Seamus Reilly; Vice President for Institutional Advancements, Irish singer

Emma Gray

Staff Writer

Originally from Ireland, Seamus Reilly has been living in America for the last 26 years. 

Seamus Reilly, Parkland College, Propsectus News, Emma Gray

Photo of Seamus Reilly by Emma Gray, staff writer

He started out in Peoria, before coming to Champaign in 1992 for grad school. After grad school he started work at Parkland in 1999. Most people at Parkland know him as the Vice President for Institutional Advancement, a position in which he is in charge of business and training, research, grants, contracts, marketing, government relations, and international education.

He wears many hats outside of this role. He is a soccer coach for the Illinois football club, and he used to coach for Parkland. He is a father, and also an Irish singer.

“I like to sing,” said Seamus Reilly.

Reilly has always been interested in music and the social culture surrounding it, singing in a couple different choirs at times, taking voice lessons while he was in college and in Spain, and getting his doctorate in music and literature.

This love of music stems from his father, who was always the “big singer” in the family, often singing at parties and in choirs, Reilly said.

“My dad listened to music constantly,” he said.

This musical upbringing has given him a large repertoire of old 18th and 19th century songs. Reilly quickly became especially interested in the old folk songs, even at a young age.

“One of my earliest memories is reading these song books when I was a child, songs that were hundreds of years old,” he said. He says this occasionally causes “some old person … [to] turn around to me and go, ‘How do you know that song?’”

Reilly explains that he is “very interested in the stories in the songs.” This interest in the stories being told through music led him to the band The Dubliners, who play an “eclectic mix of old folk tunes…. mixed in with 19th century American labor songs” according to Reilly. He describes their songs as a “unique collection of songs” because, while they have nationalist themes popular in Irish music, they also have songs about regular ordinary people, something he really enjoys.

Another reason folk music appeals to Reilly is because of how reactionary it can be, even today.

“[I] became fascinated with those songs that were hundreds of years old that had been written in reaction to some event, some historical event,” he said.

While he does not have much time for singing, he has continued the tradition of singing at friends’ parties, and occasionally at other events that he is invited to. Recently, he was called out of the audience to join the band Portmor on stage for a few songs at an Irish exhibit at the Spurlock Museum, something of a testament to his love for the genre of music.