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Chamber Ensembles

The Graduate String Quartet-in-Residence program began in 1982 under the tutelage of the world-famous Vermeer String Quartet, the members of which were NIU resident artist faculty until their retirement in 2007. The program is now continuing with the Avalon String Quartet, who were participants in the program in 1996-97 and are now our faculty quartet-in-residence.

A single graduate quartet is selected by competitive audition, and the individual members are admitted to the Master of Music or Performer's Certificate by the School of Music. Each member is awarded a full tuition waiver for the period of the residency (up to two years). Since the program's inception, a number of young quartets have participated, and many have gone on to managed professional careers and/or artists-in-residence appointments at other universities.

Coaching from woodwind faculty is available for woodwind quintet or other woodwind chamber ensembles. Chamber groups perform regularly on campus and have the opportunity to play in the annual Chamber Music Competition.

Coaching from brass faculty is available for a brass quintet or other brass chamber ensembles. Chamber groups perform regularly on campus and have the opportunity to play in the annual Chamber Music Competition.

Dedicated to exploring vocal and instrumental repertories before 1750, the Early Music Ensemble offers both a chamber experience and an introduction to historically-informed performance to undergraduates and graduate students alike.  Members of EME have the opportunity to play historical instruments, from rebec and viola da gamba to recorders and percussion, and to learn new styles and techniques appropriate to music of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods.  EME presents two full-length concerts a year with occasional performances in the community.

The New Music Ensemble is a performance group dedicated to historically groundbreaking music of the 20th Century and the emerging musical voices of the 21st Century. The ensemble officially meets each fall semester to mount concerts of works by a single composer or collection of related/connected composers and expose students to the wide range of musical expression that is avant-garde music-making. Other events happen throughout the year on an ad hoc basis.

The ensemble will vary in size and instrumentation and/or voice type according to planned concert programs. To date, the ensemble has presented concerts of music by Steve Reich, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Olivier Messiaen as well as invited guest composers.

Percussion Ensemble is the principal vehicle through which NIU percussion majors are afforded the experience of chamber music. The ensemble works on a three-semester rotation:

  • World Music: Performances geared toward the development of an awareness of percussion cultures around the world, done primarily in an oral tradition
  • Keyboard Percussion: Compositions chosen that provide ample opportunity for percussionists to hone skills in mallet performance, including improvisation skills
  • Classical and Contemporary Literature: Program chosen that exposes percussionists to the classic works of the genre, plus new works that push the medium ever forward