Music Faculty & Staff
Department chair: R. Joseph Dieker | Contact info
Faculty & Staff
R. Joseph Dieker
Professor of Music and Dean of the College Emeritus
Teaches studio clarinet, and courses in conducting and music theory. He serves as the conductor of the Symphonic Band and Orchestra and is an active as a clarinetist performing in a variety of venues. Dieker’s research interests in Victor Herbert’s role as an American bandmaster and march composer has resulted in his creation of modern band editions of a number of Herbert marches. D.M.A., instrumental music, Arizona State University
Professor of Music
Teaches Opera, Piano Pedagogy, History of Western Music, and The Ring Cycle of Wagner. Research interests include piano, music history, opera, Beethoven, Wagner, John Cage, and the history of avant-garde. He has been a faculty fellow at Columbia, Princeton, and Stanford, and he is a former director of the Newberry Library ACM Program in the Humanities. He was a Fulbright Scholar Specialist at Freie Universität Berlin in 2017. D.M., piano performance, Northwestern University.
Professor of Music and Director of Choral Music
Dr. Christopher Nakielski directs Cornell choral ensembles and teaches Fundamentals of Music and Methods and Materials for Music Education. He's interested in research related to Polish choral music during the fall of communism. Nakielski has taught at the high school and college level, most recently at Washington State University, and enjoys helping students become great teachers. He holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts in choral conducting and pedagogy from the University of Iowa.
Professor of Music
Teaches core courses in music theory and history, and topics courses such as Women and Music and Musical Borrowing. Stilwell’s research was honored with the 2011 Einstein Award of the American Musicological Society. Ph.D., musicology, University of Iowa.
Artist Instructor of Trumpet
Desmond Cervantez has been the applied trumpet teacher at Cornell since 2015. He stays very active as a performer playing for different ensembles and venues in the area. He tours with pianist Jim McDonough, is principal trumpet with the Cedar Rapids Follies, and performs with Theater Cedar Rapids. In 2020 he was a featured artist for the Corridor Jazz Project. He has been the Director of Bands at Solon High School in Solon, Iowa since 1999. Before his public school teaching career, Mr. Cervantez taught private trumpet and brass lessons, and still maintains his private studio. He earned his BS in music performance at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar Missouri in 1988, his Masters in music performance from Northeast Missouri State (Truman State) in 1990, and received his teacher education certificate from the University of Iowa in 1998. Desmond has arranged and published a variety of works for Brass. He arranges for his own quintet, Cedar River Brass Quintet, as well as for his students and their solo and ensemble contests. You can find his publications at both Polymnia Music and Sheet Music Plus.
Artist Instructor of Saxophone
Multiple woodwind specialist Ryan Smith is drawn to music across the spectrum of genres, regularly performing throughout the Midwest with symphony orchestras, new-music chamber ensembles, jazz combos, pit orchestras, and rock bands. As an international performer, he has toured in São Paulo, Rome, and Milan with the Américo Project and given concerts in Hong Kong and China with the Iowa Saxophone Ensemble. He holds Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music in Jazz Studies degrees from the University of Iowa and teaches saxophone at St. Ambrose University and Cornell College.
Director of the Jazz Ensemble
Doctor of Musical Arts from The University of Texas at Austin A native of Geneseo, Illinois, Jim Buennig is a saxophonist, educator, composer, and recording artist based in Iowa City, Iowa, specializing in a range of musical styles with his main focus being jazz. He received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin and also holds degrees in jazz performance from the University of Iowa and Western Illinois University. He has recorded five albums as a leader, the latest of which is Benchwarmers Volume 1 released on his own label in September of 2020
Artist Instructor of Piano
Jessica Monnier, a native of Iowa, completed her undergraduate study at the University of Northern Iowa under Dr. Dmitri Vorobiev and completed her graduate-level work at the University of Iowa under Dr. Uriel Tsachor. Her study has focused on Hungarian folk music, particularly Franz Liszt and Bela Bartok. Her music has taken her world-wide including performances in Brazil with the Northern Iowa Symphony Orchestra, performances in Spain with the UNI Varsity Men’s Glee Club, and study in Germany. She won the People’s Choice Award at the UNI Performance Competition Finals in 2014 and placed third in the UNI Concerto Competition Finals in 2013. Jessica has held positions at Kirkwood Community College and the Southeastern Iowa Symphony Orchestra. She is currently piano instructor and accompanist at Cornell College. Along with being an active collaborator, Jessica also teaches and adjudicates at area festivals.
Artist Instructor of Voice
Benjamin Laur has sung the roles of Rinuccio in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, Marco in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers, Jasper in Mechem’s The Rivals, and The Magician in Menotti’s The Consul with the University of Iowa Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theatre. He has also performed with Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre, Toledo Opera, Bowling Green State University Opera, Central Michigan University Opera Theatre, and Central Michigan University Music Theatre, singing the titular role of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Koko in Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado, Fred/Petrucchio in Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate, and numerous ensemble credits. Laur earned his Bachelor of Music from Central Michigan University studying with Eric Tucker, DMA, his Master of Music from Bowling Green State University with Sean Cooper, DMA, and his Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Iowa with John Muriello, DMA. Laur teaches voice at Kirkwood Community College and Cornell College.
Victoria Rose Bishop
Artist Instructor of Flute
Rose Bishop serves as Instructor of Flute at Cornell College, Coe College, Kirkwood Community College, and Mount Mercy University. Bishop also serves as Principal Flutist of the Southeast Iowa Symphony, Second Flute and Piccolo with the Quincy and Ottumwa Symphonies, and has performed with the Battle Creek Symphony, Orchestra Iowa, and many others. A highly sought-after guest artist, Bishop has appeared as a guest soloist with ensembles including the Southeast Iowa Symphony Orchestra, Kansas Wesleyan University Wind Ensemble, Culver-Stockton Wind Ensemble, Monmouth College Wind Ensemble, and numerous municipal bands, in addition to enjoying various guest artist residencies at universities throughout the nation. An active clinician, Bishop has performed, lectured, and presented at events including the Iowa Flute Festival, Wisconsin Flute Festival, Central Iowa Flute Workshop, and the St. Louis Flute Fair. Dedicated to community outreach, Bishop is the founder and Artistic Director of the Eastern Iowa Flute Workshop, the Cornell College Flute and Clarinet Summer Camp, and is a frequent contributor to Flute Talk Magazine and the Flute Examiner Magazine. Bishop is the co-author of A Flutist’s Guide to the Voxman Etudes, a new performance guide in conjunction with Voxman’s Selected Studies for Flute. Starting in 2020, Bishop will serve as a member of the National Flute Association’s Career and Artistic Development Committee.
Artist Instructor of Cello
James Ellis is a cellist from St. Clair Shores, Michigan and has received three music degrees. A Bachelor from Western Michigan University, studying with Bruce Uchimura; a Masters from the University of Georgia, studying with David Starkweather; and a Doctorate from the University of Iowa, studying with Charles Wendt. James has played with 17 professional symphonies in Michigan, Georgia, South Carolina and Iowa. He currently maintains a private studio in Iowa City, and in Marion at the Marion Music Academy and Schultz Strings, and also teaches at Cornell College. He has been principal cellist at various times with the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony, Orchestra Iowa, the Southeast Iowa Symphony, the Waverly Community Orchestra, and the Quad-Cities Symphony. For three years, he has played with a fledgling new music group, the Durward Ensemble. He teaches at the Marion Music Academy, Schultz Strings and out of his home. James also plays regularly with the Iowa City Community Orchestra and the Iowa City Chamber Singers. In his spare time, he works at Pleasant Valley Golf Course in Iowa City.
Artist Instructor of Percussion
Alan Lawrence teaches Percussion at Cornell College, Percussion and Film Music at Coe College, and is the founding director of the New Horizons Band of Cedar Rapids, a concert band activity for senior citizen musicians. Mr. Lawrence has served as Principal Timpanist of Orchestra Iowa (formerly the Cedar Rapids Symphony) since 1988, and is also Principal Timpanist of the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Symphony. He substitutes as timpanist of the Quad Cities and Dubuque Symphony Orchestras, and performs in the summer as Principal Percussionist of the Cedar Rapids Municipal Band, which he has guest conducted on several occasions. Prior to coming to Iowa he had performed with the New Mexico, Santa Fe, Lubbock and Midland-Odessa Symphony Orchestras, the Santa Fe Opera, and the American Wind Symphony of Pittsburgh PA. Mr. Lawrence’s music degrees are from Texas Tech University (Bachelors, Music Education) and the University of New Mexico (Masters, Music Performance). His teaching experience includes a percussion specialist position in the Georgetown, TX school band program, percussion instructor at Southwestern University and Midland College, and band director at St. Joseph's School in Marion, IA. Alan lives in Cedar Rapids with his wife Anita Tucker, Concertmaster of the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Symphony and Associate Concertmaster of Orchestra Iowa.
Director of the Steel Pan Ensemble
Steel Pan Ensemble Director/Percussion Bachelor of Music Education - University of Illinois Champaign Urbana Alan Kiser is the current director of Pandemonium and Toucan Steel Pan Ensembles at Cornell College. He has been instructing the steel pan ensembles and coaching the percussionists in Cornell's Symphonic Band, Orchestra and Jazz Band since the Spring of 2008. Mr. Kiser has been a band director since 2000 and taken several graduate music education courses at VanderCook College, Chicago, IL. He is very active in teaching high school drumlines and percussion ensembles in the Cedar Rapids and Marion area. Alan Kiser serves on the board of directors of the Iowa Music & Arts Association. During the summer Mr. Kiser directs his hometown community band, The Maple City Band in Geneseo, IL.
Artist Instructor of Piano
Dr. Jason Sifford, NCTM is a freelance pianist, teacher and composer with a wide range of abilities and interests. He maintains a private teaching studio in Iowa City and is in demand as an adjudicator and clinician, lecturing on such diverse topics as classical performance practice, jazz pedagogy, technical development in young pianists, composition, and music technology. His music is featured in the NFMC bulletin and several state syllabi, and he serves as a composer/clinician for the Willis Music Company. He is also active as an area theater musician, serving on the board for the City Circle Theater Company. Currently, Dr. Sifford is Past President of the Iowa Music Teachers Association and chairs the Independent Music Teachers Committee for the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy. He is also a contributor to the University of Iowa Piano Pedagogy Project.
Artist Instructor of Violin
Dr. Andrew Gentzsch, a native of Iowa City, Iowa, is the violin instructor at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa and Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. Previously, Dr. Gentzsch earned a Bachelor of Music in violin performance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, followed by a Masters of Music at the University of Delaware. Dr. Gentzsch finished his terminal degree, a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Violin Performance and Pedagogy at the University of Iowa. Dr. Gentzsch’s primary teachers have included: Allen Ohmes, Doris Preucil, David Perry, Xiang Gao, and Dr. Scott Conklin. As an educator, Dr. Gentzsch is known for compassionate and energetic teaching. He frequently runs orchestra sectionals at Cornell College, Grinnell College, and Linn-Mar High School. Dr. Gentzsch formerly taught masterclasses, sectionals, All-State coachings, and lessons at the University of Delaware, the University of Iowa, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Iowa City High School. Graduated students have gone on to win scholarships and orchestra positions, most recently a student winning a position in the Denver Philharmonic. Dr. Gentzsch leads numerous orchestras as concertmaster, leading the University of Delaware Chamber Orchestra, the University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra, and the Grinnell Singers Orchestra. Recently, he led the Palisades Ensemble for their final performance of the year. Dr. Gentzsch also has a passion for new music, premiering numerous new pieces a year and leading the University of Iowa Center for New music from 2013-2017. His most current published scholarship focuses on the development of new music violin techniques. Dr. Gentzsch also performs often as a solo performer and chamber musician, helping found the Concerts in the Shed, a chamber festival in Sherry, Wisconsin.
Artist Instructor of Bass
Mike is a native of Flossmoor, IL and is currently a Doctor of Musical Arts candidate at the University of Iowa. While studying there, he served as the double bass studio’s Teaching Assistant. Mike holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of Iowa where he studied with Professor Volkan Orhon. Previously, he received a Bachelor of Music degree from Illinois State University where he was a student of Dr. William Koehler. While a student at Iowa, Mike performed with the UI Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, UI Opera, and the Center for New Music. Mike has participated in masterclasses from renowned double bassists including Diana Gannett, David Murray, Barry Green, Anthony Stoops, and Paul Sharpe. In 2020, Mike joined the faculty at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL where he teaches applied bass lessons and string methods. Mike often works with local middle and high school musicians as a private teacher and clinician. From 2016 to 2019 Mr. White was a faculty member at the Upper Midwest String Camp in St. Joseph, MN where he taught masterclasses, technique classes, and coached chamber music ensembles. Mike is currently a Teaching Artist with the Quad City Symphony Orchestra’s Private Lesson Program. Mike has been involved in recent chamber music projects including performances of Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet, Erwin Schulhoff’s Concertino for Flute, Viola, and Double Bass, John Adams’ Chamber Symphony, Stravinsky’s L’histoire du Soldat, and all six of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. In 2017, he performed James Stephenson’s “Devil’s Tale” with the Rountree Ensemble, the faculty ensemble of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Mike performed a recital with the University of Iowa Double Bass Ensemble at the 2017 International Society of Bassists Convention in Ithaca, New York. In 2018, he joined the University of Northern Iowa Faculty Septet for a performance of Michael Daugherty’s “Dead Elvis.” Mike has been a member of the WCF Symphony since 2011 and also appears regularly as a guest musician with Orchestra Iowa, the Peoria Symphony, Dubuque Symphony, and the Illinois Symphony, among others. In 2016, he performed with the Missouri Symphony during their Hot Summer Nights music festival.
Artist Instructor of Viola
Dr. Michelle E Bennett Music/Viola Doctor of Musical Arts degree from The University of Iowa Dr. Bennett started viola lessons at age 10 in her public school. She grew up in the Chicago suburbs, where she played in the DuPage Youth Symphony and studied with Charlotte Bogda and William Schoen. She continued Viola studies at the University of Illinois with Guillermo Perich (BM) and then received her MM degree from the University of Minnesota, where she studied with Roland Vamos. Dr. Bennett completed her DMA with William Preucil Sr, at the University of Iowa. Dr. Bennett currently plays with Orchestra Iowa in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She has played in the Quad City symphony, Northwest Indiana Symphony, and New Philharmonic. She has also played with the Pacifica Quartet, American BalletTheatre, and Harry Connick Jr. Dr. Bennett has taught at Wheaton College, Grinnell College, and currently teaches viola at Cornell College. She lives in Iowa A city with her husband and two teenage children, three dogs, and two cats. She gardens in the summer and grows orchids in her spare time.
Artist Instructor of Low Brass
Wiatt Cariveau seeks to share the joys of music to as broad an audience as possible. Having attained his Masters of Arts in Tuba Performance at the University of Iowa, his recitals prominently feature accessible programmatic and electronic music. The Braeburn Brass, of which Wiatt is a founding member, won one of three American Brass Quintet @ Aspen fellowships for 2020 before the pandemic. Off the classical stage, he performs in Iowa City with the Ballyhoo Boys, James Mons, and His Not So Little Monsters, Brass Tower, and his COVID improvisation duo, Six Beats Apart. Outside of teaching at Cornell College, he has given master classes and taught low brass techniques at various high and middle schools throughout Iowa. Wiatt is as versatile offstage as he is on, and holds numerous positions at various institutions. His interests have drawn him to music management and arts advocacy, and to that end, he is currently the School of Music Scheduler and SoM Social Media and Marketing Assistant at the University of Iowa. In addition to his duties as the tubist for the Braeburn Brass, he is a personnel and finance manager.
Artist Instructor of Bassoon
Dr. Greg Morton teaches bassoon at Cornell College. He also teaches bassoon and music education methods courses at Coe, Kirkwood Community, and Wartburg College. He has coached countless woodwind ensembles at camps and festivals throughout the Midwest. Greg is a long-time bassoonist in Orchestra Iowa and the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Symphony, and has also performed with the Dubuque, Des Moines and Quad-City Symphony Orchestras, the Des Moines Metro Opera, and the Joffrey Ballet Orchestra. Several of his original compositions and 80-plus arrangements can be found on the five albums of WIZARDS!, the double reed ensemble in which Greg was a founding member. WIZARDS! was selected to perform at five International Double Reed Society conferences. Dr. Morton earned his undergraduate degree and master's degree at the University of North Texas, and completed post-graduate work at Northwestern University and the University of Iowa.
Artist Instructor of Guitar
As a professional musician since the 1970s, Tom creates genre-bending improvisations and compositions rooted in classical guitar technique. His training is as varied as his musical approach including instruction/ influence from: Benjamin Verdery, John Hoffman, Michael Lorimer, Nelson Amos, and Pierre Bensusan. Prior to his years as producer and host of Tom's Guitar Show, Tom composed and performed the score for Dark Laughter, written by and starring Thomas G. Waites, produced by Barry Kemp. He has provided voice-overs, scores, and acting performances for numerous short films, staged readings, documentaries, commercials, and public service announcements for stage, radio, and television. His period pieces have been used for arts festivals and benefit concerts, and his musical scores have accompanied ballet, flamenco, and modern dance performances. Commissioned work includes theme music for programming. As a native Iowan, Tom began serving in 1990 as a rostered artist for the Iowa Arts Council offering cultural and historical music demonstrations including classical guitar, flamenco guitar, historical banjo, baroque mandolin, and antique parlor guitar. As guest soloist, he has performed in over fifty classical concerts throughout the central Midwest including the Southeast Iowa Symphony, Eastern Iowa Classical Guitar Society, Grinnell College, Cornell College, Luther College, Coe College, Monmouth College, University of Iowa, Drake University, University of Northern Iowa, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In 1988, Tom won the All-Iowa Heavyweight Guitar Championship. Other chapters of his career include gigs in California, Oregon, Boston, Manhattan, and Paris.
Professor of Music
Professor of Music and Director of Choral Music