Community Invited to New Orleans Themed Brunch, Musica Viva Concert on Feb. 21

The Joliet Junior College Fine Arts Department invites the community to a festive Musica Viva event featuring The Midway Ramblers Cajun Band and an authentic New Orleans Brunch on Sunday, Feb. 21 on the Main Campus, 1215 Houbolt Road in Joliet. The brunch, prepared by Chef Fred Ferrera of the Culinary Arts Department, will cost $15 per person and begins at 1 p.m. in the J-Building Cafeteria.

The Midway Ramblers Cajun Band

The Midway Ramblers Cajun Band

To make a reservation for the brunch, attendees must call 815-280-2200 by Feb. 16 to purchase tickets.

The Musica Viva concert will follow the brunch at 3 p.m. in the Fine Arts Theatre. There is no cost to only attend the concert, which will feature a wide variety of Cajun music. The Midway Ramblers Cajun Band includes members David Nuccio; Denise Nuccio Thompson; Dennis Nuccio; Earl Thompson; Leo Peña; and Stu Greenspan.

JJC’s Musica Viva series, coordinated by Professor of Music Philip Spencer, includes guest performances throughout the academic year by JJC faculty and visiting artists. It is funded by the JJC Foundation.

The JJC Fine Arts Department has started a new Musica Viva Donors Fund, which will keep future programs free and ensure that the series features high quality musicians. Contributors will receive recognition and reserved choice of seats for the season. To contribute, or for more information about the Musica Viva series or JJC’s Fine Arts Department, call 815-280-2223 or visit

About The Musicians

David Nuccio has been performing as a musician since the 1970s and often performs as a jazz pianist throughout the Chicago area. Nuccio, a JJC associate professor, has also served as the musical director for JJC productions like “Little Shop of Horrors,” “La Cage aux Folles,” and “Godspell.” In addition to his many other accomplishments, Nuccio developed and is head of JJC’s new music technology program. Nuccio has created several new courses in the music technology field, as well as the course, “The History of Rock and Roll.” Nuccio has a master’s degree in Music Theory from the American Conservatory of Music, and completed additional graduate work at Northern Illinois University at DePaul University, where he studied orchestration and jazz arranging.

Denise Nuccio Thompson was first introduced to music at the age of five, when she started playing the piano. Her experience today includes performances with the Trition College Big Band and the Sidemen Big Band. She has attended Cajun music workshops with her brother, Dennis Nuccio, and husband, Earl Thompson, for several years at the August Heritage Festival in Elkins, West Virginia, and made many trips to Louisiana to study with Cajun musicians. Her academic credentials include a Ph.D. in Spanish Peninsular Literature from the University of Illinois. In the past, she taught as a professor at both the University of Illinois Chicago and Elmhurst College.

Dennis Nuccio, like his sister, started playing the piano as a young child. At age 20, he began teaching piano at the Anthony Blair Studio on the southwest side of Chicago. For a number of years, he was also a house pianist at Henrici’s Restaurant in Oak Brook, and regularly performs today at weddings and parties. He began visiting Louisiana in the mid-1970s, where he was introduced to Cajun and Zydeco music.

Earl Thompson learned to play the guitar while volunteering for the Peace Corps in Chile. In addition to attending many Cajun music workshops and visiting Louisiana with his brother-in-law, he holds a Ph.D. in Spanish Peninsular Literature from the University of Illinois, and taught for 33 years at Elmhurst College in the Foreign Languages and Literatures Department and served as department chair. During that period he regularly directed study abroad courses to Spain, Mexico and Costa Rica.

Leo Peña was born and raised in Mexico City before moving to Chicago with his family as a teenager. He learned to perform classical music in school, but really blossomed as a drummer when he was a part of a Mexican wedding band. He has toured all over the Midwest and East coast, performing in hip-hop groups, blues bands, Mexican “bandas,” and more. In addition to his active music schedule, he has three degrees in education, Spanish and literature.

Stu Greenspan, who is an electric bassist, guitarist, composer and arranger, performs regularly with many different jazz and pop music groups including the Midway Ramblers Cajun Band, Reginald Robinson and the Fifth Element, Linda Solotaire, and Eddie Harrison’s Paris Swing. He is currently the musical director of the Cerqua Rivera Dance Theater. As a studio musician and engineer, he has contributed to sound designs for all of Chicago’s major theater companies and many others throughout the country. He is on the music faculty of Columbia College Chicago and the Francis W. Parker School.

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