Athlete Awarded ‘Honorary Maestro’ Title at You Raise Me Up Concert

Special Olympics Illinois athlete Dan James has been competing in Far West Suburban/Area 2 for more than 20 years. But sports are not the only thing he excels in – Dan also finds passion in music.

Although he never involved himself musically in school, at a very young age his mother, Judy, says he would stand in front of the TV and conduct.  “His favorite holiday was the 4th of July,” Judy says. “He liked to wait until the fireworks and the ‘1812 Overture’ (started) – one of his favorite conducting pieces, as he used to call it!”

This year, Dan conducted the National Anthem which opened the 6th Annual You Raise Me Up Concert at College Church in Wheaton on April 11. This concert brought in nearly $4,500 for Special Olympics Illinois Far West Suburban/Area 2.

Dan James conducts
Dan James conducts the National Anthem at You Raise Me Up Concert

Dan was also awarded the title of “Honorary Maestro” for his years of generous help and expertise with conducting the National Anthem.

Area 2 Director Amy Kaylor says Dan has been at every concert. “The second year, we mentioned to the Chorale leaders that Dan has practiced conducting for years at home and they asked him to direct the Chorale’s ensemble group in the National Anthem to open the You Raise Me Up Concert.”

This special addition to the concert has been a staple ever since. Dan has made friends with the members and attends their concerts regularly.  He especially enjoys Beyond Glee concerts (a choir that also performed at this year’s You Raise Me Up Concert) as well as the Glen Ellyn Wheaton Chorale.

“We try never to miss a concert and we always have to sit in the front row,” Judy says. “If either choir happens to sing one of his favorite tunes, he sometimes conducts from his seat!”

Dan, who won a gold medal at the District A Aquatics Meet earlier this spring, credits conducting as good practice for his freestyle stroke.

This year’s concert featured the talents of The STARS of College Church who performed songs by Rascal Flatts and The Gray Havens. Alternative rockers ‘Til Sunset, the soulful Tyisha Brown and musical stylings of Beyond Glee all brought the audience to their feet. These sweet sounds were interspersed with personal experiences from local Special Olympics athletes.

100 percent of ticket revenue will benefit Special Olympics Illinois Far West Suburban/Area 2 serving athletes like Dan with intellectual disabilities in the suburbs in west DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. View photos from concert.

By Alexandra McMillin, Manager of Communications