Apr 132018

Patricia Barnes conducting a handbell choir rehearsal at the OPUS Music Camp

We are so honored that Mrs. Patricia Barnes is a member of the OPUS Faculty. She is a seasoned, well-rounded musician with specialties in piano, organ, handbell conducting, and chamber music coaching. She is also a wonderful human being.

We cannot say enough good things about Pattie. She always finds a nice way to get your attention.  She shows great dedication by “efficiently using her time” and “continually improving.” In a quiet corner, one often spots her with music in front, thinking what to do better. It could be her music: markings, expressions, explanations, her communications; hardware: settings, projections, logistics; or showmanship.

Pattie Barnes conducting the Junior Camp handbell choir in the Campers’ Final Concert

She is a great conductor to watch in addition to listening to her excellently delivered music. She always looks “so confident” with an eye-catching grin on stage or in classrooms. Her conducting style is very clear, precise, and graceful. She is also a problem-solver and a wonderful team-player. She would go out of her way to help whenever she can.

Handbells teach rhythm, listening, and watching the other musicians in an electric and fun way. There is no hiding, everyone is important! In her own words: “Playing handbells is an intriguing adventure, and it will be an invigorating and uplifting class. Explore the style, technique, and artistry that it takes to make a beautiful sound with handbells. The OPUS atmosphere is like a greenhouse for growing beautiful music, and more importantly, growing beautiful people. The bonus aspects of composition and improvisation enrich greatly, and the door is sprung wide open for young musicians explore further in our musical galaxy. It catalyzes lasting changes in the young musician’s instrumental finesse.” What a way with beautiful words!

Pattie Barnes is professional and a real person in classroom

Mrs. Barnes is well-loved by her faculty peers, teaching assistants, and students. She has a great way of expressing things in receptive words. People would want to share more ideas and suggestions with her because she is generous in giving compliments. She is never shy in her vocabulary on finding grateful words that wonderfully express “Great Job!” and appreciation which recipients love to hear.

Mrs. Barnes is currently enjoying the completion of 26 years as organist and director of handbell ensembles at First United Methodist Church in Downers Grove. OPUS is really fortunate to have the strongest possible faculty team with professionals like Patricia Barnes to give our students a wonderful musical experience.

Apr 062018

Brandon J. playing for an OPUS Exhibit and in an OPUS Chamber Music Camp concert (2nd violin in Brandenburg)

As a composer and orchestrator, the kind of work I receive is anything from singer-songwriter arrangements to symphonic works to editing books for musicals. The knowledge needed to accurately do whatever tasks are at hand is crucial. I have written for many different situations: short films, recording sessions, musicals, and even concertos. Each setting requires a different set of ears and a different set of sounds. This is where learning comes into play. I love to learn new things, or learn more about what interests me. As musicians, we keep learning, but we also HAVE to keep learning and expanding our range. I am what many may call a crossover violinist, or a contemporary violinist. I have played, do play, and absolutely adore classical music, but I also play and listen to many other styles of music, including R&B, Hip-Hop, Rock, Metal, Christian Worship, Gospel, etc. I decided about 4 years ago to take the knowledge I had from writing in all of these styles and applying them on violin. I recently went to the Five Week Summer Immersive Camp at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and I fell in love with the school. I am able to write, learn, and play in just about every genre known to man.

As a performer, this goes deeper than knowledge.While a person is performing, he/she is conveying a message of importance to the listener. If I play every passage of “Winter” by Vivaldi technically correct, but I do not convey anything, then my audience has lost interest. This is why classical music is failing. Too many musicians are not “performing”, but playing. When the band, Metallica, goes to play a show, not only is the music good, but each member is obviously having a lot of fun. This is my goal as a violinist. I play with a bunch of facial expressions and I emote through the music. I move and smile and give faces, nodding my head asthe beat continues. I am constantly thinking about the music being played and the music being transferred from me to the audience.

Brandon J.’s peer campers playing his composition in Arts Connections Showcase in August of 2016

One of the most important compliments I’ve ever gotten was at an Opus Chamber Music Camp Showcase, where I played a piece I wrote for piano and strings. A TA came up to me and asked if I ever wanted to score films, because my music was full of emotion and vision. That compliment 3 years ago changed my career path for good. I soon after pursued composition and learned all I could, landing me a scholarship at the Berklee College of Music for Composition and Film Score.

Brandon J. in his 1st of the four OPUS Chamber Music Camp Final Concerts

Listen to one of Brandon J.’s composition at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=th0n8enbn4o.



Mar 302018


In addition to Composition, Arranging music, and Videography projects, Arts Connections Workshop will have Violist-Violinist and Conductor, Daryl Silberman, lead an Electric Instruments Project. Ms. Silberman and Danny Seidenberg together have created a unique chamber-jazz-pop ensemble consisting of 2 violas, a cello and a guitar called ‘UnBande’. Campers will learn to create music using electric instruments.

Mar 232018

Performer, composer, arranger, pianist, clinician and jazz educator, Danny Seidenberg, will coach chamber ensembles as well as lead the 2018 Music Culture/Style Workshop.

Mr. Seidenberg plans to open up campers’ musical world by exploring the chamber-jazz-pop music style and instruments. His workshop will involve improvisation  as well as alternative style. He will bring his computer to generate a “backup band” and get students improvising.

Mr. Seidenberg is probably best known as a member of the Turtle Island String Quartet for 12 years, 1992-2004. He was in residence at the Henry Mancini Institute (UCLA) through 2006, was an instructor at UMass and Stanford in their jazz studies departments. He taught at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, and he currently teaches arranging and improvisation classes at Vandercook College.

Mar 162018

The OPUS camp faculty places students in chamber music, based on submitted audition videos, in small ensembles of two to six players which develops teamwork and draws on the individual strengths of each young musician. Chamber music requires close attention and therefore OPUS has 30 faculty members, which gives a high teacher to students ratio (1 teacher every 3 campers). They are assisted by 20+ teaching assistants and instructors.

The program is not just chamber music and orchestra or handbells, it is a compact mix of many joyful classes, loved by many enthusiastic young artists year after year (up to coming 14 times). Camaraderie, character-building, teamwork, cultural appreciation, music and people skills are just some of the major benefits campers take away with after attending the OPUS camp. New friendships are born and old friendships are rekindled.

Camp applications are due by June 12, 2018. Scholarship applications are due no later than June 5, 2018. Admission is based on electronic auditions. Groupings and music assignments will be decided in early-July, and music will be made available to campers for practice ~3 weeks prior to the Camp.

Mar 092018

By Kevin Stoffel, Contrabass, 2-time Camper and 4-time TA including 2018

Kevin Stoffel introduces himself to senior citizens when performing for them in a Holiday Concert of 2017.

Part of why I want to pursue chemistry is because I’ve always had a fascination with pure substances.  The concept of looking at something and knowing that it isn’t an (effectively) inseparable mixture of fifteen, or six, or even two things was always really cool to me, even at a young age.  What better place to see, work with, and study pure substances than in in a chemistry laboratory?  And what better form to see or even hold a pure substance than one where the molecules are all lined up and packed together (theoretically) flawlessly, showing off their geometric arrangement even at the highly macroscopic scale—a crystal?

Anybody at home can grow some neat crystals easily and without much trouble.  Borax, for example, will form small, white, somewhat regular, somewhat boring crystals around a string or pipe cleaner dipped in a saturated solution.  But growing a really good crystal takes a bit more care, experience, cleanliness, safety, and equipment, as well as the right substance.  Certain substances very readily form quite regular, large, fine crystals without too much difficulty, if you know how to deal with them.  I do NOT recommend you try this at home, but I’ve been using copper(II) sulfate (blue) and potassium chromium sulfate (dark purple/red) to grow some really great crystals for a while now.  Soon, I actually hope to have enough sizeable specimens to give to my friends as gifts!  …After varnishing them in a protective clear coat using a pair of gloves, of course, because these chemicals are not considered safe to touch with bare skin.