Dr. Joe Lill points to many things that make the School of Music a great place for young musicians of all sorts, including access to world-class musicians, opportunities for performing in a variety of ensembles, and the great classroom education the University provides. At the heart of the program is a dedicated, caring faculty. “One thing that our students get—whether they’re music majors, music minors, or non-majors who just get involved—is that the faculty here care. We care about every one of the students, we want them all to succeed. We want them to come out of every week better than they went in,” he says.
Dr. Lill, a professional trumpet player, conducts the Jazz Ensemble and Concert Band, and supervises the instrumental music education program. “For an incoming music major, the advantage of a smaller school is that you get all of the opportunities. You get to be in an orchestra if you’re good enough to make our orchestra. Concert band, jazz ensemble—you have places to perform, places to be involved,” he says.
He adds that, in every voice and discipline, there are no teaching assistants, so students get to take advantage of expert teachers in every lesson, and build contacts with individuals who are, themselves, professional performers. “Our faculty is made up of living, breathing performers in the Chicago area. We not only know what we want the student to learn, we know what they need to learn in order to perform after North Park,” Dr. Lill says.
Being located in Chicago also provides wonderful opportunities for practical learning experiences. “Students coming here for music education, for example, really get to take advantage of what the area has to offer,” Dr. Lill says. “We place them not only in the city, but in the suburbs, in public schools and private schools so they are ready when they come out of here for any situation, be it a large school or a small school.”
For all students involved in musical ensembles, performances are a highlight of the year and are some of Dr. Lill’s favorite experiences. “There’s nothing quite like performing… actually being on-stage with the lights on, ready to go, is an irreplaceable experience,” he says. “We, as ensemble directors, live for that. We love to prepare, but we really love to watch the students perform.”
“I love it because, every single concert, something happens that surpasses what happened in rehearsal. There’s always something magical,” he adds.
An active performer in a variety of genres including jazz, classical, and popular, Dr. Lill has been leading his own band, Six of One, since 1979. He has performed with such Chicago-area orchestras as the Ravinia Festival Orchestra, the New Philharmonic, and the Elgin Symphony, and with a variety of area big bands.
Along with the North Park Chamber Players, he appeared multiple times on WFMT’s Live from Studio One, including a live performance of Enescu’s Legende, collaborating with Elizabeth Buccheri. He appeared as lead trumpet on the CD Too Darn Hot by Jeff Hedberg & C11, released in 2011. In 2012 he was featured as a trumpet soloist with the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra in the world premiere of Daniel Golden’sLikht un Shotn (Light and Shadow), a klezmer concertante. A lifelong Chicagoan, he is frequently called on as a guest soloist, clinician, and adjudicator.