The House That Kesselman Built


Photo Courtesy of COD Newsroom Flickr

Katie Toolan, Staff Writer

Nearly a decade of musical enjoyment and music education enrichment at the College of DuPage may be coming to an end this spring.

Music Fridays have been a part of the COD culture for eight years, and Lee Kesselman is its architect and curator. When the MAC was renovated in 2012, the music department was relocated to the dreaded west campus playfully described by faculty as ‘Alaska’. It needed a way to keep the students, faculty and community engaged. Music Fridays was Kesselman’s way to combat an “out of sight, out of mind” sentiment and prevent enrollment decline. 

In May, Lee Kesselman will retire from COD. Music Fridays are his legacy and one of the gifts Kesselman will leave to COD. Still, the future of Music Fridays is uncertain. It will depend on whether anyone will be able to pick up and carry on this COD tradition. Budget questions and a smaller music department staff are impediments to the continuation of Music Fridays. 

Music Fridays started small, with three concerts, and when people showed up, the program continued. It grew each semester until it became a weekly event. It was not until the pandemic that the shows were indefinitely suspended. Although there were some online shows in place of the live performances, the recordings were produced by artists and sent in, resulting in a disconnect with the audience. 

“In music you have to hear other people make music,” Kesselman said. “Because most of all of what we teach is listening, and online doesn’t work.” 

Despite the advancements in video and technology, there are some disciplines that cannot be taught online because music is a hands-on discipline, he said. Kesselman compared learning music to learning other hands-on skills. 

“The guys teaching heating and air-conditioning here can’t do it online either, and you don’t ever want a guy coming to your house to fix your furnace who only ever learned online,” Kesselman said.

The performances are given by students, alumni and guests. There have even been lectures about music. One humanities professor from COD, Julia diLiberti, taught a lecture about social justice and music. Kesselman explained the concept as “a way to enrich what we do on the teaching side. It’s a way to provide things for the campus and for guests of the campus.”  

Kesselman is well known for the Friday performances. “There are people on campus, when I introduce myself, they say, ‘Oh you’re that guy that runs that Music Friday’s thing,’” Kesselman said. 

Kesselman has given 41 years to the College of DuPage. He has been the only music chairman of the music department. Hired in 1981, he was a part of the groundbreaking of the MAC in 1983. 

“I actually dug the fourth shovel of dirt when they did the groundbreaking for this,” he said. 

Kesselman is a published and award-winning composer. He has given hundreds of concerts on campus and taught as many students. He is an engaged and practical instructor. 

“I believe when students come here, it is the right place to be,” he said.   

 Music Fridays are hosted at noon, every Friday in the MAC. Standard COD COVID-19 policies, including masks and social distancing during the performances, are required.  

For the full calendar of Music Fridays events, visit: