The new music instructor at Shawnee Community College, Lee VanAlstine, conducted his first Shawnee Pride performance on Thursday, March 2. Photo by Lindsey Rae Vaughn.

VanAlstine begins work as music instructor at Shawnee

Shawnee Community College has a new music instructor after the retirement of John Windings, who was the music instructor for over 20 years.

Lee VanAlstine has been working in K-12 public education in Southern Illinois since 1997, though he is originally from Central Illinois.

He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, both in music education.

VanAlstine originally wanted to be a radio and television major, but wasn't able to take any of the classes during his freshman year.

As far as being a music educator, those courses started freshman year.

He had theory and lessons all through high school and was in a district orchestra and a district jazz band for a couple of years in high school.

"So I was like, play jazz band? You betcha. Play in orchestra? You betcha. Marching band? I didn't know any better, so I said yes," VanAlstine said.

After taking several music classes, he didn't want to be done with music.

"They had a great staff at Southern. I thank them. They made me who I am in a lot of ways," VanAlstine said.

A scholarship from an auxiliary club also gave him the opportunity to go to jazz band camp in high school.

"If it weren't for going to jazz band camp, I wouldn't be a music educator," he said.

His first teaching job was at Dongola School, working with students in grades K-12. 

After two years, he then worked at Anna Junior High School for about six years.

VanAlstine took a job at Carterville working with 5th and 6th grade students, teaching them general music and teaching gifted classes.

In 2007, he took a job at Egyptian School in Tamms to work with the K-12 students again.

"I liked K-12 because you got a little of everybody," he said.

VanAlstine started at Shawnee College on Jan. 13, with classes starting Jan. 15.

Making the switch from K-12 public education to a community college was an important decision he felt was needed.

"I've always wanted to teach music theory...I hope I can get a jazz band and children's choir going," VanAlstine said.

"This was the opportunity for me to do those things...the opportunities are boundless here."

VanAlstine sees many new opportunities for the music program at Shawnee College, like potentially creating a children's choir, jazz band and getting his music students out in the community more.

"I have some amazingly talented students and nobody hears them because we only perform at Shawnee," he said.

He also looks forward to working on already scheduled and traditional events.

A high school regional band is scheduled to perform Thursday, March 23, at 7 p.m. at Shawnee Community College near Ullin.

A combined band/choir performance is in the works for late April, as well.

He's already conducted his first Shawnee Pride performance, which featured middle school band students.

He hopes regional choir can get together for a performance in April and he will be conducting the pit band for the fall performance of "Little Mermaid" at the college.

"I'm looking forward to being a pit guy again," he said.

VanAlstine can play a variety of musical instruments, but he classifies himself as a "brass guy." His favorite instrument is the trombone.

At the jazz band camp, "the guys there got me playing bass bone. They put one in my hands and I thought it was the coolest thing ever," he said.

VanAlstine said John Windings gave him some advice before he retired.

"This is the best gig in the world. Enjoy it and do your best," he said.

"(John) left me a great group of kids. I can't believe how pleased and lucky I am," he said.

"Maybe this is where the Lord wants me."

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158

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