Beloved Northwest suburban band conductor suing over debilitating injury
Beloved suburban band conductor Ralph Wilder is pursuing a lawsuit as a result of serious injuries he suffered after projection screen equipment hanging from a ceiling fell on him last spring at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.
Filed on behalf of Wilder by attorney Kevin Durkin, the complaint alleges Chicago Flyhouse Inc. was negligent in its responsibility for the projection equipment at Northeastern's Recital Hall. Wilder, founder and conductor of the Rolling Meadows-based Northwest Concert Band, was injured May 6.
"He's at home undergoing therapy, doing his best to improve, but he's a paraplegic who needs 24-hour care," Durkin said Friday.
Chicago Flyhouse, which works with major venues across the United States, denied the negligence accusations in documents filed in August in Cook County circuit court. As the case continues, the most recent court records show lawyers on both sides filed a flurry of subpoenas to potential witnesses or for the production of documents in December.
Wilder was injured when the metal frame housing the screen about 20 feet above him came down on him while he rehearsed on a stage at the college with the Chicago Clarinet Ensemble, according to the suit. His family said Wilder suffered spinal cord and other injuries.
Chicago Flyhouse maintained, repaired, modified or altered the screen and hoisting system for about five years before the accident, the suit says.
According to the complaint that seeks more than $50,000 in damages, the negligence occurred due to Chicago Flyhouse's "improper" repairs to the screen hoisting system and failure to test its "full functionality" before the accident.
Chicago Flyhouse attorney Manuel Sanchez wrote in court documents the company is not guilty of the negligence accusations.
Wilder also is known for his founding of the Mount Prospect Community Band in 1975. He led that group for 40 years but was fired as conductor in 2015 after friction with the village's sponsoring park district.
About a year after the Mount Prospect split, many musicians followed him when he started the Northwest Concert Band in Rolling Meadows in 2016. Wilder -- who plays clarinet, saxophone and flute -- is a longtime Chicago-area musician with experience in several genres including jazz, gospel, rock, pop, big band and Dixieland.
In December, Wilder's colleagues held a benefit concert at Northeastern to gain donations to help his family cover his medical costs.
"He has a very supportive daughter and son," Durkin said. "And Ralph is doing everything he can to improve himself. He's motivated and a very tough individual."
As for Chicago Flyhouse, its work with major venues includes acoustics and light-spill assessment, along with baffle and curtaining design and installation. Among its clients are McCormick Place in Chicago, Little Caesars Arena in Detroit and Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.