College of DuPage Applied Music Coordinator Michael Folker started his music career playing in his high school marching band. He has since perfected his playing to the point where he's now working alongside professional, world-renowned musicians and singers.
Even his earliest musical experiences have shaped his approach to both teaching and his live presentations.
The transition to teaching was natural, as Folker first started giving lessons while still in high school. He then studied music at Milliken University and earned his master's degree from DePaul University before beginning his career at COD.
"I saw it as a great opportunity because the College didn't have a real percussion program," Folker said. "There's such a spectrum to the percussion world and every instrument is unique."
The percussionist's teaching experience, however, isn't confined to the formal classroom. Folker has also studied magic and, along with the Elgin Symphony, developed an educational show melding magic and music.
"I did some of these shows at schools and just before 2004, the director of the Elgin Symphony asked me to develop a show as a new approach to their music education program," he said. "It was a great challenge and I had a year to create the script."
Fourteen drafts and numerous musical selections later, "The Magic of Music" debuted with eight performances in its first week. Since then, Folker has performed other incarnations, including "AbracaMusic" with his wife, Danielle, and "The Magic of Rhythm," which debuted through the McAninch Arts Center's SchoolStage program.
"It seemed such a natural merging. Including an element of surprise in children's concerts is really important to create and keep their interest," he said. "It keeps it fresh. I always try to come up with something new to incorporate."
Performing with touring artists also adds inspiration, Folker said. The musician has played alongside Doc Severson, Wynonna Judd, Celine Dion, Roger Daltry, Luciano Pavarotti and Victor Borge.
"I've had so many opportunities to play with some very talented artists. What I do in the playing world, I bring into the teaching world," he said.