May 29, 2019 at 1:45pm
Dane Lisser

Dr. Mark Tonelli performs alongside Lexi Walker at Devon Amphitheater grand opening

The Decatur (Ill.) community celebrated the grand opening of the Devon G. Buffet Amphitheater at Nelson Park during Memorial Day Weekend. The performing arts facility, made possible by a generous donation by the Buffett Foundation, is a destination for live, outdoor entertainment during the summer months. 

The venue sits along the shore of Lake Decatur as part of Lakeshore Landing nestled inside historic Nelson Park. With a capacity of 4,000, the venue offers a wide range of entertainment including music of many genres, comedians and community movie nights. 

The facility features 360 fixed seats, with cupholders; a pit area that can fit 300 people standing next to the stage; a terraced, turf-covered area that can hold 460 people; and a lawn that holds 3,000.

To kick off the festivities, Sony Records artist Lexi Walker was invited to perform the National Anthem, followed by performances from CJ Solar and 38 Special.  

Walker, an American singer and social media star, is best known for playing Princess Elsa, the famous character from the animated film, "Frozen." Walker has 18 million views on YouTube of her rendition of the National Anthem which she performed with an orchestra.

For her performance at the Devon Amphitheater, Walker's artist management was seeking an "exceptional guitarist" to accompany her on stage and was referred to Dr. Mark Tonelli, assistant professor of applied guitar at Millikin University. Tonelli helped develop the arrangement for Walker's performance.

The rendition of the Star Spangled Banner was captured on video during soundcheck which can be seen on Facebook and YouTube. This is the first time Walker has performed the National Anthem with just guitar, as both Walker and Tonelli were the first performers to grace the stage of the Devon.

Dr. Mark Tonelli is an active guitarist, composer and author who has built a career spanning nearly three decades performing with artists such as Clay Aiken, Jon Faddis, Rita Moreno, Carol Channing and Lynn Seaton. His music has been featured on National Public Radio's (NPR) "All Things Considered." He has been a winner or finalist in the Billboard Magazine World Song Contest, USA Songwriting Competition and The Great American Song Contest. His large jazz ensemble arrangements are published by UNC Jazz Press and FJH Music and are performed by collegiate and high school bands across the country. His music for guitar ensemble is published by Guitar Chamber Press.

Before Millikin, Tonelli was the guitarist for the West Point Band's Jazz Knights for 10 years, touring and performing in some of the nation's top venues, including Jazz Standard, Blues Alley, Avery Fisher Hall, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and The Midwest Clinic.