, rejection and ignorance. Our concerts embrace the special-needs population with no prejudice or prejudgment.
You are the first woman heading the UI bands department, right? Has your gender ever been an issue?
Yes, I am the first woman band director in the history of the Illinois band program — heading it up or otherwise. And yes, there have been challenges along the way. Very few women band directors are teaching at the university and college ranks, and only a small percentage of those are heading up band programs. The Big Ten is unique in that there are three of us serving as head directors (Nebraska, Northwestern, Illinois). All that said, most of my closest friends and mentors have been predominately male.
What did you think of the Marching Illini before you joined the UI faculty? What do you think of it now?
I have long known of the Marching Illini and its tradition of excellence. One of my jobs at LSU was serving as the marching band director. I remember when the LSU Tiger Marching Band shared a Sugar Bowl game in New Orleans with the Marching Illini. I can still remember both of our band staffs having dinner together on New Year's Eve before the game. I have been friends with two of the former Marching Illini directors — Gary Smith and Tom Caneva — for a long time. Gary was instrumental in convincing me to leave LSU for Illinois. And I'm glad he did. I'm very happy here, and I'm very proud of the Marching Illini and how it continues to be our university's greatest public relations vehicle.
Do you plan any changes in the UI band program?
I learned a long time ago, you don't change what is good. There is such a special history here at Illinoisthis is where college band started. This is where musical excellence was recognized, nurtured and is now carried throughout the world with our many talented graduates. That said, the only thing inevitable in life is "change." As we settle into our current era, I would hope we continue to honor our past, uphold the excellence that has come before us and serve as a model of music education, which exemplifies the entire band program — concert to athletic bands.
And will you be applying for the band director position on a permanent basis?
Yes, at this point, I plan to do this.
You've received quite a few honors from the music community. Which ones are most meaningful to you?
To be recognized by your peers is an honor that carries special meaning for me. I'm very grateful for my teaching awards, guest conducting invitations and recent Hall of Fame induction. Next year's invitation to perform the finale concert at a one-of-a-kind national conference of my peers will be among the highest honors of my career.
What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?
I'm generally up by 6 a.m., which is not necessarily by choice. Work dictates it at this point. I'm drinking coffee, absorbing the news and checking email the first hour of the day.
What do you consider your greatest achievement or accomplishment?
I'd have to say my students. Watching them grow, mature and accomplish great things, whether musical or personal, is so very satisfying.
What do you regard as your most treasured possession?
My mother recently passed away and left me a few pieces of her jewelry. I wear with love and pride. She was an extraordinary woman.
Do you have a guilty pleasure and what is it?
I love chocolate, a good martini, lounging on the beach and reading a book in a big comfy chair.
What book are you reading now? What is your favorite book ever?
I just finished a book on creativity given to me by a friend. I'm not sure I have a favorite, as I like so many different types.
Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?
On my bucket list is a cruise to the Greek Isles one of these days. I've been to Europe and parts of Asia. Greece has always been a fascination to me.
Tell me about your favorite pet.
I grew up with Labs. I adore most animals and even owned a horse.
What's your favorite sports team?
I love to watch football, however, I don't have a favorite pro team — yet. College — anything Illini of course!
What would you order for your last meal?
I'd have halibut, a great steak and a side of Pad Thai, extra spicy.
If you could be reincarnated after you die, what would you like to come back as?
I'd do it the same all over again but would start giving thanks at a much earlier age.
Who are your favorite musicians and why?
This is like asking who are your favorite children. I'm a fan of classical music, classic rock, jazz, New Age ... wherever my mood takes me, really.
What's the happiest memory of your life?
I have many and they include my family and friends and much, much laughter.
Which historical figure do you admire the most and why?
Living here in Illinois, I'd have to say Abraham Lincoln. Imagine the courage and leadership it took to lead a country through Civil War and beyond, and abolish slavery. And all from such humble beginnings.
What personality trait do you most hate in other people? Most hate in yourself?
That's a tossup. Rudeness, arrogance or being quarrelsome. Me? I wish I were more fearless.
What's your best piece of advice?
Give thanks, laugh loudly, work hard and be honest.
What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?
My first job was teaching high school color guard camps while a high school junior. They thought I was older. I think I made $200 for the week.
What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?
Four years ago, I decided to leave a job where I was tenured and had over 20 years in the retirement system. It was a difficult decision to leave but one I knew would be better for me in the long run.
Do you have any regrets in your life? What are they?
Yes. I wish I had spent more time with my parents and best friend before they passed away. It's so easy to take things for granted when we're buried in day-to-day activities. I now greet every day with a thank-you.
How do you handle a stressful situation?
Not with panic. I deal with it and then act accordingly.