The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, Sept. 2, 2018

The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, Sept. 2, 2018

With Krannert set to turn the big 5-0 later this school year, we'll catch up with those who've both starred on-stage and worked off it from time to time between now and April. This week, we ask our panel of 10: We say Krannert, you say ... what?

DENISE DJOKIC
Acclaimed cellist now living in Urbana

"The first image that comes to mind when I imagine my earliest visits there is the endless backstage hallways with their autographed concrete blocks.

"I think this made a welcoming impact on me when I first moved to town because of the familiar names on the wall and the fun sense of artistic community that has always existed at Krannert and also in C-U.

"My 4-year-old son always asks me to tell him stories about the backstage area at Krannert, so that image has inspired lots of storytelling and silly ideas about what goes on behind those walls."

JANIS IAN
2017 Ellnora Guitar Festival guest best known for her No. 1 hit in 1975, 'At Seventeen'

"It's a testament to the changing times that a woman would be asked to headline a guitar festival, and I was quite thrilled.

"I remember the concert in part because the hall was so good — superb acoustics, warm stage, couldn't have asked for more.

"Ditto the crew, who went above and beyond. Also, I got to play 'At Seventeen' with Makana. I still have the photo; he was terrific."

NIEL GALEN
Emmy-winning lighting director and 1987 UI grad

"As a design student, I spent the vast majority of my campus life inside the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. The center was and remains one of the most comprehensive and beautiful performing arts facilities I've had the pleasure to work in over the years.

"An outstanding memory of my time working at KCPA is when we had to drive Itzhak Perlman from his dressing room down the backstage hallway to the Foellinger Great Hall — using our indoor forklift.

"I'm sure OSHA would have had conniptions had they known about our makeshift wheelchair, but Mr. Perlman loved it and it made an indelible image in my head."

JOHN SCOFIELD
3 Grammy wins past 3 years for jazz guitarist

"The Krannert Center is unique — especially by American standards.

"It reminds me of being at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands. It's a well-designed and large place with a number of different performance spaces.

"I've really enjoyed playing there — both times at the guitar festival. I met and heard other musicians there — last time John Pizzarelli and later hung out with Los Lobos. I hope I am invited back."

LAWRENCE BROWNLEE
Tenor named Male Singer of the Year at 2017 International Opera Awards

"The Krannert Center is one of the most acoustically friendly and beautiful halls I've performed in. It allowed me the opportunity to test the parameters of vocal colors and dynamics even more. I hope to be back."

EMILY VITO
2003 UI grad now assistant development director at New York's Lincoln Center Film Society

"I have memories all over the building, but one room that stands out is the rehearsal space we used for mainstage productions. It's where my classmates and I were on the night of September 11, 2001, as we processed the shock of that day and rehearsed for, of all plays, our production of Shakespeare's 'Henry V.'

"It's also where all freshmen showed up for mandatory morning improv classes three days a week, which were more or less group therapy sessions for kids just out of their parents' homes.

"For all its plainness to anyone outside the Krannert bubble, that room has seen a lot of tears and love and I'll never forget it for that."

REZ ABBASI
Pakistan-born jazz guitarist, 2017 Ellnora guest

"A few years ago, I was performing at the Krannert Center with the Ragamala Dance Company. I remember walking down the hall, trying to discern the hundreds of artist signatures on the wall while signing it, when I came across a poster for the Ellnora Guitar Festival.

"I thought to myself: I'd like to come back and play this, as it happens annually at KCPA. The next year, without writing to them, I was asked to play two concerts at the festival.

"So, I've been lucky enough to sign the wall twice and perform in three of the halls.

"After my group performed our live film score, I heard some amazing shows in the various halls and they all sonically glowed. It's a dazzling, one-of-a-kind place."

GINA CETRONE
2014 grad served as front of house supervisor while attending UI

"I worked at Krannert all four years of my college career, and it was the greatest time of my life. I have a ton of random facts, stories and memories.

"The elevator in the northeast side of the building is the size of a whale's heart. I'd pull that little factoid out in a crowded elevator to break the silence.

"They keep a ghost light lit — I believe in every theater, but I know for sure they do it in the Studio Theater. I'm sure it's for safety reasons, but I like to think that it's haunted.

"The floors are made of teak wood, which is endangered.

"When I started working there, we had a choice between orange, green, blue or pink ties. I got stuck with orange for two years, and then traded it in for pink after someone graduated. Loved it."

NICHOLAS McGEGAN
Famed British baroque conductor

"I think that I first performed in the Krannert Center while on tour with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Garrick Ohlsson sometime in the 1990s.

"After playing in endless not-such-fun halls, the Krannert Center was a revelation and I remember how thrilled we were to be there. Nearly 20 years later, I was there again, this time with Philharmonia Baroque and the divine Susan Graham.

"It was just as magical as I remembered. The acoustic and the whole atmosphere inspired us to do our very best.

"I hope to return as soon as I can."

SHARON ISBIN
Grammy-winning classical guitarist

"Happy 50th, Krannert. You're one of my favorite venues to perform at — not only are the large and appreciative audiences inspiring, but the space is so remarkably versatile and unlike any other.

"I marvel how during the Ellnora Festival, Krannert magically transforms into an entire community, replete with meals, vendors and music everywhere, and how after my show, I was thrilled to hear seven more that same day, including stunning sets by Rodrigo y Gabriela, Bucky and John Pizzarelli and Bela Fleck."