Walking down the hallway at Music Suite 408 in Peru the sounds hit you from all sides ... A trio of flute players produce a fluttering sonata behind one closed door. An older gentleman works on a musical scale on his violin behind another ... There's more. At any given place in time, one can hear children and adults playing a variety of instruments or singing.
The melodies being produced in the old Westclox building almost magically draw you in, as the symphony of sounds infiltrate your ears, your soul.
Having taught music for years in the Illinois Valley, Music Suite 408 owner Sue Gillio said she moved into the west wing of the old Westclox building in Peru on Aug. 1. Like the clocks that were once manufactured in this old historic building, the timing of the move proved to be a huge step in furthering this new community-based enrichment center.
"I've had this dream for my whole life," Gillio said. "It's not just a musical studio; it's an enrichment center."
Music Suite 408 offers individual and group instruction on piano, woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion, guitar and voice to people of all ages — from the very, very young to the very, very old ... and everyone in between. Other instruction offered includes foreign language classes in Spanish and French, creative writing, tutoring, book clubs for children, as well as art classes in a variety of mediums.
Through a comprehensive curriculum which includes individual and group instruction, classes, ensembles and performances, Gillio said Music Suite 408 fosters the love of music, nurtures creative talent and educates students in the discipline of music — a discipline that she believes benefits all areas of learning throughout life.
Gillio, who was raised and went to grade school in Oglesby and high school at L-P, earned her master's degree at Western Illinois University. Not only is she an accomplished flutist, but she also gives flute lessons to 58 students and directs/plays in Music Suite 408's Illinois Valley Flute ensemble.
Gillio doesn't mince words about how music can positively affect children in their growth and development. While she clearly admits there is a place in children's lives for sporting activities, she also believes there needs to be a balance in getting the arts to young people too.
"How do you help kids function in this society?" she asked. "Bringing the arts to the community helps the economic growth, the social growth, and helps to promote teamwork and community spirit."
That spirit is evident in the students who come for lessons each week at Music Suite 408. Gillion said she promotes an incredibly positive attitude in the studio, working to help boost self-esteem, teamwork and an appreciation of others' work. She doesn't allow any disrespect or lying.
"We're trying to help nurture good people who function well in society," she said, adding many of the students develop long-term friendships there, since they've played music together for several years.
While a good share of Music Suite 408's music students are children, there is no shortage of adults who come to take lessons.
"So many adults say, 'I wish my parents would have never let me quit (my music lessons)," Gillio said.
But besides those who played an instrument as a child, there are also adults who are picking up an instrument for the first time.
Constance Deal of Annawan, who teaches violin and viola at Music Suite 408, said about one-third of her students are adults.
"They only have to be 6 feet above ground to take lessons," she joked. "I have many adults who always wanted to try to play and never had an opportunity."
A registered Suzuki teacher, Deal said parents are always welcome during her youthful students' lessons — in fact, they are encouraged.
"The Suzuki (method) is a triangle — the parent, the teacher and the student. It's a family affair, an open door policy.
"Music helps children prepare for the future. It helps them learn how to respond in public," she continued. "It helps them learn how to be social, along with improving their hand-eye coordination."
While Music Suite 408 students regularly perform, perhaps the most well-known ensemble of the center is the 25-members of the Illinois Valley Flute Ensemble, which plays concerts for many venues in and around the Illinois Valley. Comprised entirely of flutists, those who hear the Illinois Valley Flute Ensemble might be surprised to see the variety of flutes being played, including the regular C flute, the bass flute, the contra bass, the sub-contra bass, the alto flute and the piccolo. The music flows from these flutists like water in a wondrous stream that trickles through your mind and envelops your thoughts. This is a don't-miss performance.
While Gillio's new center in Peru has been well-received in the community (in fact, students come all over the Illinois Valley), she said her dreams are just beginning.
"The ideal dream is to find a way to have a local arts center,' she said. "I want big. I'd love to have some sort of comprehensive art center, where we can find a space for concerts, an auditorium basically. It would be great to have a place where we could reach everybody and bring in outside events and educational programs."
Music Suite 408 is still enrolling new students. Gillio said she will work with everyone; some scholarships are available. She also has information on places where students can rent instruments.
Seemingly living and breathing music, Gillio said her hard work has all been worthwhile.
"We are stronger unified than all of us doing things on our own," she said. "As a music educator in the Illinois Valley, I believe that music and arts make people better and foster economic growth in our community.
And the music plays on ...
For more information on Music Suite 408, call 815-223-4408 or stop by the center at 408 Fifth St. in Peru. You can also visit the center's website at www.musicsuite408.com.