The past year has been one of transition for the UUCE Music Program. This year I was promoted to Music Director. I am grateful for this opportunity and working hard to learn and grow in this new position.

Villa Street

Last fall Rusty Winchel, our long time bassist, decided not to return. His decision was for personal reasons. Rusty volunteered his talents for many years and he is greatly missed. On a couple of occasions I hired guest bassists when we wanted a full band. Mostly we have gone without a bassist. Going forward, I will hire bassists when the occasion indicates if the funds are available. We have missed our pianist, Gordon James, at more services than usual this past year. This is because he and Sandy have been very busy travelling with their business. Because it appears this trend will continue, and due to other factors, Gordon has requested that he take a lesser role in our music to the extent that we consider him more of a backup than a regular player. Gordon has played a major role in our worship for over forty years. His absence has been and will continue to be deeply felt. We look forward to seeing and hearing him again when he does have a chance to fill in. I will soon begin seeking candidates for a full-time pianist. My goal is to have one in place by September.

Due to budget constraints, we have lost funding for our paid vocalists, Susan and Paul Anderson. I have been grateful for their talents and hard work for a number of years. Because of the above shifts in music personnel, I am making adjustments. In addition to hiring guest bassists I have, on occasion, hired guest pianists. Also we have benefited from volunteer vocalists who have contributed their talents and added some variety to our worship.

Vocal Ensemble

Our Vocal Ensemble has been blessed to receive coaching and direction from Forrest Ransburg, Music Director at Tree of Life UU Church of McHenry. Forrest worked with us in February and March to help us prepare for the Western Crescent Choral Festival. This year, for the first time, UUCE hosted the Western Crescent Choral Festival on April 2. It was a big success, featuring choirs from four other UU churches in addition to our Vocal Ensemble. We have been asked to host again next year. Shari Smagatz announced earlier this year that she will be stepping down this June as co-director (with Tony Dean) of the Vocal Ensemble. She and Tony co-founded the VE ten years ago and have faithfully kept it going. Great thanks to both of them! Shari will continue to sing with the group. Starting this fall, Thomas Steffens, former Music Director at Tree of Life, will be our new Choir Director thanks to a grant from the Maxine Saunders Capital Improvements Task Force. We look forward to working with Tom.

Unichords Handbell Choir

Our Unichords handbell choir continues to provide us with beautiful music. Great thanks to Chelsea Musson who has taken over directing from Kevin Webster as he prepares to be Board President.


I am grateful to the board and the congregation for their support of music in our worship. I am truly honored to serve. Finally, I thank Rev. Leslie Mills her collaboration in planning worship and for her confidence in me. Respectfully submitted May 11, 2017, Steve Askins