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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 20, 2003

Soprano Dressler To Present Lecture Recital On Willa Cather

Two University of Iowa alumni will return to their alma mater to present a lecture recital, "Willa Cather: Her World of Music," at 8 p.m. Monday, March 3, in Harper Hall of the UI Voxman Music Building. The performance by soprano Jane K. Dressler and pianist Linda Jones will be free and open to the public.

Dressler and Jones have collaborated since 2000 on this program, which features performances of music mentioned by Nebraska author Willa Cather in her novels. On the second half of the program, they will perform "My Antonia," a song cycle based on the Cather novel of the same name.

The song cycle was created by Minneapolis composer Libby Larsen, who both adapted the text and wrote the music for the work.

"The highlight of the program is Libby Larsen's song cycle, 'My Antonia,' Willa Cather's story of pioneer life on the Great Plains," Dressler commented. "When I approached Larsen about the project, she had just completed an opera based on Cather's novel 'Eric Hermannson's Soul' for Opera Omaha. As a composer with experience setting Cather texts, she has done magnificent work in both the textual adaptation and the musical setting of the songs.

"The songs are colorful and evocative. Larsen has even included a genuine folk fiddle tune in one of the songs. A true song cycle, the pieces are linked by text and by music. Larsen's writing is grateful for the voice.

"I grew up reading Willa Cather, so these words are immediate and meaningful to me as a performer. This project is also important to me as a musician and as a descendent of a family that settled in Nebraska after the Civil War."

Dressler gave the national premiere of "My Antonia" in June, 2000, at the International Seminar on Willa Cather 2000 in Nebraska City, Neb. Since then, Dressler and Jones have presented "Willa Cather: Her World of Music" throughout the Midwest, including the Sixth Festival of Women Composers, held at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Later this year they will present the same program at Coe College in Cedar Rapids and at the University of Michigan in Flint.

Dressler, a student of Herald Stark while at the UI, teaches music at Kent State University. She has appeared extensively as a performer of song, chamber music repertory, and oratorio literature. Since joining the Kent State University faculty, she has sung more than 90 performances in Ohio, including recitals at the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Toledo Museum of Art and the Ariel Theatre.

In 1997, Dressler recorded Dvorak songs and duets with mezzo-soprano Mary Sue Hyatt for Time-Grabber Digital of Tempe, Ariz. During the period 1995-99, she performed with the Kent Camerata, a chamber music ensemble affiliated with the School of Music. International performances by the Kent Camerata during that time included concerts in Canada, Ireland, and Italy. American performances included concerts in Arizona, Maine, Ohio, Vermont and West Virginia.

Dressler has completed a doctorate in voice performance from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, as well as masters' degrees from Indiana University and the UI, and a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska.

Jones, a student of John Simms at the UI, now teaches collaborative piano and diction at the Cleveland Institute of Music. She is also a guest artist in vocal coaching at the University of Akron School of Music, and she has taught at the Manhattan School of Music as senior vocal coach for the opera department.

She has served as coach, rehearsal pianist, and assistant conductor with the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, the Santa Fe and Boston Opera companies, the Dallas Civic Opera, the Washington Opera Society and at the Julliard School of Music. She has accompanied master classes given by major artists including Birgit Nilsson, Donald Gramm, Mignon Dunn and Regina Resnik. She has played recitals with many professional singers including Simon Estes, Judith Christin and Marla Berg.

With tenor Robert Trentham, she has toured with "In Thinking of America," a performance featuring music from the Civil War. Her recordings include Ivana Themmen's "Ode to Akhmatova" with Jean Kraft. She has served as Music Director of the La Mama ETC Company in New York and has received National Opera Institute Grants with the Dallas Civic Opera and Washington Opera Society. Since 1993, she has been affiliated with the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, where she has been a vocal coach and coordinator of the voice and vocal accompanying program under Marilyn Horne.

The commissioning and premiere of the Larsen's "My Antonia" were supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council, the Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Humanities Council in 2000.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

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