Chris Vallillo

Chris Vallillo sitting down on stool with guitar cropped

For our Road Scholars Speakers Bureau, this scholar is fully booked through 2024. 
However, you may book them outside of any Illinois Humanities affiliation using the contact information in the “Booking Information” section below.

A very accomplished rural artist and humanities performer, Chris Vallillo has made many connections and edutained diverse audiences throughout Illinois, especially in smaller, rural communities.

Chris Vallillo has been a Road Scholar since 1999. His body of humanities-based programs and edutainment style serve the mission of our Road Scholars Speakers Bureau program well!

Presentation 1 of 2
Fully Booked

Forgottonia, An Intimate Portrait of Rural Illinois

In this presentation, Chris Vallillo performs his new one-man show, “Forgottonia” featuring music he wrote over the last 35 years about Western Illinois based on his experiences as a folklorist and songwriter in rural Illinois. Vallillo has spent the past 35 years documenting and preserving the heritage of Western Illinois: the land lovingly called Forgottonia.

The show combines music, storytelling, and historically accurate narratives in a solo performance. Along with the performance, Vallillo will speak to the history and backstories of songs that document, reflect, and validate rural lives, reinforcing these communities’ sense of commitment and worth.

Program Logistics

The presentation takes approximately 60 minutes, including a Q and A with the audience. No equipment is required since the speaker will bring his own sound equipment.

Presentation 2 of 2
Fully Booked

Oh Freedom! Songs of the Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement has been described as one of the greatest singing movements that this country has experienced.  From “We Shall Overcome” to “This Little Light of Mine,” music played a vital role as an inspirational rallying point and as a way to spread the message of equality and justice.

From the Freedom Riders to the jails of Montgomery Alabama and Parchman Prison all the way to Washington, DC, old and new songs of the era spoke of the yearning for equal rights: the struggle and the determination to win freedom.  Music engaged and energized the movement locally and nationally, becoming the backbone of the nonviolent civil disobedience movement led by Dr. King and others.

In a show created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement, award-winning Illinois folksinger Chris Vallillo performs pivotal songs from the music that inspired and sustained this landmark movement.  Intermixed with the music, Vallillo presents first-hand accounts of the historic struggle and discusses the impact of music to one of our nation’s most important social causes.

The show is performed on multiple instruments (acoustic and electric guitars, dobro, steel guitar, and Mandolin plus vocals) and includes historically accurate first-person accounts of the music and how it impacted the Civil Rights Movement.

Program Logistics

The presentation takes approximately 60 minutes, including a Q and A with the audience. No equipment is required since the speaker will bring his own sound equipment. However, if a projector and screen are available, the speaker will share images.


Chris Vallillo is an award-winning rural singer/songwriter, folk musician and folklorist with a natural affinity for American roots music. A master of bottleneck slide guitar, he weaves original, contemporary, and traditional songs into a compelling and entertaining portrait of the history and lifestyle of the Midwest. In the mid 1980s he was involved in documenting the last of the “pre-radio” generation of rural musicians in Illinois.

Vallillo’s songwriting has often been compared to the poems of Edgar Lee Masters, who’s famous “Spoon River Anthology” depicted the complex struggles of Midwestern life in simple verse. Perhaps the archaeology degree Vallillo earned at Beloit College helped him see the important little details of life which imbue his songs with a sense of history.

Book this Road Scholar

Follow the steps below to book a presentation.
  1. Contact Chris to schedule a date and time via email at or phone at (309) 224-8210.
  2. Once you and Chris have agreed upon a date and time, complete the online Road Scholars Host Organization application.
Contact Us

Fairouz AbuGhazaleh
Director of Statewide Programs
(312) 374-1553