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Marilyn Joy Coles

Marilyn Joy Coles

Professor emerita | Eastern Illinois University | Class of 1969

She enjoyed her first Illinois experience so much, Marilyn Joy Coles came back for an encore two decades later.

In 1969, the future Eastern Illinois music professor earned her master of music degree in vocal performance and literature.

All grown up and fresh off a 10-year stint as an opera singer in Germany, Coles returned in 1986 to start work on the doctorate she’d earn six years later while teaching in Charleston.

“I would have to say that my favorite professors both times were my voice teachers — Bruce Foote in 1968-69 and Mark Elyn in 1986-88. I enjoyed their expertise, their mentoring and their friendship.

“I had several performance highlights during my time in 1968-69 since that was also the year of the opening of Krannert Center.

“Among other concerts I performed in the Great Hall was Edwin London’s Guggenheim Award-winning ‘Portrait of Three Ladies.’ Ed London was a composition professor in residence at that time. We also recorded his piece for Acoustic Research/Deutsche Grammophon in the Great Hall in spring of 1969, which was remastered on CD in 1999.

“My other performance highlight — not in Krannert — was in the summer of 1969 when I returned to campus to perform in two contemporary music concerts.

“I had the distinction of performing Arnold Schoenberg’s ‘Pierrot Lunaire’ for voice and 8 instruments on July 20, 1969, the night of the first moon landing.

“We had TVs set up in Smith Music Hall — before sports bars were a thing — and, needless to say, nobody paid much attention to the concert since ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’ actually happened in the middle of the 40-minute work.

“We performed it a week later to a much more attentive audience. I wasn’t able to watch the moon landing but I’ll bet I was the only person in the world performing Pierrot on that night.”