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La clemenza di Tito: A Conversation with Director Laura Johnson

Laura Johnson pic

Laura Johnson

La clemenza di Tito, the UI School of Music’s spring opera, is sure to impress come May. After speaking to Laura Johnson, the opera’s director, it is clear that with her experience and the performers’ hard work, this opera will be one you won’t want to miss.

Johnson is a visiting assistant professor here at The University of Iowa School of Music. She has spent a great amount time providing her professional guidance in opera at various colleges across the U.S. When asked what she enjoys most about being a guest at different colleges, Laura mentioned, “Everything! With great colleagues and great students what more can you ask for?! The voice faculty is so supportive and helpful and the design faculty is such a joy to work for. Opera is such a large art form that involves many people and talents and it doesn’t work unless everyone is willing to collaborate.”

While she admits that her experience at The University of Iowa has been a positive one so far, she believes the students’ curiosity and enthusiasm while working on La clemenza di Tito is what moves them forward in order to be great performers. The students have been busy preparing for La clemenza di Tito since last fall because it’s in Italian and is such a demanding musical style of dialogue set to music. Johnson emphasized that the students are doing great and that she is excited about the progress they’re making.

When it comes to the audience, according to Laura they should be most excited for the spring opera because, “it is an opportunity to see an opera that isn’t always done. While it’s a fabulous opera, it’s so often ignored and neglected.”

Laura Johnson

Johnson working with a South Korean actress on a piece for an international summer music festival

Laura goes on to give some background of the opera saying, “When Mozart died, his widow thought it was one of his best pieces of work. Her mission was to make sure it was performed, so she often sang the pieces herself. She genuinely loved the piece and felt it needed to be heard, and it wasn’t until the later part of the 20th century that people thought ‘oh it really is a great piece and should be performed’.” The set and costumes are considered to be a visual mash-up of sorts, including architecture and clothing from 18th century, Roman, and contemporary influences.

Laura really hopes that people will take the time to come out and have a look at the hard work everyone involved has dedicated towards the May 2-5 showing of La clemenza di Tito. She adds, “The Englert Theatre is a very intimate space to experience an opera, making it very exciting for an audience member. The audience won’t miss a thing because it’s visually and musically in your face.”


Written to celebrate the coronation of Emperor Leopold II as King of Bohemia in 1791, La clemenza di Tito tells of the attempted assassination of the Emperor Tito and his forgiveness of those who betrayed him. The opera was meant to reflect on the titular emperor’s mercy, a quality that the populace might have hoped for in their new king. Sung in Italian with English supertitles, Mozart’s striking portrait of a great ruler who finds power in mercy, rather than revenge, is a model for modern times.

For more information on La clemenza di Tito please visit: To purchase tickets visit or call the Englert Theatre at (319) 688-2653.

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Music Therapy Club Presents Third Annual Hospice Benefit Concert

Professor Katherine Eberle and her students, along with the Music Therapy Club are pleased to announce their concert “Music by Women Composers” for voice and piano at the University Capitol Center Recital Hall on Sunday February 17, 2013 at 3:00 p.m.


The UI Music Therapy Club will be sponsoring the concert “Music by Women Composers” benefiting the Iowa City Hospice

Sponsored by the University of Iowa’s Music Therapy Club, this concert is a benefit for Iowa City Hospice.  This is the third year Eberle’s studio and the Music Therapy Club have presented a benefit concert for Hospice. Eberle says she chose this organization because, “Hospice is a worthy organization and I personally know families who were helped by that organization.  It is a great opportunity to give back! The former head of the School of Music passed away several years ago and Hospice helped him and his family.”

Professor Eberle, herself a performer on the program, has been preparing for this concert since the fall, and the students received the music before winter vacation to begin preparations.  The twelve performers are a mix of undergraduate and graduate students, and most of them are music therapy majors. One of the performers, Lisa Neher, wrote seven of the songs that will be performed at the concert.  The UI School of Music performers include Kirk Corey, Lauren Davies, Bobbi Halfhill, Amelia Seidl, Sarah Graf, Ciara Thompson, Taylor Woods, Celia Brockway, Kaitlin Shewmake, Kathryn MacRae, and Lisa Neher.

The School of Music has had a long-standing relationship with Iowa City Hospice. Students in the Music Therapy program frequently do practica and internships with Hospice as part of their music therapy studies. Mary Adamek, Professor of Music Therapy and a board member with Iowa City Hospice, says, “The UI has a strong focus on community outreach for our students. This is one way that music students can be involved in the community, give back, perform, and educate others.  We not only provide awareness about the needs of Iowa City Hospice, but we also spread the word about our terrific music programs to community members who might not know much about the School of Music.”

While admission to this concert is free, a suggested donation of items from a “wish list” is welcome and listed below. If you cannot attend the concert on February 17, the same concert will be held this Sunday, February 10 benefiting the Women’s Resource Action Center.  This concert will be held at New Song Episcopal Church in Coralville at 7:00 p.m.

The performers ask that you please consider bringing a donation for the Hospice of Iowa City or items from the following list that will be used for the programming for children’s bereavement:

  • Construction paper
  • Lots of different colored fabric ribbon
  • Gift certificates to Pagliai’s Pizza (everyone has pizza, fruit, juice and water together, including parents/guardians, before breaking into the three support groups)
  • Capri Sun drinks (prefer the 100% juice)
  • Bottled water
  • Monetary donations
  • Paints—water soluble, non-toxic poster paints
  • Glitter—both glitter-glue and loose glitter
  • Children’s books on grief
  • Games on grief
  • Oil pastels
  • Balloons (small, round)
  • Bubbles
  • Bag of dirt
  • Baby food jars or 8 oz. water bottles (clean and empty)

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The Pelegon Saxophone Quartet Advances to MTNA National Chamber Music Competition

From left to right: James Skretta is a second year DMA student from Iowa, Jessica Voigt is an Australian second year masters student, Elena Pedersen is a first year masters student from Florida, and Andrew Allen is a first year DMA student from Iowa.

From left to right: James Skretta is a second year DMA student from Iowa, Jessica Voigt is an Australian second year masters student, Elena Pedersen is a first year masters student from Florida, and Andrew Allen is a first year DMA student from Iowa.

The University of Iowa School of Music is excited to announce that the Pelegon Saxophone Quartet has advanced into the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) National Chamber Music Competition on March 9th-11th in Anaheim, California at the Disneyland Resort.  The quartet’s members include four of Dr. Kenneth Tse’s graduate students: Jessica Voigt, soprano saxophone (MA), James Skretta, alto saxophone (DMA), Elena Pedersen, tenor saxophone (MA), and Andrew Allen, baritone saxophone (DMA).

The Pelegon quartet formed in August 2012 and has been preparing for the upcoming MTNA competition from the very beginning.  Besides preparing for this competition, the quartet has also made an appearance at the U.S. Navy Band’s International Saxophone Symposium in Washington D.C. in early January 2013 before competing in the MTNA division competition in Kansas on January 13.

The three-tiered MTNA competition starts at the state level. Winners of each state competition advance on to one of the seven division competitions.  Then finally, the winners of each division competition advance to the national competition finals to compete against six other ensembles from across the United States. Due to the fact that the other ensembles in the final competition can include any range of woodwind chamber ensembles, student Jessica Voigt mentions, “It is difficult to know exactly who we will be competing against”.

Congratulations and good luck to Dr. Kenneth Tse and the Pelegon quartet members!

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