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Sarah Gentry, ConcertMaster

She is Professor of Violin at Illinois State University, a position she has held since 1992. She has also held concertmaster positions with Opera Illinois, Baroque Artists of Champaign-Urbana, Sugar Creek Music Festival, and served as Associate Concertmaster for the Peoria Symphony Orchestra from 1992-2000. A Louisiana native, Sarah began playing the violin as a Suzuki student at age 6. After receiving a Violin Performance degree from Louisiana State University, she earned a Master of Music degree from Yale University and the Doctor of Music degree from Indiana University. Sarah and her husband, Gary, have been married for 25 years and have two very busy teenagers. Sarah is actively involved in her church, serving in the music ministry and teaching in the children’s ministry program each Sunday.

About the HFO: “I had the privilege of serving as the musicians’ representative on the HFO board for 3 years. I remember that at after my first board meeting, I was totally in awe of the myriad talents of our board members and their passion for the HFO. It is the energy and drive of the board members, donors, and volunteers that make the HFO such a success. What a wonderful group of supporters the HFO has! It’s an honor to be a member of this orchestra!”

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Diane Wuthrich, Principal Viola

She enjoys an active musical life of performing and teaching. Graduating summa cum laude from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2005, she went on to receive her Master of Music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music. Following her education, she joined the Tucson Symphony Orchestra in 2007 where she also performed, coached chamber music and taught private lessons. Since returning to Central Illinois in 2009, she has sought to strengthen the musical community through excellence in performance and instruction. She frequently performs chamber and orchestral music with a number of regional ensembles. Diane and her husband Daniel reside in Morton, IL with their four children, Lana, Leia, Asher and Ila.

About the HFO: “I love the camaraderie that we have. Because we share a passion for music and we’ve invested a lot of ourselves in honing our skills as individuals, it’s very rewarding to come together to rehearse and perform. The end product truly is greater than the sum of its parts! I also appreciate the camaraderie of the viola section in particular. Though our part in the orchestral texture is very important and would be greatly missed if it were not there, our part is usually not very glamorous, and sometimes it’s downright dull. So most of us deal with that by enjoying other aspects of the music, paying more attention to what’s going on around us, and keeping a good sense of humor through it all. Maybe that’s why the violists tend to be known as the friendly group in the orchestra.“

© Photograph by Darrell Hoemann

© Photograph by Darrell Hoemann

Barbara Hedlund, Principal Cello

She is a Broadway veteran, recipient of multiple awards. She enjoys an active career as orchestral & chamber musician, solo and recording artist, orchestral and college administrator, music editor and publisher, university professor, competition adjudicator, young artist scholarship sponsor and mentor. Barbara is particularly fond of her work as an Urbana Public Arts Commissioner. As an adoptee, she is involved with ALMA (Adoptees Liberty Movement Association) who helped her find her birthparents. 

About the HFO: “There have been many events, soloists, and memories since the HFO was founded. They cover a wide gamut from artistic side to production aspects. Then once that's all done, I sit down and play my instrument. 
Joy comes from audience response and continued support, getting to know our patrons, sponsors, host families, staff and families, personal artistic satisfaction, and the esprit de corps resulting from a positive, successful working environment intertwined with a fast-paced concert preparation period.”

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Kimberly mccoul risinger, Principal Flute

She graduated with a Bachelor in Music from The College of Wooster, she received her Master of Music degree from Illinois State University, and she is a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Maryland. Kim started flute in 5th grade. Her dad always wanted her to play the flute but she wanted to play the trombone. She was very small and they thought her arms would not be able to reach all the positions! She is now very glad she went with the flute! When she was in High School she studied flute with the principal flutist in the Canton Symphony (Anne Whaley) and George Pope at the University of Akron.

About the HFO: “I have enjoyed all of the concerts with the HFO. It has been my pleasure making music with David Commanday and all of the great players in the orchestra. I have loved soloing with the group, playing the Lukas Foss Concerto and the Bach Suite 2, and I really enjoyed performing with Molly Madden on the Mozart Flute and Harp Concerto! The HFO is an amazing group, and it is a privilege to be a part of it.”

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Evan Tammen, Principal Oboe

Originally from the small town of Thawville, Illinois, Evan completed his undergraduate in oboe performance at Illinois Wesleyan University and his Master's at the University of Illinois. Growing up, his initial intent was to play horn, but he was convinced that his embouchure was better suited to the oboe than to a brass instrument. Coincidentally (or not), his small elementary school did not have an oboist at the time... 

Evan is a doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois, where he works full time as a development officer. He also teaches oboe at Illinois College and the Conservatory of Central Illinois. Evan's wife is a fellow oboist, and she works for the University of Illinois School of Music. She is the superior reed-maker, so he often pilfers from her reed case.

About the HFO: "I love playing in the Heartland Festival Orchestra -- the musicians are dedicated, disciplined, and amazingly talented, and Maestro Commanday creates a nutritive and friendly atmosphere that lends itself well to honest music-making. One of my most memorable HFO concerts was Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. The piece is truly epic and full of raw excitement. My wife and I were so inspired by the performance that a few months later, we paid our respects to Orff's grave in Bavaria (and enjoyed some beverages in the monastery's beer garden afterwards)."

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David Gresham, Principal Clarinet

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Michael Dicker, Principal Bassoon

He has earned degrees from UCLA, The University of Michigan, and The Juilliard School where he was the recipient of the Juilliard Alumni Scholarship in Performance. His performing career began with the United States Military Academy Band at West Point. He served as Principal Bassoonist with the National Repertory Orchestra, the Colorado Philharmonic, and the Wichita Symphony. His European experience includes the Belgian Radio Symphony in Brussels, and the Neue Philharmonie Westfalen (Gelsenkirchen) as Associate Principal Bassoon. Michael has taught at Wagner College, Wichita State University, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, Musikschule Bochum (Germany), Orvieto Musica (Italy). He has presented masterclasses in the United States, Europe and Asia. Michael has been a member of the faculty of the Illinois State University School of Music since 1986, he serves as Principal Bassoonist of the Heartland Festival Orchestra and he has served as Principal Bassoonist of the Peoria Symphony Orchestra since 1987. Michael is married to Judith Dicker, Assistant Prof. of Oboe at Illinois State University. Their daughter Erica is a professional violinist and daughter Talia is a professional cellist.

About the HFO: “I am particularly fond of my collaboration as a soloist with David Commanday in the performance of the Mozart Bassoon Concerto for 'Make It Mozart' ” (HFO’s 2014-15 Season).

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Tricia Jöstlein, Principal Horn

An active freelance musician, Tricia Jöstlein frequently performs as an extra musician with the St. Louis Symphony and serves as Adjunct Professor of Horn at Webster University. She holds positions as Principal Horn of Winter Opera St. Louis and the Heartland Festival Orchestra.  She previously held posts as Principal Horn of the Omaha Symphony and the Des Moines Metro Opera Orchestra, as well as positions with the Honolulu and Richmond Symphony Orchestras. 

Born and raised in central Nebraska, Ms.Jöstlein completed high school at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. She earned a Bachelors of Music at Rice University, followed by graduate studies at the University of Michigan. She lives in St. Louis with her husband and fellow musician, Thomas, and their sons, Klaus and Max.

© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2012

© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2012

Stephen parsons, Principal Trombone

Stephen Parsons is Director of the School of Music at Illinois State University. He holds a D.M.A. in Trombone Performance from the University of Kansas, where he studied with Stephen Anderson. He has also studied at the Tanglewood Institute with members of the Empire Brass Quintet and with Milton Stevens of the National Symphony Orchestra. Before coming to Illinois State, he served as Trombone Soloist and Assistant Principal Trombonist with the United States Army Field Band in Washington D.C. While in Washington, he performed with the Field Band's Brass Quintet and also served as that organization's clinician for both high school and college settings. He is a member of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, Peoria Symphony Orchestra and Heartland Festival Orchestra, and has performed with the Tulsa Philharmonic, the St. Louis Symphony, the Opera Theatre of St Louis, Sinfonia da Camera, the Prairie Ensemble and the New Sousa Band.

Other than music, his favorite activities are visiting his children and playing with his grandchildren.

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Andy Rummel, Principal Tuba

He is the Professor of Tuba and Euphonium at Illinois State University in Normal. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music education, a master’s degree in music performance from Illinois State University and a doctorate in music performance and literature from the University of Illinois. Prior to his return to Illinois State University he was the principal tubist in the United States Air Force Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. Andy is a native of Delavan, a small, rural town in Tazewell county. He is the youngest of 7 kids and all his siblings were involved in either band or chorus in the Delavan schools. “We could sign up for band starting in the 5th grade and I wanted to follow in my brother’s footsteps and play tuba. Our school was small and only owned a sousaphone, typically used for marching. When filling out an interest form to help choose our eventual instrument, I wrote “sousaphone” in all three blanks provided. My band director at the time (now a dear friend and mentor) tells me that the only two reasons she let me start on sousaphone is because I knew what it was and I spelled it correctly! “

About the HFO: “I always enjoy my performances with the HFO, but the concerts with Time for Three and the performance with country artists Rachel Potter and Patrick Thomas are my favorites. I was unfamiliar with Time for Three prior to their performance and quickly became a huge fan. To be honest, the Country Legends concert is perhaps one of my favorite performances I have ever participated in. The singers were great, the arrangements were quality, and it was a very, very entertaining concert. Let’s do it again!

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David Collier, Principal Timpanist

Dr. Collier is Professor of Percussion and Director of Percussion Studies at Illinois State University. Dr. Collier received his Bachelor of Music Degree from Florida State University, his Masters in Music from Indiana University and his Doctorate in Percussion Performance and Electronics Music from the University of Illinois. Dr. Collier is also active as a freelance percussionist and has performed with artists such as Mitzi Gaynor, Henry Mancini, Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Petula Clark, Aretha Franklin, Tommy Tune, Roger Williams, Shirley Jones, and Bobby Vinton. Dr. Collier loves all genres of music and has recently returned to his roots as a jazz drum set player. Outside of music he enjoys reading, cooking, taking very long walks and going to the gym. Most of all he cherishes time with his wife Karen (who is a violinist, pianist, organist and painter) and his daughter Arianna.

About the HFO: David has been Principal Timpanist for the HFO since the beginning with his first performance being the staged production of Stravinsky’s "L’Histoire du soldat". He performed the timpani concerto "Raise the Roof", on October 14, 2017, as part of our Classic Rumble Concert.

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Kevin Nichols, Principal Percusssion / Drum Set

Dr. Kevin A. Nichols is an Associate Professor of Music at Western Illinois University. He has received degrees from the University of Iowa, Northwestern University, and Illinois Wesleyan University. As a freelance percussionist, Nichols has supported such notable artists as Marie Osmond, Evelyn Glennie, David Amram, Jim Rattigan, Turtle Island String Quartet, Avanti Guitar Trio, and the Tunkul Percusiones México. In addition to the Heartland Festival Orchestra, he regularly works with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra, Knox-Galesburg Symphony, Quad Cities Symphony, Galesburg Symphony Chorus, and McDonough County Choral Society. Equally active on the drum set, he is a member of the Hopper Jazztet, Peoria Heritage Ensemble, Post6 Big Band, and the rural rock band Iron Orchard. Dr. Nichols is an Educational Artist for the Avedis Zildjian Cymbal Company and Remo, Inc.

In the summer of 2017, he was in residency in San Jose, Costa Rica. During the rich cultural experience, he was able to present clinics and lessons on a variety of topics including marching percussion, orchestral percussion, and drumset.

About the HFO: “I wholeheartedly cherish every performance that I have had with the Heartland Festival Orchestra. The collegiality amongst the members is second to none. The creative process while preparing such a diverse spectrum of literature is addictive. Whether it is the tambourine parts from The Nutcracker, helping the orchestra swing harder with the music of Dean Martin, or just adding extra finesse on the snare drum part to Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, every performance is musically satisfying…. and The Blend’s coffee helps the driving.”

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Andrea Molina, Principal Keyboard

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Molly Madden, Principal Harp

As the daughter of musicians, music has always been part of Molly’s life. She started piano at the age of five but harp was always her goal and dream. She received her first harp as a gift in second grade. She studied with Dr. Ann Yeung at the University of Illinois, where she received bachelor's and master's degrees in harp performance. Growing up Molly’s school didn’t have an orchestra, in 5th grade she joined the band instead as a percussionist. She played the smallest bass drum in the marching band drum line all four years of high school. There were also several attempts to start bands with friends, in which she played drum set. One band was called “Some Pulp” (named for the orange juice variant).

About the HFO: “Concerts are always tons of fun for me, so it’s hard to pick one particular memory. Of course, getting to play the Mozart Flute and Harp concerto with Kim Risinger was a truly wonderful experience. The HFO also brings in so many talented guest performers, and it’s always a special treat to get to work with them. I also look forward to the Nutcracker every year! It’s a really rewarding and fun harp part, and I love the collaboration between the orchestra and the Peoria Ballet Company”.