A man who wears many hats, both figuratively and literally, Barry Houser, the Associate Director of Bands, Director of the Marching Illini, Director of the Fighting Illini Athletic Bands, and Clinical Associate Professor of Music, is the driving force behind the university’s renowned musical ensembles. He shared insights into his multifaceted career and the teamwork that makes it all possible.
He emphasizes that the success of the Marching Illini and all its associated programs is a collaborative effort. “It takes all of us to do what we do here,” he remarks, referring to the dedicated F&S staff who keep the band building in pristine condition.
Houser’s warm personality shines through as he shares his approach to personal interactions. He strives to greet and get to know everyone who steps into his office, reflecting his appreciation for the campus community. This approach extends to the broader network of colleagues and supporters who aid him in his various projects.
Here for Hats
A particular anecdote that showcases this collaborative spirit involves the band’s new hats. The arrival of larger hat boxes that did not fit into the existing shelving units prompted Houser to reach out to Andy Burnett, mill shop foreperson, an F&S contact he’s developed over years.
As they worked together to find a solution, Houser discovered that Burnett had a personal connection to the Marching Illini, having once been a drummer in the ensemble. This connection exemplifies the sense of community and shared dedication that defines Houser’s professional relationships.
Beyond his office and the campus, Houser also leverages social media to express his gratitude.
He frequently posts and tags individuals who have supported him in various projects.
When asked about this practice, Houser explained that it serves as an appreciation gesture, one that goes beyond the confines of an email.
“Saying thank you over email is one thing,” he notes, “but being appreciated in a public space is much nicer, and people appreciate that appreciation even more.”
He believes that spreading positivity throughout the campus is vital in building a strong, supportive community.
During the tour of his office, Houser shared a delightful story that encapsulates the spirit of collaboration at UIUC.
Using the Orange
When F&S helped him install new carpeting, the original plan was to have blue carpet with an orange border. However, the team had leftover orange carpet which they used to create a block ‘I’ out of. As a joke, they sent him a photo of the design, not yet installed. His response? He loved it. They informed him it was a joke, but if he genuinely liked it, they could install it. Houser, known for his sense of humor and appreciation for the unexpected, told them to proceed. He now treasures not only the carpet, but also the story behind it.
In the world of music and academia, Houser is more than a director; he’s a collaborator, an appreciator, and a storyteller. Through his relationships with F&S and the broader campus community, he weaves a tale of dedication, shared values, and the enduring power of a positive outlook.
As he continues to lead the Marching Illini and contribute to the vibrant musical culture at UIUC, his legacy is one of harmony, on and off the field.