Freshman Year Dorm Life

My freshman year I lived in Neptune North, because I was told it was the Fine Arts dorm and was a more reasonable walking distance to the music building than Douglas, which was the Honors House prior to New Hall being built.  It was an older dorm, and to be honest I was not a huge fan of living in a dorm, but after I “fixed” it up with my own things and made it more personable, I was quite comfortable.  I really was only there to sleep and eat, because I was so busy with classes, but I made it work for what I needed my first year.  I got out of the dorms after my freshman year and moved to an apartment so that I could have more room, a cat, and a kitchen because I love to cook, and I wished I had the opportunity to do that my whole first year in the dorms.  I have had to move to another apartment complex since I had complications over this past winter with pipes bursting and flooding (it is not fun to move in the middle of January when it is subzero temperatures outside…), but now I am a few blocks from the music building, which is great to have walking distance to my main location on campus.  Now I can cook, play with my cat, and practice instruments in the comfort of my own apartment!

I <3 NIU!

I Heart NIU because of the various opportunities that it has provided for me, and the many doors that have opened up for me here.  At NIU, I have been involved in fifteen different ensembles through the School of Music, ranging from Percussion Ensemble, to Wind Ensemble, to playing trombone in the Huskie Marching Band.  I discovered my true passion for world musics by being a part of ensembles highlighting many areas of the world, from South America, to Africa, to the Middle East and Asia.  NIU has incredible world music ensembles and opportunities to study and learn, and I have been fortunate in being able to participate in as many as I have.

The biggest door that has opened for me since I have been here, however, is my undergraduate research on the berimbau.  Because of this research, not only have I developed skills necessary and valuable to any professional career, but I also have been able to perform for many audiences, including a Brazilian capoeira convention in Chicago with capoeira masters who have been playing berimbau their entire lives.  My professor, Greg Beyer, and I have applied to perform and do clinics at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, and are planning a tour of the berimbau this fall if our application is presented.  I never would have thought that I would be doing this sort of work and performing in my undergraduate degree, and it is invaluable in the experience and future benefits through networking and sharing my love for this instrument and composing.  Because of these experiences at NIU, I have had a wonderful time so far in my undergraduate career, and it has helped me to realize that I want to teach at the collegiate level in the future.

I <3 NIU and everything that it has done for me!  

Things I Do For Fun and Keeping a Safe Environment at NIU

This semester at NIU I am in the marching band, so I have had the fortune of being at every home football game this season for our UNDEFEATED Huskies (9-0)!!!  I cannot wait for the Ball State game next week, and the Western Michigan game on November 26.  If we end up going to the MAC Championship it will be so much fun to travel to Detroit, or even go to a Bowl game in January!

Most of the things I do for fun outside of my majors are for my majors.  Even though I am not a composition major, I do enjoy composing, and I have completed a few pieces that have led to bigger and better things.  My most recent composition is a marimba and harp duet that was commissioned by a marimbist signing with Marimba One this fall/winter.  It took me almost six months in total to complete, but the last few months while being in school and being able to bounce ideas off of others has really made for fun times.

I also love going to the House Cafe every so often for the Jazz Jam Sessions held on Wednesday nights, but one of my favorite things at NIU that is always one of the most fun times of the semester is the NIU Latin Jazz Dance Party, which brings together the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies and the School of Music to put on a night, packed full of dancing, dance lessons, catered food, and incredible music.  It is always so great to let my stresses go and dance the night away to such groovy music!



The other day, NIU Chief of Police Tom Phillips visited the NLAs and gave a short presentation on campus safety and keeping a sound environment for our community.  Before his talk, I would always stay safe on campus by not walking alone after dark, keeping in well lit parts of campus, and always being aware of my surroundings.  Even if I have headphones in when walking to classes, I am aware of what is going on around me.  One of the biggest impacts his talk had on me, however, was how so many of us walk around campus unaware of what is going on and with our expensive smart phones or other technology items out in front of us, as if they are always safe.  This sort of behavior is just asking for someone to swipe the phone or other device out of your hands, so I am now consciously aware of when I am using my phone when walking.  Everything else he talked about were things that I already carry out in my daily life, but I will continue to keep doing these behaviors and think about what he said regarding our overall safety.  His philosophies on how to keep the campus safe were very reassuring, and I appreciated him coming and talking to the NLAs.

Research with Dr. Greg Beyer on the Berimbau

The biggest impact of engaged learning that I have had outside of the Northern Lights Ambassador Program is my independent research that I have been doing with Dr. Greg Beyer on the Brazilian berimbau since last semester.  The video below is my composition from last semester on the berimbau, but our main goals are to respect its historical context in the Brazilian martial art, capoeira, and bring it to a new, more versatile light as a melodic percussion instrument.  Greg and I have set a schedule where we each compose a new piece each semester for the instrument: we began with a duet, this semester I finished composing a trio, and then in future semesters we will compose quartets, quintets, and sextets, that will ultimately all be performed at a final berimbau recital highlighting our work with this project.  


This project began with Greg’s own studies that he has done on the instrument, which was the subject of his doctoral thesis at Manhattan School of Music.  Since then, he has commissioned composers for berimbau pieces, composed himself, and has used the berimbau in numerous musical contexts outside of capoeira, but with the traditions in mind.  In his studies, Dr. Beyer created “Arcomusical,” which is his own publishing company and lifelong project.  The link for the Arcomusical website is here:

Because of my other independent contracts I have done with Greg for Honors fulfillments, he asked if I would like to join in on this project, and it has changed my life, in only a matter of a couple semesters.  Playing berimbau and being a part of this project has deepened my love for Brazilian music and interest in traditions, as well as my musical abilities because I am composing every semester and developing these innovative ideas for a seemingly simple bowed instrument.  


I presented my research project last year at the Undergraduate Research and Artistry Day here at NIU, and won first place, which was not only a great personal accomplishment, but I was able to bring the College of Visual and Performing Arts to a higher status of what we do as far as research.  I will be presenting my research at a luncheon for the Presidential Committee on the Statuses of Women (PCSW) soon, as well as doing a clinic at a Capoeira Convention at the Quilombo Center in Chicago on November 9th.  In the future, Greg and I plan on applying to do a clinic at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention next fall, as well as plan a trip to Brazil to further my fascination of the Brazilian culture and berimbau.


This research has impacted me in so many positive ways, and I can never put into words how much I appreciate everything Greg has done for me because of this project.  I am forever grateful, and I will forever be a student of the berimbau.


I am looking forward to all engagement opportunities through the NLA program, especially in the Spring Semester when we give back to the students and thank the alumni and staff for everything they do for us.


These opportunities that I have had thus far will impact my career because as a music teacher, I will be able to show my students styles of music and cultural traditions that they would not have known of before (I did not know anything about Brazilian music before NIU), and I would love to give my students as many opportunities as possible to explore their musical interests. 

First couple weeks of NIU, Fall 2013

Hello Readers!

I hope the past few weeks have been fun for you! I am finally back into the swing of things since the semester has started, and am looking forward to what the rest of the semester has to offer!

This semester I am taking 18 credits, and am participating in four ensembles, including Percussion Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, NIU World Steel Band, and the Huskie Marching Band. I also am in Middle School Methods for Music Education, which means I have the opportunity this semester to do clinicals at a middle school, and I cannot wait to be in front of students again. This class, as well as the other music education courses, continually reaffirms my decision to be a teacher, because I am so passionate about the material, and I love passing along my knowledge and helping students find themselves through music.

I will also be continuing my research on the Brazilian berimbau this semester with my professor, Dr. Greg Beyer. This semester we will be diving deeper into the world of capoeira, and I am currently in the process of composing a berimbau trio that continues to expand the versatility of the instrument outside of its traditional context, while still respecting its origins in capoeira. Attached is the video of my berimbau duet that I composed for my research last semester, entitled “Descobertas por pau e pedra,” which, in Portuguese, means “Discoveries through Stick and Stone.” The duet is published through Arcomusical (ASCAP).


Alexis Lamb- Proud to be a Huskie!

Welcome to “My Life as an NIU Huskie!”


My name is Alexis Lamb, and I am a junior at Northern Illinois University earning a double major in Music Education and Percussion Performance.  I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, and besides my passion for music, I love being outdoors, reading, and stained glass art.  I am in the Honors College, and last year I did an undergraduate research assistantship with my percussion professor about the Brazilian berimbau, and ended up winning first place at the Undergraduate Research and Artistry Day in April 2013.


Being from Denver, I often get asked why I moved all the way out to DeKalb to attend college, and the best answer is because of the experience I had at my percussion audition.  The NIU percussion studio welcomed me in even before I was accepted, and I had such a wonderful audition and interaction with the professors that I knew this was the place for me.  I have never looked back on my decision because I have been fortunate to receive so many opportunities while out here, and I love passing on my experience at my audition during the process in the spring, so that more students feel just as welcome.


This is my second year as a Northern Lights Ambassador, and I chose to participate again this year because of my previous statement about my experiences as an incoming freshman, and the opportunities that I have received since my first year here.  I want to be able to help students with finding their niche at the university so they can make the most of their academic career, as I have with my own time here.


My best experience that I have had at NIU was winning first place at URAD in April, and as part of my project I composed a berimbau duet that was published.  Because of the duet, I was commissioned to compose a marimba and harp duet for a future artist of Marimba One, and will be completed in November.  This opportunity would not have been possible without my research assistantship with Dr. Greg Beyer, and we plan to continue our research with the help of resources through Northern, such as grant writing to go study in Brazil.


Always proud to be a Huskie!  Go NIU, and watch for the marching band performing at the football games (I will be playing trombone)!


Go Huskies!