Performing with the ICCSO for the love of music

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Article following published by the Iowa City Press Citizen, available at


Recently, my wife, Miera Kim, and I had a very big decision to make regarding our professional lives. The board of Red Cedar Chamber Music offered us the positions of executive director, artistic director and core ensemble. We chose to accept Red Cedar’s proposal to take over the nonprofit in July 2016. After more than two decades of making our livings working for a baker’s dozen of employers as independent artist-teachers, we had to make some hard choices. To make room in our lives for full-time employment, we would have to give up many of the wonderful associations that have made our professional lives so rewarding for the last 20 years.

We assessed every aspect of our work from a fiscal, artistic and personal perspective. Doing so made us very thankful for all of the opportunities that we have had. It also helped us understand better why we do what we do and how each aspect of our professional lives affects our family and sense of community. One of the things that we decided to give up was our employment with Orchestra Iowa (Miera has been a member of Orchestra Iowa for 25 years and I have been with them for 20). However, despite all of the difficult decisions, we knew that we would not give up our work with the Iowa City Community String Orchestra.

The primary reason for this is something that I think we can all learn from. Robert Shaw, the great choral conductor and teacher, used to say that the most important thing that a conductor could do is sing in a community chorus. He felt that people need the experience of being inside an ensemble to stay in touch with their love of music and keep their artistic priorities straight. The ICCSO is an amateur ensemble. The members play not for money, but simply to share their love of music with each other and with the audience. There is an unsullied quality of sincerity inherent in a community/amateur ensemble that is nearly impossible to replicate in a professional setting.

It is sharing that purity of purpose that makes the experience so valuable to us as artists and, I believe, to the orchestra members and to our audience. At every concert that we have presented, the joy that we share in making music together has brought us artistic fulfillment. I think it is also true that most audience members respond to this and sense the orchestra’s great love of music. This is why people should come see us play and why the experience is so valuable to Miera and me.

Our spring concert is at 3 p.m. April 19 at The Englert Theatre. We will play a new work by Luther College composer Brooke Joyce, a Handel Concerto Grosso, and three other wonderful works for string orchestra. As always, our concerts are free and families are encouraged to attend. I guarantee an experience that will fill your hearts with joy.