Former Naperville Sun editor will perform Friday on Riverwalk

Ted Slowik will perform from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, June 27, at the Riverwalk Free Speech Pavilion, near the Dandelion Fountain at Jackson Avenue and Webster Street in Naperville. |  Courtesy of Brian Powers
Ted Slowik will perform from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, June 27, at the Riverwalk Free Speech Pavilion, near the Dandelion Fountain at Jackson Avenue and Webster Street in Naperville. | Courtesy of Brian Powers

Music lovers can catch a familiar act Friday night when former Naperville Sun managing editor Ted Slowik brings his original American folk-rock compositions to the Riverwalk.

Slowik’s performance is part of the Naperville Park District’s Rollin’ on the River Friday night music series. His performance will come just three weeks after having a pacemaker/defibrillator installed after suffering a near-fatal heart attack in February.

“I feel great,” he said in a recent telephone interview. “I’ve been back to work for about a month.”

Slowik’s family has a history of heart disease, with his older brother Jim passing away in 2009 at the age of 59.

Although Slowik is only 49, that history — along with what he admits was a less-than-healthy lifestyle — made Slowik a prime candidate for an early heart attack.

He’s since lost 40 pounds, sworn off tobacco, begun an exercise regimen and committed himself to a more heart-friendly diet.

“I’m living much healthier now,” he said.

Slowik is the director of public and media relations for North Central College, a position he accepted after 20 years in journalism, first as a reporter with the Joliet Herald-News and then with The Sun.

He’s been married to his wife, Jo, for 24 years, with whom he lives in Joliet with their two children, Noah and Hannah Mae.

But before Slowik was a family man and working journalist, he had the same dream as so many high school students across the United States — to make it in the music business.

His first formal training was when he studied violin and piano as a grade school student. Although he never pursued those instruments seriously as an adult, he credits that early training and a music teacher at St. Cletus Grade School in LaGrange as early musical influences.

“She taught us how to appreciate music,” he said, stressing that he soon developed a serious music habit. “I spent all my money at the record store. I was a huge Beatlemaniac.”

A 1983 graduate of Lyons Township High School, it was at the LaGrange school that Slowik began playing bass in his first band, Suspended Animation. They played the progressive rock popular in that era, such as Yes and the Electric Light Orchestra.

The four years Slowik spent at Lewis College earning a journalism degree didn’t really interfere with his musical habit, as he played in various bands while he studied and worked part time.

His 1987 graduation from Lewis marked not only an academic achievement but one of life’s turning points — one that he undoubtedly shares with college graduates everywhere — whether to follow a dream or say goodbye to youth and enter the work force.

“I made a decision to go the safe route,” Slowik said, opting for the steady work of a journalist that would allow him to provide for a family.

But that didn’t mean he abandoned music either.

From 2000 to 2011, he played bass in the The Big Eddy Springs Blues Band, a group that derived much of its material from Chicago Blues legends such as Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters.

His stint with the band allowed him to scratch his musical itch and pay his respects to the old masters.

Since moving into public relations for the college, Slowik’s musical inclination has taken him in the direction of the singer-songwriter, and he readily acknowledges that composing his own music shares many characteristics with his former profession of journalism.

Although his own personal life experiences inform many of his compositions, many are ripped right from the front pages. “Springfield” speaks to the never-ending malfeasance and corruption taking place in a state Capitol that has seen its last two governors sent off to prison.

“Support Joe Hosey” asks listeners to stand up for the Patch reporter found in contempt by a Will County judge for not revealing his sources, and who faces jail time and fines of $300 a day while his case is on appeal.

“I classify some of my songs as nonfiction,” he said.

Slowik said the unanswered question of what he might have accomplished musically if he hadn’t taken the safe route is one that is never far from his mind.

“Where would I be today,” he mused. “How good can I be?”

But wherever his musical odyssey leads, Slowik has a definitive idea of how to be sure he’s satisfied with the journey.

“As long as I’m happy, it’s a success,” he said. “Life is short. Make the most of it.”