CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — The University of Illinois is filled with well-known streets such as First Street, Wright Street and Green Street. One Marching Illini alum has been spending much of his career on Sesame Street.

After seeing the Marching Illini perform while he was in high school, Normal native Paul Rudolph chose to attend U of I because he wanted to join the marching band.

He performed with the Marching Illini, also known as the MI to its members and fans, throughout his undergraduate years, serving as drumline section leader and composing drumline arrangements and drill charts for halftime shows.

“The instructors I had with the MI were a big part of helping prepare me,” said Rudolph. “Gary Smith was our director, and he had a way of creating leadership within the MI by breaking down the band into smaller groups, sections and squads. This really gave the musicians ownership and responsibility, especially when I was section leader of the drumline.”

Rudolph said that to this day, he still tries to pass those skills along to every musician he works with, to give them the satisfaction of learning a song and creating a finished project that they are proud of.

“The other way the MI prepared me was to always remember the fun factor of putting together a performance,” Rudolph said. “Keep it light and have fun!”

While studying music education at U of I, he learned how to play a variety of instruments from woodwinds to strings with a main focus on percussion.

According to the U of I College of Fine and Applied Arts, Rudolph soon landed a job as the assistant band director at Mahomet-Seymour High School. Eventually, his passion to compose led him to return to the U of I School of Music to pursue a master’s degree in composition and arranging.

Rudolph then connected with Richard Gibbs, a Los Angeles-based composer, who offered him a position as his assistant. Through work on “The Tracey Ullman Show” and other made-for-television movies, Rudolph learned how to edit and score scenes of music.

In 1995, The Jim Henson Company recruited Gibbs to be the music director for what would become the second iteration of “The Muppet Show.” Rudolph tagged along and was introduced to the Muppets’ world and television production.

Around this time, Rudolph met Leslie Carrara, who later became his wife and the puppeteer for Abby Cadabby on “Sesame Street.” The Rudolphs soon found themselves working together on the set of one of the most popular children’s shows in television history.

They have worked there ever since.

Rudolph is able to showcase his musical talents by arranging various songs and scores for the show. The position has also allowed him to work with a slew of well-known names in music. These include Elvis Costello, Prince, Bruno Mars, Lin-Manuel Miranda, John Baptiste and Dave Grohl.

Rudolph said his favorite live show experience was working with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JALC), performing three live shows with them in 2019. Rudolph and other musicians created 13 brand new arrangements of classic Sesame Street songs like “Sing,” “People in Your Neighborhood” and many more.

“It was simply amazing from the first note we heard the band rehearsing,” Rudolph said. “The arrangements also let the incredible JALC performers open up for solos, which was amazing to hear, especially for the puppeteers, my wife included, being mere feet away from those incredible musicians. Hearing the audience full of families cheering the shows was just priceless.”

When he isn’t spending time with Elmo, Big Bird and other “Sesame Street” characters, Rudolph continues his passion for music with his percussion ensemble GLANK, which he formed in 2002. The group uses found and recycled materials to make music.

Rudolph said he plans to continue his music career as long as he can.

The MI will perform an Armed Forces-themed halftime show on Saturday as the Fighting Illini take on the Purdue University Boilermakers at 11 a.m.