Have viola. Will travel. Kathleen Sihler, wcfsymphony’s principal violist for over 17 years (a principal chair generously sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. John Glascock), has crisscrossed the country, instrument in tow.
After beginning piano at age 6, Kathleen started viola as a fourth grader in Eugene, Oregon – the first step on a path that eventually led to her career as a professional musician. After her mother asked if she preferred to emulate her older sister, a violinist, or take up the viola, she heeded mom’s observation regarding the latter: Fewer players. More opportunities. Private lessons ensued.
Packing up her viola for college, Kathleen proceeded to Oberlin, Ohio, where she earned her undergraduate degree in performance at the Oberlin Conservatory, the nation’s second oldest. Conservatory life included symphonic, chamber, and opera orchestras, chamber ensembles, private lessons, music history & theory, and a good dose of art history classes on the side, across the street at Oberlin College.
After graduation, it was off to San Francisco, where the 1989 earthquake shook things up for her as she pondered her next move, going coast-to-coast. At the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Kathleen earned her master’s degree in performance and met her husband to be, cellist Jonathan Chenoweth.
Kathleen followed him to Iowa in 1992 and ended her nomadic ways when Jonathan was offered a position as cello professor at the University of Northern Iowa. Settled into the Cedar Valley, they joined the musical community and had two daughters, Claire and Kellen.
Their move also resulted in Kathleen’s intimate relationship with wcfsymphony, a study in multitasking when not performing. In 1998, she began a long stint as the music librarian, later incorporating her passion for arts management by adding Education Coordinator and Operations Manager to her resume, eventually combined as Education and Operations Director. She took a leap in June 2016 and left her staff positions to work as secretary for the Executive Director of the Office of International Programs at UNI.
From Joseph Guinta to Jason Weinberger, Kathleen has performed for six wcfsymphony conductors, while also cherishing her close ties with patrons developed through her staff positions. In those capacities, she was also closely involved in expanding the Instrument Petting Zoo and guiding the Lollipop and Youth Concerts. The endeavors aimed at preschool and Head Start children have been particularly close to her heart – outreach measured by “hugs received” and connections made.
In her unique role as musician and staff, she has had the privilege of playing alongside and getting to know many wcfsymphony guest artists, including favorites YoYo Ma and Chris Thile.
Kathleen also has greatly valued her work with Jason Weinberger, because of the “creative outlook, calm confidence, and reassuring and positive attitude he brings to each rehearsal and performance.”
wcfsymphony is thankful Kathleen Sihler made the Cedar Valley her home, providing not only her capable artistry, but also her leadership, friendship, and exuberance in developing outreach into the community. We hope patrons will also extend their appreciation to her. She would love to meet you.