Chris Vallillo


Chris Vallillo is a nationally acclaimed folksinger and songwriter who makes the people and places of “unmetropolitan” America come to life in song. Performing on six-string and bottleneck slide guitars, harmonica, Jew’s harp, and hammer dulcimer, Vallillo weaves original, contemporary, and traditional folk songs and narratives into a compelling and entertaining portrait of the history and lifestyles of the Midwest. Dirty Linen magazine described the music as “vivid, original story songs” delivered with an “eye for detail and a sense of history.” The former host of the award-winning public radio performance series Rural Route 3, Vallillo’s prairie poet style has been compared to the works of Edgar Lee Masters and Vachel Lindsay and includes original, contemporary, and traditional songs and instrumentals and narratives.

Artistic Statement: 

As a professional musician, songwriter, and folklorist for the past twenty years, I have documented songs that are part of the Illinois experience. I believe our rich cultural and historical heritage can be illuminated through the use of folk songs - songs often written from actual experience. This is an exciting, engaging tool for students and teachers, opening up a door into the past in an interactive, participatory way. I believe in a hands-on approach using a variety of vintage instruments. Having students touch and play a dulcimer from 1880 creates an experience that stays with them. When students learn, perform, and write folksongs, they create a unique experience on multiple levels that can be tied into a wide range of subjects, from music to social studies to creative writing.

Residency Type: 
Individual Artist