Luther College Opera awarded first Place in Division II of the National Opera Association’s Opera Production Competition

DECORAH, Iowa – Luther’s spring 2021 opera production of “Dido and Aeneas” has been awarded first place in Division II of the National Opera Association’s (NOA) 2020-21 Opera Production Competition.

The competition promotes excellence in opera education and pedagogy through its support of a diverse community of opera educators and professionals. This was the first time Luther has entered this annual contest.

“This award is an outstanding tribute to our program,” said Andrew Whitfield, coordinator of opera. “The judges noted wonderful musicality, the full engagement of the ensemble throughout the piece, the inventive concept and the cohesive staging. We are very proud of the work of our students. We see their talent and dedication evidenced on campus every day, and it is exciting to see these attributes celebrated at the national level.”

“I’m very proud of the production we put together,” said Dylan Schang who played the role of Aenas. “Our production of ‘Dido and Aeneas’ spoke to the importance of preserving democracy, particularly in today’s political climate, set to the tragic story of the two lovers. I think this award represents the vision of our directors, realized by our cast and crew, to offer a sincerely impactful production.”

Due to the ongoing pandemic, instructors and students were met with challenges they had to overcome such as mask-wearing, limited rehearsal times and having to act to the student vocalists’ and instrumentalists’ pre-recorded audio for a livestream performance.

“Winning first place is a great honor,” said Molly Holcomb who played the role of Belinda. “It really shows the amount of effort both the cast and crew put into the opera production, especially considering the circumstances. It was a kind of production that Luther had never put on before, sort of like a big experiment. Winning the award means that the experiment was a success, and that’s something we should all be proud of. It was truly a team effort.”

The production was directed by Whitfield and Carla Thelen Hanson, instructor in music, with Nicholas Shaneyfelt, assistant professor of music, as the music director. Mick Layden, digital media producer for the music department, served as sound technician and livestream videographer. Mark Potvin, assistant professor of music, was the scene designer. Other production team members included Cleo Garza, Emmelyn Cullen, and Marann Faget.

Cast members included Evan Berth, Kyla Billington, Andrea Blocker, Patrick Carew, Nicholas Drilling, Willa Eacret, Megan Elford, Gabe Goeddeke, Molly Graff, Mikaela Hanrahan, Ashley Harms, Joshua Hartl, Molly Holcomb, Emily Lauer, Stefanie Maas, Hunter Meyer, Rhylan Peterson, Ash Rebmann, Barbara Reed, Brenna Reiland, Brynja Riehm, Dylan Schang, Anne Sedlacek, Abs Trewin, Thomas Warden, Madeline Wilkins and Ethan Williams.

Orchestra members included Nathan Eck, Ben Gunsch, Eric Head, Shana Liu, Frances Marshall, Malachi Rettmann and Belle Searcy.

The goal of the NOA Opera Production Competition is to further the organization’s mission by encouraging and rewarding creative, high-quality opera productions at academic institutions and music conservatories. Due to the vast range of resources available to producing organizations, the entrants are first divided into undergraduate and graduate levels (based on predominant age group or training level of the cast), and then each level is divided into three divisions according to production size and budget. Luther falls into Division II.

“The Luther music program as a whole creates so many opportunities beyond just opera; the history of excellence in music education training specifically in the choral field is truly exemplary,” said Schang.

“Luther provides a high caliber music education, and you constantly feel like you’re not only being pushed by those around you, but supported as well. I feel extremely grateful to be a part of Luther’s music legacy and the community it creates,” said Holcomb.


About Luther College Music

Luther is home to one of the largest undergraduate music programs in the nation, with five choirs, three orchestras, two bands, two jazz bands and more than 600 student musicians. Luther students participate in large ensembles, faculty-coached chamber groups, private lessons and master classes. Nearly 175 music majors study music theory, ear training, history, education, composition, jazz, church music and performance. Learn more at

Community Spanish Classes

Good Evening!

I am a former Spanish/ESL teacher who is excited to be offering community Spanish classes and private tutoring beginning in January 2022! Class sizes are limited and are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Payment in full is required to hold your spot. Click below to download information about classes, pricing, and policies:

Winter 2022 Session

Please contact me if you have questions or are interested in registering!


Jenn Kost

[email protected]

One Team Giving Day was a win at Luther College

DECORAH, Iowa – Luther College hosted its second annual One Team Giving Day on Thursday, Nov. 18. The campaign raised more than $329,000 from 1,890 donors to support student-athletes, exceeding the college’s $250,000 goal. 

“It was such an exciting day for coaches and student-athletes of the Luther College Athletics programs!” said Renae Hartl, director of intercollegiate athletics. “I want to say thank you to everyone who supported and participated in the day through their messages and donations. We want our coaches to be able to create competitive schedules and provide cutting-edge training equipment for our student-athletes. The outcome of this day ensures that we can do so.” 

One Team Giving Day highlights the importance of athletics and student-athletes within the Luther community. The campaign kicked off at 6 a.m. on Nov. 18 and wrapped up at noon on Nov. 19 and included opportunities to support all student-athletes as ‘one team’ or individual athletic programs. 

“I am so grateful for the way our alumni, parents and families, faculty and staff, and friends of Luther came together to support our student-athletes,” said Megan Torkelson, director of annual giving. “These donations go directly to each program, not only to maintain our tradition of excellence but to further enhance the student-athlete experience. The Luther community truly is ‘one team,’ and it’s so much fun to watch everyone come together to support Norse sports.”

One Team Giving Day followed a record-breaking Luther Fund Giving Day 2021 on March 11, when more than $1.1 million was raised to support scholarships and financial aid, field study trips, music tours, student organizations, volunteer opportunities in the community, college ministries, residence hall improvements, campus landscaping, building maintenance, intramural sports, student/faculty research and more. The seventh annual Luther Fund Giving Day will be held on Thursday, March 10, 2022.

Luther College, a NCAA Division III athletics program, is a member of the American Rivers Conference (A-R-C) located in Decorah, Iowa.

Tickets available now for “Christmas at Luther 2021: Awake! And Greet the New Morn”

Luther College will present “Christmas at Luther 2021: Awake! And Greet the New Morn” Dec. 2-5 in the Center for Faith and Life Main Hall. Tickets are available now for the live performances as well as a livestream option to enjoy this award-winning show from the comfort of home.

“We are thrilled to be able to meet our audiences where they’re at during this unique time in history by offering several options to take in the magic of Christmas at Luther,” said Andrew Last, director of choral activities and artistic director for Christmas at Luther. “People can look forward to a wonderful balance of new works and traditional carols in this production as well as some new lighting effects.”

Live performances will take place on:

  • Thursday, Dec. 2 at 5:45 p.m.

  • Friday, Dec. 3 at 6:15 p.m.

  • Friday, Dec. 3 at 9:15 p.m.

  • Saturday, Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m.

  • Sunday, Dec. 5 at 2:30 p.m.

The Sunday, Dec. 5 show at 2:30 p.m. will be livestreamed. Purchasing a ticket to the livestream allows unlimited views by the audience member for a 72-hour period. Tickets are available now at To promote the safety of our community, patrons are required to wear masks in the CFL Main Hall.

This year’s theme “Awake! And Greet the New Morn” comes from a hymn by distinguished Luther alum Marty Haugen ‘73. It is not only a celebration and anticipation of the birth of Christ, but also a hope to exit the 18-month pandemic slumber and begin to welcome a return to a familiarity of life.

“The active strength in words such as ‘awake’ and ‘greet’ signal an eagerness and intentionality that has been missing for so long. The ‘new morn’ for me signals the opportunity to reenter life with an awareness of embracing those things that bring us joy and challenge us to rethink how and if we allow space for things that don’t,” said Last. “It will be easy to revert back to a holiday season filled with so much that there is little time for reflection and we hope you’ll prioritize taking an evening to celebrate with us the birth of Christ.”

About Luther College

Luther College is home to about 1,800 undergraduates who explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our 60+ academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at

Luther College history professor receives the Gerald Strauss Prize for his new book

DECORAH, Iowa – Robert J. Christman, Luther College professor of history, has received the Gerald Strauss prize for his book “The Dynamics of the Early Reformation in their Reformed Augustinian Context.”

The Gerald Strauss Book Prize is named in honor of Gerald Strauss, the influential scholar of the German Reformation and long-time distinguished professor of history at Indiana University. The prize recognizes the best book published in English during the preceding year pertaining to German Reformation history. 

“This book is the product of more than seven years of hard work, so it is deeply gratifying that my peers have recognized it as meritorious with this award,” said Christman.

“The Dynamics of the Early Reformation in their Reformed Augustinian Context” explores the incident on July 1, 1523, when two Augustinian friars from Antwerp were burned on the Grand Plaza in Brussels, becoming the first victims of the Reformation for adhering to
“Lutheran Beliefs.” The book recounts the events that led up to these executions and their subsequent impact on the Reformation. Among other things, the deaths prompted Martin Luther to write his first musical composition, a twelve-stanza ballad entitled “A New Song Now Shall be Begun” that narrates the arrest, interrogation and burning of the two men.

“As a child growing up in a Lutheran household, I came across the ballad and was quite taken with the story of the two friars. In many ways this book has its origins there and is my effort to understand this historical event,” said Christman. “But over the course of writing it, it also became an effort to describe the unfolding of the early Reformation, not in retrospect as a watershed spiritual and historical event, but as it happened in the moment, and as it was experienced by the real people who were involved in it.  My hope is that it will help to humanize the Reformation for its readers.”  

The book is the product of three extended research stays in Europe supported by grants from the Fulbright Commission, the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation, and Luther College, in particular, The Marilyn Roverud Endowed Fellowship in Lutheran Studies.

About Luther College

Luther College is home to about 1,800 undergraduates who explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our 60+ academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at

Live theatre returns to Luther College

Live theatre is returning to Luther College with “Heathers: The Musical.” Directed by Robert Vrtis, associate professor of theatre, with musical direction by Lynne Rothrock ’85, voice faculty, performances are at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11-13 and Nov. 17-20 in Jewel Theatre.

“The most essential component of live theatre is not the lights, the costumes, the music, or even the actors. It is the audience,” said Vrtis. “While we can all be proud of the creative ways we’ve found to connect during this pandemic, this time left us knowing without a doubt what we need in order to kindle the magic so unique to theatre. The cast and crew are eager to welcome audiences back to the Jewel Theatre.”

Based on the ’80s cult classic movie “Heathers,” “Heathers: The Musical” follows the story of Veronica Sawyer, a girl with good intent who is trying to navigate Westerburg High, a school ruled by three powerful and ruthless girls; Heather Chandler, Heather Duke and Heather McNamara. Veronica quickly finds herself swept up in their whirlwind of popularity and brutality, but when a new boy comes to town, everything will change. All Veronica ever wanted was for her high school to be more kind, but is she willing to kill for it?

“Audience members can expect an extremely fun and shocking production in which everyone can find something to relate to,” said Emily Rubbelke, a student performer in the production. “Most everyone can relate to the high school experience, but adding singing, dancing and murder brings a whole new twist!”

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door, online at or by calling 563-387-1357. This show contains themes of violence, suicide, eating disorders and other material that audiences may find difficult. For that reason, it is recommended for audiences 13 and older. All audience members will be required to wear a face mask. The cast is 100% vaccinated against Covid-19 and will be unmasked during the performance.

About Luther College

Luther College is home to about 1,800 undergraduates who explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our 60+ academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at

Luther College receives estate gift to establish the Rev. John and Barbara Melin Professorship in International Studies

A generous gift from John ’70 and Barbara Melin will be used to establish the Rev. John and Barbara Melin Professorship in International Studies at Luther College.

“We have been encouraged and inspired by Luther’s long-time commitment to fostering global learning and understanding. Our hope is that by endowing this professorship we will, in perhaps a small way, contribute to this tradition,” said John and Barbara.

Luther is one of only a handful of colleges in the Midwest offering a major in international studies which provides students with the academic tools and knowledge necessary to thrive in this global, interconnected world. The program incorporates a wide variety of academic disciplines to introduce students to global economic, political and social systems. Through their travels, the Melins have seen firsthand the importance of this teaching.

“We have been privileged to work and live internationally for most of our adult lives. Learning from and sharing with people from many countries, cultures and colors has not only enriched our lives, but it also encouraged us to be advocates of global education and awareness,” said John and Barbara.

This professorship honors the legacy and commitment of the Melins to global ministry. From Brazil to the Netherlands to Jerusalem and Moscow, where their congregation offered food and shelter to nearly 2,000 refugees who fled from civil war in Somalia, the Melins have served people and congregations around the world during pivotal moments in history.

In recognition of Luther’s mission and quality of the international studies program and the dedicated faculty members who are a part of it, the Melins have funded the professorship with a planned estate gift of $750,000. In addition to underwriting a portion of the professor’s salary, the fund will support student/faculty research projects, travel for professional reasons and activities to enhance knowledge, ability to teach and reputation in the discipline.

“This generous gift from Rev. John Melin and Barbara Melin will elevate the program by providing faculty with opportunities to deepen their knowledge and to engage students in collaborative research,” said Lynda Szymanski, provost. “We are so thankful to the Melin family for their generosity in supporting our international studies faculty by creating this endowed professorship and, in turn, benefiting our students.”

The recipient of the Rev. John and Barbara Melin Professorship in International Studies will be selected by recommendation from Luther’s provost and appointed by the president and will be a member of the international studies faculty.

This isn’t the first investment the Melins have made in the program. In 2016 and 2017, they generously created two scholarships for students majoring in international studies to cover expenses while studying abroad.

About Luther College

Luther College is home to about 1,800 undergraduates who explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our 60+ academic programs, experiential approach to learning, and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully, and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at

Luther College announces in-person Dorian Festivals

Register or submit a nomination for the 2022 Dorian Festivals

DECORAH, Iowa – Luther College is happy to announce the return to in-person Dorian Festivals in 2022. 

“We are so excited and thankful for the return of in-person Dorian,” said Daniel Baldwin, professor of music and head of the music department.  “Dorian has provided rich, life-altering musical experiences for an uncountable number of high school musicians. All that is Luther College is illuminated by our musical art and by the legacy of Dorian Music Festivals.”



The festivals are scheduled as follows:


Dorian Keyboard Festival – Nov. 13, 2021
Registration open now-Oct. 31

This festival is open to piano and organ students currently in 7-12 grade. Participants will have the chance to study one-on-one with the festival faculty, perform in a public or private setting, and attend recitals, masterclasses, and workshops. Outstanding festival participants will be selected to perform in the festival honor recitals in Luther’s beautiful Noble Recital Hall. 

Given the individualized nature of this event, the COVID-19 protocols described below do not apply to this festival.

Learn more and register at


Dorian Vocal Festival – Jan. 9-10, 2022
Nominations open now-Nov. 1


Each year choral directors are invited to nominate outstanding high school junior and senior vocalists to attend the Dorian Vocal Festival. Students accepted to the festival will be part of a very large festival choir with students from hundreds of high schools. In addition to rehearsals for the festival choir, students will have a chance to participate in a private mini-lesson with Luther College voice faculty. 

The weekend concludes on Monday evening with a grand concert, featuring the festival choir, five high school soloists selected from the mini-lessons and a performance by the Luther College Nordic Choir.

Learn more and submit a nomination at


Dorian Orchestra Festival – Feb. 6-7, 2022

Nominations open Nov. 1-Dec. 6

Each year orchestra directors are invited to nominate high school string students to attend the Dorian Orchestra Festival where students are placed in one of two orchestras: the Festival String Orchestra or the select Chamber Orchestra. In addition to ensemble rehearsals, students also have the chance to participate in techniques classes, masterclasses and private lessons led by Luther College string faculty members. The Luther College Symphony Orchestra performs for the festival participants during the weekend, and the two festival orchestras perform in a grand concert on Monday evening.

Learn more and submit a nomination on Nov. 1 at


Dorian Band Festival – Feb. 27-28, 2022

Nominations open Nov. 1-Dec. 6
Each year band directors are invited to nominate high school band students to attend the Dorian Band Festival. Approximately 500 students are accepted to participate in the festival where students are placed in one of three bands: two festival-massed bands and the select festival symphonic band. In addition to festival band rehearsals, students also have a chance to participate in a private mini-lesson with Luther College faculty. The Luther College Concert Band and Jazz Orchestra perform for the festival participants on Sunday evening, and the three festival bands perform in a grand concert on Monday evening.

Learn more and submit a nomination on Nov. 1 at


COVID-19 protocols

While all festivals will be in-person, due to the ongoing pandemic, there will be additional requirements for attending. Aside from the Dorian Keyboard Festival, all participating students and attending teachers and chaperones will be required to submit either proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival. This will allow the festivals to go on without the need for masking or distancing requirements or shortened rehearsal times. In a private lesson setting, faculty members may require students and teachers to mask. Festival attendees should plan to bring a mask and have it with them for this reason. More logistical details will be shared with teachers once the festival rosters have been finalized.


About Luther College Music

Luther is home to one of the largest undergraduate music programs in the nation, with five choirs, three orchestras, two bands, and two jazz bands. One-third of all Luther students participate in music, including large ensembles, faculty-coached chamber groups, private lessons, and master classes. Nearly 175 music majors study music theory, ear training, history, education, composition, jazz, church music, and performance. Learn more at

Luther College students collect data on native plants living on rare algific talus slopes in Driftless region

Algific talus slopes are hard to find. In fact, northeast Iowa is one of the few regions in the world where these geological features exist. Luther students Jill Richards ‘22 and Annalise Meyer ‘23 partnered with faculty member Beth Lynch to take a microscopic look at the native plants living on these slopes in a first of its kind study to understand how the plants will fare as the world warms.

With algific meaning “cold producing” and talus slope referring to a collection of broken rock, algific talus slopes are made up of limestone that retains ice and emits cold air throughout the growing season. These north- or east-facing slopes create their own small and fragile ecosystems that are home to a very rare and specific set of plants and species.

“If we are able to identify plants that live in these cooler regions and need that specific   climate, we could potentially identify plants that are in need of protection with global warming and what’s going to happen with these plants as the climate slowly gets warmer and warmer,” said Meyer.

Some herbaceous plant species found on these slopes are glacial relics, meaning a population of cold-adapted species that occurred during the ice age. Tunnels formed by ice vents allow cool air to seep through which makes the slopes much cooler than the surrounding forest. These conditions allow these plants to persist under today’s warmer climatic conditions.

“Nobody has ever collected baseline data at the places we’re looking at! Working with the species that are endangered and in peril is hard. I get kind of emotional because there’s no real tangible way to just scoop them up and save them,” said Richards.

Managed in part by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this research project was conducted at two permanent monitoring sites located in the Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge (DANWR), specifically in Finch Memorial Forest and near the Turkey River. The goal was to collect baseline data against which future changes in microclimate and vegetation can be measured. The data includes soil temperatures and air temperatures near the soil surface and the abundance of different plant species. This information will help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if algific talus slopes can buffer cold adapted plant species against future warmer regional temperatures.

In addition to measuring temperatures and the abundance of herbaceous plants, the group also collected moss samples from each study site to identify. According to Lynch, mosses are difficult to identify and to do so requires looking at their cell structures underneath a microscope.

“When you’re out in the field you just see it and think all moss is the same but once you take a closer look, it’s like another world underneath your feet!” said Richards.

It’s that kind of realization and learning that comes about through hands-on learning experiences like these.

“When I was a biology student, the real learning that happened for me that prepared me for my career was the learning that happened in places like this where you are in the field and faced with real research problems and you’ve got to solve them,” said Lynch. “These students got to spend eight weeks focusing only on this research. This is the real thing, the data we are collecting is going to be published someday and to be able to participate in that is going to teach them so much about what being a biologist is.”

This research is the first to describe these plant communities, including mosses, in a quantitative manner. Previous studies have made lists of plants, but they do not include estimates of their abundance nor do they correlate the presence of particular plant species with fine-scale patterns in temperatures across individual slopes.

This research is a part of Luther’s Summer Student/Faculty Collaborative Research program which provides opportunities for students to engage in collaborative research projects with Luther faculty members. It is a chance for students to develop their research skills; actively learn in Luther’s natural areas, precision labs or independently; and it provides an opportunity to dig deep and gain expertise in a specific facet of a larger field of study.

About Luther College

Luther College is home to more than 1,800 undergraduates who explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our 60+ academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at

Annalise Meyer ’23, Jill Richards ’22 and Professor Beth Lynch.


SHIIP counselors ready to assist Iowans as Medicare Open Enrollment begins

Which Medicare Part D and/or Medicare Advantage plan will be best for you next year?  Open enrollment for Iowans on Medicare who want to change plans is underway October 15-December 7, 2021.  Iowans who miss the open enrollment deadline most likely will have to wait a full year before making changes to their plan. Changes to Medicare plans will be effective January 1, 2022.

The Iowa Insurance Division’s Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) is available to offer free, unbiased and confidential assistance to Iowans in this process.  Volunteer counselors can help people understand their Medicare benefits by:

  • Checking a client’s current Part D or Medicare Advantage plan to make sure drugs are covered at the lowest cost and with the least amount of restrictions
  • Reviewing a client’s employer coverage and comparing it to other Medicare options
  • Checking to see if clients are eligible for Part D “Extra Help”
  • Providing education to help clients understand options if not currently on a drug plan

Local Medicare Help

SHIIP is a free, confidential service of the State of Iowa.  SHIIP counselors review all plans offered and do not promote any particular plan or company.  To help you compare plans during the open enrollment period, volunteer SHIIP counselors are available by appointment at Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah by calling 563-387-3036.  In person and telephone appointments will be offered to clients.

Karla Bakken, SHIIP coordinator at Winneshiek Medical Center, says, “I encourage seniors to schedule an appointment with a SHIIP counselor early this season and not wait.  Those who wait until the end of the enrollment period to start the process may miss the deadline.”  The deadline for changing plans is December 7, 2021.


For SHIIP support, call Winneshiek Medical Center at 563-387-3036.

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