February 28, 2024
News - Joliet and Will County

Joliet superintendent connects with kids through music

JOLIET – The Hufford Junior High School honors orchestra have a full touring schedule on Dec. 18.

Its youth members, along with Joliet Public Schools District 86 Superintendent Therese Rouse on violin, will perform Christmas carols on WJOL (8:12 a.m.) and for the community (11:30 a.m.) at Louis Joliet Mall.
Its youth members, along with Joliet Public Schools District 86 Superintendent Therese Rouse on violin, will perform Christmas carols on WJOL (8:12 a.m.) and for the community (11:30 a.m.) at Louis Joliet Mall.
Rouse said she had not played violin since high school and she graduated in 1980. In fact, Rouse said she didn't even own a violin. Orchestra director Clifford Hunt loaned her one so she could practice at home.
She's only had since Thanksgiving to brush up. But she's happy to participate and glad Hunt asked her to do it.

"I said, 'Yes,' because I love our music program, and the more I can support it, the better," Rouse said. "Music is such an important part of the learning process,and I want to be able to show the students it's important to me to join them on this tour."

In fact, the music program was one of the reasons Rouse wanted to work at District 86.
"I'd been in California for 22 years. No one has orchestra anymore," Rouse said. "A few had band. A few had choirs. Music had been cut from the educational scene for so long, that when I was looking at the profile for of this district and saw how robust the music program was – just the notion it had an orchestra – I had to check it out."

Rouse said now that she's here, she wants to support the program, which she said is over 100 years old.

"I go to every concert I can if the students are doing it," Rouse said. "That can be a challenge. Sometimes there are two concerts in one night, so I start at one and end at the other."
For Rouse, music feels like an extension of herself, she said. Rouse began playing piano at 6 and violin in the sixth grade. Rouse recalled begging for piano lessons in kindergarten and the school music teacher telling her mother, "If she's still asking when she turns 6, we'll start lessons."

"On my sixth birthday, a piano arrived at my house and I had my first lesson on my sixth birthday," Rouse said.
For Rouse, the initial motivation was she liked her music teacher and "wanted to be like her." Rouse took piano lessons through high school, She still plays, on her piano at home.

"In sixth grade, I had actually asked to play the clarinet," Rouse said . "But we didn't have a clarinet at home. We had a violin. So I played that."

What did the students think when Rouse joined them at rehearsals?

"Well, they were kind of shocked at first," Rouse said. "I told them, 'It's been a long time since I've played. Don't laugh if I make a mistake.'"

Goal: "Music to me is like therapy. It's what you do to release emotion, to let loose of the other parts of the day. If you come home and you start playing the piano, it's amazing how, after about 30 minutes of playing, you stand up and the stress is gone. That's what it does for me and why I continue to play music at home...It's a wonderful thing to be able to connect with the music and let yourself be transformed by it."
Pieces played: "I like classical music, and I've played in church; I've played a lot of church music, but most of my training was classical. My favorite composer was Beethoven. His music just speaks to me in a different way. I love to play his music."

Words of wisdom: "Keep playing, never give up, don't stop. Find a way to participate musically no matter where you find yourself."

WHAT: Live concert of Christmas carols

WHEN: 11:45 a.m. Dec. 18

WHERE: Louis Joliet Mall (near Carson's) 3340 Mall Loop Drive, Joliet

ETC: Performed by Hufford Junior High School honors orchestra and Joliet Public Schools District 86 Superintendent Therese Rouse

CONTACT: For information, call Sandy Zalewski, director for communications and development, at 815-740-3196 ext. 8204.
Meet the Hufford Junior High School honors orchestra:

• Emma Bueschel – violin – grade seven

• Jesus Cruz – viola – grade eight

• Michael Del Rio – cello – grade seven

• Oscar Diaz – cello – grade eight

• Diego Fernandez – viola – grade seven

• Alyssa Flores – viola – grade eight

• Cesar Gutierrez – string bass – grade eight

• Miguel Heredia – violin – grade eight

• Aireanna Hinojosa – violin – grade seven

• Lucas Hobbs – string bass – grade eight

• Madeline Hobbs – viola – grade six

• Matthew Machacek – viola – grade seven

• Isaac Nunez – violin – grade eight

• Evan Peterson – cello – grade seven

• Lizbeth Plascencia – viola – grade eight

• Carlos Rodriguez – viola – grade six

• Coen VanDyke – violin – grade seven

• Makayla Vinson – cello – grade eight
Denise  Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland is the features editor for The Herald-News in Joliet. She covers a variety of human interest stories. She also writes the long-time weekly tribute feature “An Extraordinary Life about local people who have died. She studied journalism at the College of St. Francis in Joliet, now the University of St. Francis.