MusicIC celebrates fifth year June 17-20 in downtown Iowa City


MusicIC is celebrating its fifth year! This free festival (under the Summer of the Arts umbrella), scheduled for Wednesday, June 17, through Saturday, June 20, in downtown Iowa City, features small ensembles and explores the connections between music and literature, drawing on Iowa City’s rich literary life.

The annual festival is notable for two more innovative features. First, it provides a stage for current and former University of Iowa faculty and for Iowa and Iowa City natives, all of whom have or are making names for themselves in the world of classical music. Second, but just as importantly, over the five years of its existence, the festival has undertaken increasingly ambitious theatrical projects.

This year, MusicIC presents “Abundant Happiness: The Music of Robert and Clara Schumann,” a performance combining song, a string quartet and acting, conceived and directed by Iowa City playwright Jennifer Fawcett of Working Group Theatre. The performance takes place on Friday, June 19, at 7:30 p.m. at the Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City. Performers for “Abundant Happiness” include former UI faculty member and violinist Tricia Park, Iowa native and soprano Megan Brus, Iowa City-born pianist Yi-heng Yang and Iowa City actress Saffron Henke. Brus and Yang will perform songs by both Schumanns. Park will be joined by violinist Miki-Sophia Cloud, violist Molly Carr, and cellist Andrew Janss in a performance of Robert Schumann’s String Quartet in A Major, Op. 41, No. 3 of 1842. The quartet begins with a theme often associated with Clara’s name and the music of the first movement explores that theme in a range of variations.

“Abundant Happiness” draws on the Schumanns’ diary and music to present an image of their love and happy marriage. In 1841, in an explosion of joy following his marriage, Robert Schumann wrote 150 songs. Several of those compositions, as well as two songs by Clara Schumann, provide the music for the performance, which will be dramatized by Henke’s acting.

Other MusicIC events, all free and open to the public, are as follows:

  • Wednesday, June 17, 11 a.m., Iowa City Public Library: MusicIC musicians and playwright Fawcett will explore the Schumanns’ relationship and how it is expressed in poetry and music. This event is offered in cooperation with the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival.
  • Wednesday, June 17, 7:30 p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 320 E. College Street: MusicIC musicians celebrate America in three works, including selections from Aaron Copland’s “Old American Songs” and Samuel Barber’s work for singer and piano, “Knoxville: Summer of 1915,” which draws on text by writer James Agee. The third work is a celebration of America by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak, who famously spent a summer in Spillville, Iowa. The musicians will play his String Quartet in F Major, Op. 96, “American.”
  • Thursday, June 18, 7:30 p.m., Trinity Episcopal: In contrast to Friday’s concert, which focuses on the Schumanns’ love, this concert explores how other composers have channeled the experience of unrequited love into music. Selections include Brahms’ Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 60, “Werther,” and Janacek’s String Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters.”
  • Saturday, June 20, 10:30 a.m., Iowa City Public Library: Violinist Park and fiddler Taylor Morris will present a family concert.

“MusicIC delivers high impact music experiences in concerts that are rarely more than 75 minutes and are performed without intermission”, says Judith Hurtig, who with Park is the co-founder of MusicIC. “The four concerts are free, require no tickets, and take place in the heart of Iowa City. “All of our musicians have active careers in classical music, but they have carved out a few days to participate in our event because they love our innovative programming and the free and easy spirit of downtown Iowa City,” she adds. “We are indebted to them for the highest quality of music they provide, which has helped MusicIC to become nationally renowned.”

More information at:

Hot Tin Roof Accepting Submissions for Fall 2015

Hot Tin Roof

Iowa City Writers: City of Literature would like to remind you that submissions for Hot Tin Roof are open now through June 30, 2015 for publication in the fall. Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity.

Hot Tin Roof is a program supported by the City of Literature in conjunction with the Englert Theater and Little Village Magazine. The program seeks to promote literary work currently being produced in Iowa City by local writers. Named after the famous work by former Iowa City resident and University of Iowa undergraduate Tennessee Williams, Hot Tin Roof honors the literary history of Iowa City by ensuring its further continuation and enrichment.

Entrants should submit a work of creative fiction up to 1,000 words in length. Poems, short stories and more are welcome. Winning entries will be published monthly in Little Village Magazine, with the winning author receiving a $100 prize in addition to the publication of their work within the magazine. Further guidelines for submitting to Hot Tin Roof can be found at Little Village Magazine’s website at

Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to engage with the literary community of Iowa City by submitting your writing today!

Paul Engle essay contest now open to Iowa high school sophomores


The City of Literature organization’s annual Paul Engle: Glory of the Senses high school sophomore essay contest is now open to submissions.

The contest seeks essays from current Iowa high school sophomores, and is inspired by the writings of Paul Engle, a long time director of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and co-founder of the UI’s International Writing Program.

In his autobiography A Lucky American Childhood, Paul Engle describes his Iowa upbringing and how it helped him to grow from the son of a horse trainer in the heartland to a poet and professor of international reputation.   More than merely keeping a record of locations and events, Engle uses sensory detail to evoke his experience, to recreate it for the reader.

 In the chapter entitled “The Glory of the Senses”, Engle addresses each of the senses in turn to bring to life the Iowa of his youth.  He revels in “the smell of wood and coal [that] burned the kitchen air” and the “healthy sound … of a horse’s broad teeth grinding grain”, experiences that were common to a young person growing up at the beginning of the twentieth century in Iowa.  He recalls the accents of the Czech, German, Irish, and Russian immigrants whose “speech had not yet become homogenized by radio and television…trying hard to communicate with these strange Americans,” sounds that mirrored the combination of heritages that comprise the American quilt.  As he watches the spectacle of a cattle drive down Fifth Avenue in Cedar Rapids, the animals “snorting, frightened of the city, tossing their horns, trampling the lawns, a furious animal force…,” Engle says he “learned from them, as I watched their massive motion, the power of mass,” as the “thousand-pound beef animals look at you with their oval, liquid eyes…”

 The contest asks students to consider their own Iowa experience, and to write an essay in which they choose a single, specific Iowa memory to write into life using details that evoke the sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch of that memory.

The author of the essay judged by reviewers to be the best will receive one year of free tuition to the University of Iowa. A select number of runners up will receive a $500 scholarship from the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature.

 Essays may be submitted to the competition by emailing them as an MSWord attachment on or before May 15, 2015 to Please put “Paul Engle Day Student Essay Contest submission” in the subject line. All submissions must include the cover sheet found on p. 6 of this packet.

News from the Great Wide World: Ralph Ellison and the Cultural Ambassadors of Jazz

In celebration of UNESCO’s International Jazz Day, the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature presents an event that celebrates the intersection of jazz with the work of the writer Ralph Ellison. Horace Porter, F. Wendell Miller Professor of English & American Studies at the University of Iowa, will discuss Ellison’s work. Throughout the program, a jazz ensemble will perform songs composed or made famous by jazz artists who connected with Ellison, including Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Louis Armstrong. The ensemble includes Damani Phillips (saxophone), James Dreier (drums), Blake Shaw (bass), and Grace Leong (piano) from the University of Iowa School of Music.


Thursday April 30, noon to 1 p.m. in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library. Music will be performed for 15 minutes before and after the program.


Co-presented by the University of Iowa School of Music and the Iowa City Public Library

All Iowa Reads 2015 selection: “My Name is Mary Sutter” by Robin Oliveira

The North Liberty Community Library will host All Iowa Reads author, Robin Oliveira, on Tuesday, April 21 at 6:30 p.m. This is a cultural partnership with Marion Public Library.

The purpose of All Iowa Reads is to foster a sense of unity through reading. Iowans are encouraged to come together in their communities to read and talk about a single book title in the same year. Libraries, book clubs, schools and other local organizations are encouraged to sponsor discussions of the title.

The 2015 selection is “My Name is Mary Sutter” by Robin Oliveira. This Civil War epic is about a young headstrong midwife determined to become a surgeon striving to overcome the prejudices against women in medicine. Fully drawn characters, family conflicts, the politics of war, and achieving humane medical care in the aftermath of violence are some of themes that will be at the center discussions among hundreds of Iowans during 2015.