The Marching Illini band has a new director for the next two years, from just down the road in Charleston.
UI alumnus Barry Houser, acting director of bands and director of the Panther Marching & Basketball Bands at Eastern Illinois University, will take the baton from Pete Griffin, who stepped down in May.
Houser was appointed Friday as visiting assistant director of bands and conductor of athletic bands, a two-year appointment.
Houser is known throughout the country as a guest conductor and band clinician, and his work at Eastern has garnered national attention, said UI Prof Robert Rumbelow, UI director of bands, in a news release.
Houser received a master's degree in wind conducting at the UI, where he studied with James Keene and was actively involved with the conducting responsibilities of the UI bands. He worked with the Marching Illini and basketball bands, with performances at the Rose Bowl and the men's and women's Big Ten Basketball Championships.
He earned his bachelor's degree in music education from the University of Florida, where he was head drum major for the Fightin' Gator Marching Band.
As a public school band director, Houser taught at the elementary through high school levels in Florida and Indiana. His bands have performed at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, NBC's "Today Show" and various state competitions, among other venues.
He is a director of the Macy's Great American Marching Band and has directed the mass band that performs annually at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. He is also director of the Smith-Walbridge Clinics, one of the largest music camps in the country.
At Eastern, Houser also conducts the Wind Symphony and Concert Band and teaches conducting and marching band courses.
He wife, Abigail Houser, teaches instrumental music in Paris, Ill.
Griffin, who'd been assistant director of bands for 17 years, is now chairman of the Department of Music at Elmhurst College.