To perform chamber music with virtuosity, energy, and artistic excellence, enriching broad and diverse audiences through concerts and educational activities stimulated by creative collaborations.
Red Cedar Chamber Music was founded in July 1997 by concert artists Jan Boland and John Dowdall. Red Cedar Chamber Music is a self-presenting 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization with a core ensemble that participates in all Red Cedar performances.
Red Cedar Chamber Music Red Cedar Chamber Music has adopted as its mantra “Chamber music should be just like this — intimate, bonding and conversational,” quoting a review in The American Record Guide. Red Cedar audiences are treated to equal doses of the antique and the avant-garde. Red Cedar has a 21-year tradition of great music-making that celebrates the full spectrum of musical works, including commissioning and premiering new works by American composers 53 commissions since 1997.
Red Cedar Chamber Music continually strives to reach, challenge, and expand audiences that rarely have the opportunity to attend chamber music performances. This happens through its 2 components: a 100-event educational program and a MainStage concert series.
1. Educational Programming : Called Community Connections, our extensive educational programming enhances quality of life and brings nearly 100 chamber music events each year to special under-served populations of Iowans, when and where people normally congregate. 1) Rural Outreach Concerts. Chamber music for tiny rural communities. Funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts 2) Music in Libraries. Multi-generational families can attend in a setting that is comfortable and familiar. 3) Music for Kids. For students in schools: designed to fit into existing school curriculums. 4) Music for Seniors. Brings intimate and communicative chamber music to seniors when and where they normally congregate. 5) Chamber Music Now! Gives gifted high school and college instrumental students an opportunity to be mentored and perform with Red Cedar’s professional chamber ensemble.
2. MainStage Concert Series : Three concert projects annually draw guest artists of the highest quality from across the country to work in concert with Iowa artists. The programming is diverse, and frequently addresses the ethnic cultures that are represented in Eastern Iowa. For example, our collaborations with our National Czech Museum include newly rediscovered chamber music works by Czech composers and new commissions with Czech influence.
History: the first 20 years, 1997-2016
Red Cedar Chamber Music was the brainchild of flutist Jan Boland and guitarist John Dowdall. After nearly two decades of touring, they created a bold plan to bring their music home and serve Eastern Iowa. Red Cedar Chamber Music, Inc. received its incorporation papers as a 501 (c) (3) in 1998, and the Boland-Dowdall Flute and Guitar Duo was named the organization’s first core ensemble. Home base for the organization was Marion, Iowa. The organization was administered by a board of directors, and two paid staff: Jan Boland served as Executive Director and John Dowdall as Artistic Director.
Almost immediately Red Cedar was named one of 50 “Cultural Leadership partners” by the Iowa Arts Council.
In the early years, the organization was equally dedicated to musical repertoire from the antique to the avant garde. On one hand they performed little known music from the early 19th century on period instruments. On the other hand, the organization was devoted to the creation of new music. Between 1997-2016, Red Cedar commissioned and premiered 52 new chamber music works for flute, guitar and other instruments. The organization enjoyed formal collaborations with four composers-in-residence. Collaborations with the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art were especially important during Red Cedar Chamber Music’s first decade. Newly commissioned works inspired by these collaborations reflect Eastern Iowa culture and are featured on five of Red Cedar’s compact discs. In 2006-2007 Red Cedar Chamber Music celebrated its 10th Anniversary with a bus trip to the Czech community of Spillville, Iowa and a final concert at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library.
Central to its mission is bringing quality chamber music to diverse audiences. Red Cedar Chamber Music has four components 1) MainStage Concert Series — a series of three community-based concerts annually, built with strong community collaborations, 2) Community Connections — nearly 100 educational events each year targeting ordinary people (the underserved, kids, folks in the workplace, senior citizens) 3) Summer Festival for Flute and Guitar Duos– honing the musical & business skills of professional and aspiring-professional musicians. This festival ran from 2000-2014. 4) Worldwide –concerts on tour to reach rural, national & international audiences. Touring took Red Cedar to England, the Czech Republic, and coast to coast in the USA. Ten compact disc recordings were released on the Fleur de Son Classics label in the first 20 years and were distributed digitally worldwide by Naxos of America.
The Core Ensemble, artists Jan Boland (flutist) & John Dowdall (guitarist), are an integral part of each concert and additional artists are engaged to enrich programming and explore collaborations. A frequent collaborator in the first 14 years (1996-2010) was violist David Miller, and the identity of ‘The Red Cedar Trio’ grew out of this happy collaboration as they performed and recorded frequently. Cellist Carey Bostian eventually replaced Miller and became a member of the trio 2011-2016.
Red Cedar Chamber Music does not own a concert hall or claim a central place for MainStage concerts. Instead, collaborations with local arts and human service organizations serve to integrate art forms, enhance programming, develop audience, and provide concert venues (museums, historic sites, rural opera houses, libraries, community colleges). The administrative office for the first 20 years was in John and Jan’s home at 1495 Douglas Ct., Marion, Iowa.
Support for this organization has been strong, both in terms of audience reached and monies contributed for support. The Iowa Arts Council frequently scores Red Cedar Chamber Music among highest marks for an Iowa mid-sized organization and awards Operational Support Grants and project grants up to $10,000 in each category annually. The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded Red Cedar support in highly competitive grant rounds for 14 of our first 20 years – the majority of the awards supporting Red Cedar’s popular Rural Outreach Concerts program. Donations from individuals, foundations and corporations put us on a good footing financially.
Highlights include the partnership with The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art: rare musical instruments were borrowed from the Met & used for performance (only the 2nd time in the Met’s history such a loan was made) in workshops, educational activities, concerts, and culminated in a compact disc recording. A concert was presented at the Met Museum in N.Y. to celebrate the release of the CD, Crystal to Gold (Fleur De Son Classics). Additional highlights include a Czech exchange, two Civil War projects, and a Silent Film project
Red Cedar Chamber Music records exclusively for Fleur de Son Classics of New York. Thirteen commercial discs feature rarely heard 19th-century works recorded on period instruments, and new commissions performed on modern instruments. Czech Chamber Music, a CD by Red Cedar Chamber Music artists flutist Jan Boland, violist David Miller, and guitarist John Dowdall received a “Critic’s Choice Award” from the American Record Guide. Other projects reflecting the strong Czech culture in our local area have led to commissions, artist exchanges with musicians in the Czech Republic, and performances of Czech-Inspired music in New York, Washington D.C, and Prague and Brno in The Czech Republic in 2004. In 2010 Red Cedar was invited to play a concert in Manchester, England for the British Flute Society’s International Convention.
The popular outreach program, Community Connections, serves a broad and diverse audience in Eastern Iowa with mini-concerts and (mostly free) educational events. In partnership with the City of Marion the program values its collaborations with the Cedar Rapids Schools and the Ainsworth Opera House to bring chamber music to non-traditional audiences when and where they normally meet.