Ever heard of Pecatonica, Illinois? I’m sure you have since you most likely live in the Rockford region. But some people may not be aware of the small, quaint and charming town just west of Rockford with a population of less than 2,000 people. And I bet you might not know that the small Pecatonica farming community raised one of the “Who’s Who” of Broadway conductors either.
That’s right, Kevin Stites, Broadway Musical Director and Conductor in New York City, was born and raised in Pecatonica. Graduating in the class of 1974, Kevin loves his hometown and will proudly tell you he’s from Pecatonica. In fact, the well-known conductor now splits his time here in Pecatonica and in New York City. And better yet, Kevin is giving back to the town he loves the most and is directing Legally Blonde The Musical, April 22-24, at Pecatonica High School.
“Legally Blonde has turned into quite the community collaboration, especially with the Pec Playhouse Theater,” said Stites. “We’re having a ball working with the students and teachers to pull this together.”
While Kevin is typically focused on the music aspects of a production, for Legally Blonde, he’s in the director’s chair, responsible for all aspects of creative design, acting, and music.
Kevin started his Broadway career in 1994 as conductor of Sunset Boulevard. A selection of his other Broadway credits include music direction for Titanic (1997), Oklahoma! (2002), Fiddler on the Roof (2004), On the 20th Century (2015), Les Miserables (2006), as well as six seasons as music director for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Upcoming projects include the world premiere of the musical Mr. Holland’s Opus and conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, August 7 at the Ravinia Festival.
Other alumni and faculty supporting the production include vocal director, Sabrina Massa; instrumental music director and producer, Neal Shippy, PHS class of 1996; trumpet player, Darrel Bartel, Band Director for 20 years; lighting designer, Arnie Ames, whose children attended PHS and helped found Pec Playhouse Theater; hair and make-up designer, Piper Turner, and set designer, John DeRango (both are parents of alumni); costume designer, Jill Stites, class of 1974; production manager, Laura Wiegert, class of 1974; and technical director, Glen Wiegert, class of 1974.
This is just another reason why we love our community! And even though people may leave the community to work elsewhere, and whether you make it big or keep to yourself, everyone seems to always want to come back to the Rockford region.
Photo Credit: Kevin Stites Music