A Tale of Two Bands


Homecoming normally celebrates Northern Illinois; but this year, it’s all about Kansas.

The legendary rock group will perform with the NIU Philharmonic Orchestra as part of its Collegiate Symphony Tour 8 p.m. Saturday at the Convocation Center, 1525 W. Lincoln Highway.

Kansas contacted NIU about two years ago to gauge the school’s interest in the performance, said Paul Bauer, NIU School of Music director.

“This is a very interesting opportunity for our students,” Bauer said. “They may never have this opportunity again.”

Kansas was one of the first arena rock groups to include orchestral instruments in its music, so the decision to perform with a live orchestra made sense, said Kansas guitar player Rich Williams.

“The college things have been a lot of fun,” Williams said. “That egg hasn’t been cracked.”

Kansas has been touring and performing with college orchestras for over a year. Proceeds from tour merchandise benefit college music programs across the country.

“It’s great for the kids and great for the school,” Williams said. “This is more satisfying than playing a casino.”

The Philharmonic, which is made up of NIU students, will perform alongside Kansas for most of the concert and has rehearsed at least twelve songs, Bauer said.

Bauer said he hopes the concert will expose the NIU School of Music to an audience that might not normally come to see the Philharmonic perform a Beethoven or Bach piece.

The orchestra will be conducted by Larry Baird, who has arranged pieces for not only Kansas, but also classic rockers the Moody Blues and Three Dog Night.

Bauer said although the band was popular when he was in high school, many people under 30 are familiar with Kansas because its music has been featured in video games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

“Teenagers recognize the music,” he said.

Kansas was formed in 1973 after Williams and other band members left previous groups. The only original members still in the band are Williams and drummer Phil Ehart.

The exact set list remains a secret, but concert-goers are sure to hear classics like “Dust in the Wind” and “Carry on Wayward Son” complete with accompaniment by the NIU Philharmonic.

Williams said he is excited to play at NIU and hopes the students are prepared to perform.

“All it takes is two or three horn players, and it messes everything up,” Williams said. “You’ve got to have that give-a-sh*t factor.”