Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

In 2005, David Spelman was hired by The Krannert Center to launch and oversee the ongoing artistic direction of ELLNORA | The Guitar Festival. The biannual event, modeled on the New York Guitar Festival, attracts nearly 15,000 patrons, and received high praise in Chicago, Guitar Player, Down Beat, and The Illinois Entertainer, which called the event a "sophisticated, discriminating examination of the six-string."

David currently serves as the festival's Artistic Advisor, and works closely with Krannert Center's CEO Mike Ross, who views the Center as "a massive and exciting blending of classroom, laboratory, and public square out of which flows a rich mix of experiences year round. A place for people of all ages and backgrounds to come together and share in the life-affirming exploration of the imagination—of creativity—of what it is to be human."

Among the extraordinary artists that have appeared at the festival are Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, John McLaughlin, Taj Mahal, Buddy Guy, Andy Summers, Daniel Lanois, Jerry Douglas, Dan Zanes, Ani DiFranco, Los Lobos, Derek Trucks, The North Mississippi Allstars, Jorma Kaukonen, Kaki King, Sonny Landreth, Cindy Cashdollar, Shawn Colvin, Pepe Romero, Paul O'Dette, and Alex de Grassi.

"The fact is, the ELLNORA festival is one of the best gatherings of great, varied guitar talent anywhere in the world."
– Guitar Player Magazine

"one of the world's most forward-thinking guitar festivals" – Fretboard Journal
"a prodigious array of the world’s most distinctive and influential guitarists"
– Premier Guitar

“Sonic and architectural beauty combine and, for three days, shine a spotlight on the art and craft of the guitar” – American Songwriter
“For those who haven’t made the scene before, they’re in for a treat: an amazing collection of talent in a beautiful setting.” – Guitar Player Magazine
"The whole festival, down to the sound crews and techs, is a very well-oiled machine and the musical offerings are just incredible." 
– Cindy Cashdollar to Guitar Player Magazine
“At ELLNORA you’re exposed to so many different types of guitar playing, it’ll expand anybody’s idea of what the guitar’s about.”
– Luther Dickinson to Guitar Player Magazine
“A phalanx of world class musicians”
– Guitar International

More about the Krannert Center:

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts is dedicated to the advancement of education, research, and public engagement through the pursuit of excellence and innovation in the performing arts. A leader in and through the arts since its opening in 1969, Krannert Center remains the nation’s leading university-based performing arts center, housing six performance spaces, an expansive lobby, numerous rehearsal rooms, complete production shops, classrooms, offices, and a full array of public amenities. Krannert Center serves as a model for the deep integration of education and professional performance: students in every aspect of performance and production are regularly immersed into the professional creative environment, and Krannert Center experiences constitute a vibrant, essential aspect of the University of Illinois student landscape.

In the midst of societal change on a global scale, Krannert Center stands at the forefront of a new national movement to reframe and reimagine the role of the performing arts. Blurring the boundaries of genres and audiences, Krannert Center envisions a future in which all art forms—from rock and roll to blues to world to classical music, for example—are embraced equally for their transformative powers. With this vision in mind, the Center has worked tirelessly to break down barriers to the arts through innovative and diverse programming, groundbreaking outreach activities, and an unwavering commitment to inclusivity.

While most major commercial festivals and operations measure success through profitability, Krannert Center—including the three-day guitar spectacular of ELLNORA—is different. A nonprofit organization, Krannert Center is guided by its mission and closely aligned principles, which include sustaining inclusive excellence across cultural and aesthetic spectrums, providing access for all, nurturing the creative process, and innovating, educating, and engaging across all walks of life.

Photography by Dan Merlo.