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Millikin University Guitar Program



The Millikin University guitar program offers a full spectrum of courses within a larger music curriculum designed to prepare students for professional careers in music.

Jazz performance opportunities abound for guitar students. They can audition for placement in two jazz big bands, three jazz combos, Latin jazz ensemble, vocal jazz ensemble, and electric guitar ensemble. Students can also audition for the classical guitar ensemble and perform in the pit orchestras of Millikin’s musical theater productions. Millikin’s ensembles perform on- and off-campus, both at home and abroad. In recent years, they have performed at the Elmhurst Jazz Festival, Havana International Jazz Festival, Mid-America Guitar Festival, Universidad del Pacifico in Chile, Illinois Music Educators convention, in high schools and middle schools across Illinois, and they have won awards from Downbeat Magazine. 

Millikin University School of Music

Guitar students can cultivate their skills on both sides of the glass as session players and audio engineers, with full access to Millikin’s state-of-the-art recording facility, Millitrax.

They can also develop their teaching skills in the guitar pedagogy course, with many opportunities to teach, including in Millikin’s Preparatory Division, the Rock University program, in clinics, camps, and seminars.

Millikin Guitar Studio

Students learn from world-class faculty who are in demand as performers and clinicians themselves.

Dr. Mark Tonelli – Assistant Professor of Music & Coordinator of Guitar Studies

Millikin’s Faculty Jazz Ensemble performs throughout the year, providing students a chance to hear their teachers in action. Students also learn from renowned guest artists in masterclasses. Guest artists in recent years include Eddie Gomez (Bill Evans, Chick Corea), Dave Stryker (Stanley Turrentine), Fareed Haque (Billy Cobham), Tamir Hendelmen (Jeff Hamilton), Bob Bowman (Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra), Becca Stevens (NYC vocalist), and Jake Schwartz (guitarist, Book of Mormon on Broadway). Multiples venues in Decatur give students an opportunity to sit in with professional musicians in jazz jam sessions and gain experience performing with their own ensembles. Midwest cities Bloomington, Peoria, Champaign-Urbana, St. Louis, and Chicago are 1-3 hours drive from Decatur and offer students abundant opportunities to hear internationally-recognized performers touring the area.

Gaining high-quality performance skills is critical to having a successful career in the competitive world of music, but it is only half the equation. The other half is translating hard-earned performance skills into a sustainable career. At Millikin, guitar students can gain the entrepreneurial competencies they need by participating in Millikin’s student-run ventures, actual businesses that students enroll in for credit, part of Millikin’s unique “performance learning” philosophy. These include First Step Records, a record label; Arts Cafe, a live performance venue; Music Industry Studies Tour (MIST), a touring ensemble; and Mobile Audio Recording Services (MARS), an on-site recording service.

Millikin Electric Guitar Ensemble in concert

Millikin’s School of Music is a vibrant community of 250 music majors across 8 degree programs.

The guitar studio is a tight-knit group of 10-15 students, a size that enables students to receive a lot of personal attention from faculty. Guitarists meet together in a weekly masterclass to perform and get feedback from teachers and peers, receive instruction, and build unity in a supportive environment. Graduates of Millikin’s guitar program have gone on to successful careers performing with artists such as jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson and country star Matthew West, in the studios and on the road, as well as being accepted into top graduate jazz programs, including those at the University of Northern Colorado and Northern Illinois University.

Check out the Millikin Electric Guitar Ensemble on Facebook.

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