Monthly Archives: January 2009

5 Tips for Winter Survival in Naperville and the Greater Napervilleland Area

iceAlright, I’ll concede, Winter 2009 in Naperville is really really bad and as of this posting we find ourselves struggling to simply get out of the month of January.  The photo to the right was taken off of our front porch where the minute run-off of sun-kissed snow was reclaimed by the frigid cold.

For all of those with a chronic case of cabin fever this winter, fear not… there are many ways to beat the winter blues in Naperville.  Here are 5 of my favorites:

1)  Grab the kids and/or just grab your own sled and head out to one of Naperville’s many sledding hills .

2)  Need to a little getaway, perhaps some waves, water and 80 degree weather?  Do what my family did during the sub-zero days of December and head just over an hour away to Gurnee for a one or two night stay in the indoor tropics of Key Lime Cove Indoor Waterpark .  To say this place is great for the kids is an understatement!

3)  Take a brisk walk in and around Downtown Naperville .  Sure, it’s not summer, but the lights are still up the many shops, restaurants and nightlife are still open for your enjoyment.  I recommend a nice dinner at Tango Argentine Grill .  Take a bite of their famous world’s largest steak or surprise yourself with their incredible gnocci.  Did I mention freshly made Sangria? 

4)  Take the kids to DuPage Children’s Museum and for a little play time… the kids will even have a great time too!

5)  Skip the potholes and flying tires and hop on the Metra Rail Line for a quick trip into Chicago and get lost with the mummys at the Field Museum, ice skate at Millenium Park and enjoy a gourmet Kobe burger at the Park Grill

Now what are you waiting for?  Stop complaining, get out there and have a good time!  SM

A Story of Survival in -20 Degree Air Temperature in Naperville

racoonWhen the weather dipped into the realm of unthinkable air temperatures last week here in Naperville, it was easy to notice how quickly the hands would freeze, how the icy cold air would made it difficult to breath and how the whole world seemed frozen in suspended animation.

But when to our surprise this little guy showed up staring in our kitchen window while standing atop our deck railing, we all suddenly counted our blessings for the nice heated home we live in.  The racoon had this look in his eyes as though he was certain we were just going to open the door and welcome him in for a hot meal.   It’s as if he was sporting the most downtrodden expression on his face he could muster, reminiscent of the movie “Over the Hedge”.  He just watched us as we moved around the kitchen. 

Of course, this wasn’t a movie and we used the visit as a lesson to the boys to stay far away from wild animals no matter how cute or considerable their animated movie “star power” happens to be.   Nonetheless, I’m pleased to report the racoon has been spotted since the arctic weather ended and is still alive and kicking.  Now if we can just get him to move out from underneath the deck.  SM

My 5 Questions Article from the Monday Edition of the Naperville Sun

sun-article1It is with humble good fortune that I was recently selected to be highlighted in the Naperville Sun’s “5 Questions” feature, which was published on Monday, January 19th. 

I first want to thank long-time Naperville Sun writer Kathy Millen for sharing her considerable talents in capturing and sharing my story.  Further, I also offer my deepest thanks to photo journalist Danielle Gardner, of the Naperville Sun, for her artistic talents in capturing a great photo image of me working within my studio which ran with the story.   On behalf of our community, we thank the both of you for sharing your passion and purpose in continuing to share Naperville stories.  

To access the complete story, CLICK HERE.  SM

6 Tips for Discovering and Living Your Unique Purpose

horizonMy own road in life has been a twisting journey of purpose with each day offering the possibility of a new piece of the puzzle being revealed.  As I’ve written recently, there are many out there within our Naperville community and beyond who have felt the crush of our nation’s economic collapse over the past year.  Despite the tough times, in many ways the slowdown may very well provide the perfect conditions to connect/re-connect with your own unique purpose in life.

We all have a unique purpose within our heart and soul which I believe keeps tapping us on the back throughout our lives despite the free will we exercise in attempting to make what we believe are the best decisions for ourselves in “the moment”.

As I’ve said, it doesn’t matter the size of stage or economic reward attached, it’s all about finding true meaning and fulfillment in life.  Even better, in taking the journey down your own path of your uniquely prescribed purpose, you might just discover that all of those material trappings aren’t quite as important as they once seemed.  Inspired and inspiring lives emerge not from the material of the world, but rather the material of the soul.  Further, always remember that money is merely a measure of survival, not purpose.

To help you on your way, below are 6 tips I’ve used to guide my way along my own path of purpose in life:

1)  Throughout your life, what interests/experiences have consistently filled your heart with a joy and happiness that is unique to  you and you alone?

2) What do you enjoy doing so much that the constraint of time seems to slip away, yet it still feels effortless and energizing?

3) If you could help others in a way that is your own unique contribution measured not by external recognition/validation but only by internal reward and satisfaction, how would you do so?

4) Once the answers to the first three questions begin to emerge yielding an internal sense of truth, try to connect with at least one other person outside of your immediate life who can understand and relate to your purpose.

5)  Focus your energy on the “what” not the “how” so as not to construct a wall of self-adversity.  An act of purpose could be something as simple as sharing it with someone else. 

6)  Write in a journal as often as possible specifically about the many elements, possibilities and dimensions of your purpose.  Don’t hold back, on paper anything is possible. 

Though I have many more ideas, experiences and thoughts on the subject of purpose, this should help you get started.  In the meantime, perhaps a first step for you might be sharing your thoughts here in the form of a comment.   So what are you waiting for?  SM

World of Naperville Reaches 50,000 Visit Mark

naperville_signA quick message from the little blog that could… I’m pleased to announce that as of this morning, the World of Naperville blog has reached 50,000 visits.  It’s been a fascinating journey thus far and I’ve truly enjoyed the many comments and emails I have received not to speak of the many new friendships I’ve made since this blog was launched. 

I welcome you to share your  thoughts about life, purpose, Naperville or this blog either by posting a comment below or sending me an email at .  There remains a strong spirit within our community full of talent and potential and I look forward to the future ahead. 

On a side note, be sure to check out the “Everday” section in next Monday’s edition of the Naperville Sun (1/19/09) as I was recently photographed and interviewed for the “5 Questions” feature. 

skm_bw1My thanks to the regular readers out there, the newcomers and all those passing through the World of Naperville.  We’re already moving toward 100,o00 visits!  SM 


PART 2: An Inside Look at the New North Central College Wentz Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center

dsc_0156In my mind, the early pre-construction artist renderings of the new North Central College Wentz Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center did not adequately convey the depth of architectural form which can be found in the final product.  The facility is as alluring on the outside as it is on the inside.  Stacked shapes and sharp angles adorn the grand two-story convex panoramic glass front of the center.   

My entrance to the interior of the center was delayed by a series of photographs I captured as the afternoon lighting created an amazing perspective of the building.  Upon entering, I was greeted by Ted Slowick and after dropping my coat off, we were on our way. 

Our first stop was the art gallery which has already featured its first exhibit and is gearing up for yet another.  Anyone can access the gallery free of charge during regular hours during exhibits.  In my mind, the gallery was a great idea to draw in the community on what will hopefully be a regular basis. 

picture5After the gallery, we took a brief walk through the lobby into the facility’s centerpiece, the Wentz Concert Hall.  As a musician and composer I was quite excited about finally getting inside this space.  I had heard much about the structural and acoustical design strategy.  The first thing you notice right away as you walk through the double doors is the realtive intimacy of the space matched by little or no “dead” space.  Our quieted voices carried freely around the interior.  While there is a basic speaker setup flying overhead, it’s clear to see that it would be largely unnecessary even for the smallest ensemble.  

Perhaps the coolest aspect of the Wentz Concert Hall is not only the general acoustics but the acoustical variability which has been built into the space.  What does this mean you might ask?  It means the actual physical room can be altered to create the perfect acoustically treated environment based on the needs and characteristics of each performance group.  For staters, there are two reverb chambers flanking the stage at the balcony level.  These spaces take in the ambient sound in the hall picture3through a pourous surface and works its way up and over the top to be re-introduced into the hall high above.  What it means to the audience is your head will not spin from swirling reverb hitting you constantly at ear level.  In a way, the sound is recycled and re-introduced into the room at consistent balanced levels regardless of where you sit. 

Additionally, high above the stage there are curtains that can be raised and lowered which serve to vary the amount of sound absorption based upon the size of the performance group.  Becuase of the acoustics and modest size, Ted mentioned that there has been quite a bit of interest to utilize the space for recording sessions.  

picture1The interior design of the concert hall reminds me allot of a large modern church.  Perhaps it’s the choir seating which hovers just above and behind the main stage.  The stage itself is as basic and  as bare as it gets.  Nonetheless, make no mistake, this is a music space which is fine tuned for the highest quality listening experience rather than overly ornate gandure.

After spending a few minutes on the stage, I can imagine that performers will find this space as exciting as the audience in terms of acoustics.  The only thing missing on the stage was the center’s Steinway grand piano which I would have loved to sample in the concert hall’s environment.  Regardless, we would run into that Steinway later on.

picture6After the Wentz Concert Hall, our next stop after a quick trip down a set of stairs was the black box theater, which is a small intimate flexible space which can be used in a number of different configurations.  Fear not, this space is fully equipped and it reminded me allot of being in a television studio or small sound stage. 

Our next stop after the black box theater was what I would call the center’s “backstage” which consists of an array of rehearsal and classroom spaces amidst the green room and dressing rooms for concert hall and black box theater.  It’s amazing how the interior feel of the building quickly shifts from a performing arts center to an academic space.  The good news is we finally encountered that Steinway grand piano I mentioned earlier and Ted indulged me in playing a few passages from one of my recent compositions for my film project, Imprévu – The Kenneth von Heidecke Story.

picture4 I could also hear the muffled sound of students rehearsing a variety of instruments as we walked down the halls.  It’s clear this facility is a huge huge huge boost to North Central College’s music program. 

As we rounded out our tour, I provided some thoughts and perspectives to Ted on how North Central can maximize the community accesibility. 

First, I hope this space does not become a traditional “fine” arts only space as so many different types of musical forms and genres would provide a fascinating audience and perfomer experience in this space.  Further, while I was thrilled to see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra play an early date after the facility’s opening, I was less than thrilled to see the $150/ticket price tag for a concert which appeared to have heavy corporate sponsorship as well.  Granted, I realize there are economic realities to hosting groups the size of CSO in a mid-sized concert hall; however, to me it sends a message to local audiences when a trip can be had to Symphony Center in Chicago for less. 

picture21Second, I took advantage of my time with Ted to pitch an idea of having open performance nights in which local artists might have an opportunity to take the stage and perform for the community.  Let’s face it, to achieve a level of sustainability for arts centers these days, “friendraising” is as important as fundraising.  My greatest hope is this center is as much a home for showcasing local artists as it is for visiting artists.   

Regardless, I am a fan of the Wentz Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center and look forward to taking in my first performance in the near future.   As a community, I encourage everyone to rally around this facility and know that North Central College wants this to be not only an NCC facility but also a community institution.  The first season’s schedule is already underway and many opportunities to experience performances remain.  You can access the performance scedule by CLICKING HERE.

Finally, though Ted didn’t raise the issue, it goes without saying that while capital construction is complete, there is always a financial need for the ongoing operations and offerings for any arts center.  As such, I would like to issue an unsolicited personal challenge to you to consider making a donation to ensure a strong future for the Wentz Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center.  You can do so by clicking on the MAKE A GIFT link here.  Let’s continue to support the continued evolution of world class arts in Naperville!  SM

PART 1: Photos of Visit to North Central College Wentz Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center


Thanks to Ted Slowik, former Naperville Sun news guru turned North Central College PR/Media Relations Director, I had the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the brand new North Central College Wentz Concert Hall Fine Arts Center this evening. 

While I will be writing a more in-depth posting or two about the experience, I of course took a number of photos which I will be sharing as well. 

As the afternoon waned, I headed downtown, parked in the central parking garage and walked up the small hill toward the new arts center.  Given the timing of day and the fact we had been blessed with a sunny day here in Naperville, I captured this particular image even before stepping foot into the lobby to meet Ted.  It was amazing how the sun splashed the walls casting directional shadows and reflections. 

ncc_wentz-bw-exterior Of course, to those of you who may be familiar with my photography know that a color image is a rarity, especially when it comes to architecture.  Thus, so as not to disappoint, I also have a black-and-white image to share as well.  

It was definitely the perfect time of this January day to be walking up upon the western exposure of the arts center.  In the postings still to come, I will provide a perspective of the Wentz Concert Hall and Arts Center through my own eyes as a musician and composer and why I believe you must experience a performance in this space.  

To be continued.  SM 

Happy New Year Naperville… Let’s Make 2009 the Year of Possibilities and Purpose

As I sit here at 12:58 AM in the early solemn hours of the first day of 2009, I’m reflecting on the year past as well as the year ahead.  I must confess, it feels these days that our community is in somewhat of a funk. 

There’s no doubt many Napervillians are feeling the crunch of dismal economic times.  However, I shutter to think that the greatness of our community is defined by economic prosperity alone.  There’s no doubt in my mind that there remains a strong spirit within Naperville and I predict 2009 will be a year in which our community will come together in realizing our truest strength resides not in the material wealth documented within our financial portfolios and bank accounts, but rather in the untapped talents, potential and possibilities within all of us to contribute our purpose to the world.

It’s time to prove to those outside of Naperville and so many within our community who have grown cynical that Naperville is not only still a great place to live, but more importantly a place of tremendous possiblities and imagination.   To anyone out there who has been either touched by the great economic downturn or 2008 or feel as though they are living on the edge of collapse, perhaps now is the time to awaken your soul’s purpose… rekindle your dreams… exercise your talents… and use this “wake-up call” as a transformational life opportunity to reconnect with your true self and set a course for the intended life you were meant to live.  

In the end, we all have a finite amount of time on this earth… what do you want your legacy to be?  What will matter most to you in the end?  What will matter least to you in the end?  Finally, imagine you learn that you had only five years of to live, yet will enjoy excellent health until the end.  How would you live your life differently?  

Always remember, true happiness is measured by the achievement of our soul’s purpose in the service of others.  No matter how much or how little time you have, just find a way to get started and let even the smallest amount of progress fuel your journey.  Connect with others with shared purpose as their support and understanding will reveal all that is possible.  I know you can do it!  SM