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University of Iowa Orchestra Visits Lincoln

Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Fans flock by the tens of thousands to Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on football Saturdays in the fall. The Hawkeye marching band entertains them during pregame, halftime and postgame shows with traditional selections like the Iowa fight song and In Heaven There is no Beer plus a different medley of pop music every season.

Less visible is the University of Iowa symphony orchestra, but that’s who made a road trip on Thursday for a performance at Lincoln High that featured the works of Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich.

It was the latest stop on a perpetual statewide tour courtesy of the university’s Arts Share program.

Arts Share has coordinated events in 84 of Iowa counties so far, and won’t stop until it’s reached into all 99. It’s a matter of time until then because each academic year Arts Share produces over 300 outreach events in collaboration with the Division of Performing Arts (Mu­sic, Dance, Theatre Arts), the School of Art & Art History, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

“The U of I orchestra reached out to perform for students in Des Moines and Johanna Kennedy, Lincoln’s orchestra teacher, jumped at the opportunity to give her students this experience,” said Karen Sissel. Sissel is a Gifted & Advanced Learning Consultant for DMPS who facilitated the visit. She’s familiar with Arts Share through her role as the district’s G&AL Summer Program Director.

“The other members of Lincoln’s performing arts PLC (professional learning community), Kevin Stegemann, Christian White, Rachel Sullivan and Michael Williams are also supporting their students by giving them an opportunity to experience a live orchestra performance,” Sissel added.

And what a performance it was, the perfect antidote for a gloomy, sloppy winter afternoon.

Under the baton of conductor William LaRue Jones, the orchestra opened with a pair of classical works inspired by the universality of bittersweet young love: Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet Overture followed by Butterfly Lovers Concerto, composed by Chen Gang and He Zhanhao in the mid-20th century to set an ancient Chinese legend to music.

Ksenia Nosikova heads Iowa’s piano department and she performed Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2, accompanied by the full orchestra.

A selection from Leonard Bernstein’s score for the musical Westside Story was to follow, and it would have been interesting to see and hear how it played on the Southside. Alas, there are only so many blocks in a school day, so the program had to end before a third melodic story of star-crossed teenagers in love.

The audience only numbered in the scores, not the thousands. And there wasn’t any marching. But the Hawkeyes have never sounded better than they did on Thursday afternoon in a high school auditorium in Des Moines. Broken young hearts make for such beautiful music.

Photos of the UI Symphony Orchestra at Lincoln High School

Published on Thursday, February 22nd, 2018