Dr. Nicki Bakko Toliver joined the Wartburg faculty in 2014 as Associate Director of Choral Activities & Assistant Professor of Choral Music Education. She conducts Kantorei and The Castle Singers, while teaching courses in choral music education and mentoring student teachers.
Prior to her appointment at Wartburg, Dr. Toliver was a teaching professor at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids, Minnesota where she directed the Chamber Singers and Coon Rapids Chorale while teaching courses in theory, aural comprehension, music appreciation, and fundamentals. Toliver also conducted various choral ensembles at Concordia College, Moorhead and North Dakota State University.
Regarded as a master music educator, Dr. Toliver enjoyed a distinguished career both in and out of public and private school systems in Minnesota, North Dakota, Nevada and Arizona. While teaching at the secondary level, she served as the All-State Choir chairperson for the Nevada Music Educators Association and was a yearly staff member at the René Clausen Choral School.
In addition to her work at Wartburg College, Dr.Toliver is an active guest conductor, adjudicator, clinician, church musician, applied voice instructor. She maintains professional relationships with the American Choral Directors Association and the National Association for Music Education.
Dr.Toliver holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in choral conducting from North Dakota State University, a Master of Music degree in choral music education and conducting from Arizona State University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in vocal music education from Concordia College, Moorhead, where she was a proud member of The Concordia Choir.
Dr. Jacob Tews is Visiting Assistant Professor of Violin/Viola and Conductor of the Wartburg Community Symphony Orchestra at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. He holds a DMA in viola performance, with a secondary emphasis in music theory, from the University of Minnesota.
As a violist, he maintains a diverse performance schedule: Of late, his recital appearances have featured several new works for solo viola, including one of his own compositions, vapor, which he premiered on a “Rising Stars” recital at the Primrose International Viola Festival in Los Angeles. On the other end of the musical spectrum, he recently performed Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with violinist Michael Barta and the Southern Illinois Music Festival for a modern dance piece. Currently, Tews performs as Principal Viola of the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Symphony, and has played in the viola sections of a number of regional orchestras, including serving leadership roles in the Illinois Symphony, Paducah Symphony, Southern Illinois Music Festival, and Southern Illinois Symphony orchestras. His present chamber music focus is on his contemporary music duo with violinist Erik Rohde (erikrohde.com), sonic apricity. He also spent five years as the violist of the Cantiamo String Quartet, working extensively with living composers and giving world premiere performances of a significant number of pieces, and continued playing chamber music professionally with the Southern Illinois Chamber Music Society. He has studied viola with Professor Korey Konkol, Lisa Boyko, and Tom Turner, chamber music with Thomas Rosenberg and Lydia Artymiw, and performed in masterclasses for Lawrence Dutton, Paul Katz, and the Pacifica and Borromeo Quartets.
As an educator, Tews has enjoyed numerous opportunities to teach music theory and aural skills coursework at Wartburg College, Southern Illinois University (SIU), and the University of Minnesota, as well as training young musicians and future music educators on violin and viola. Recently, he spearheaded a successful re-imagining of the music appreciation course at SIU. Also while at SIU, he formed and conducted the Southern Illinois Junior Orchestra, and served as conductor of the Southern Illinois Civic Orchestra. At Wartburg, he leads both orchestras on campus, the Wartburg Community Symphony Orchestra and the Wartburg Chamber Orchestra.
As a composer, Tews has had his works played throughout the country, with well-received performances in various venues from California to South Carolina. The subject of his doctoral thesis was the premiere of his own massive viola concerto, knowing the river – narrative for viola, orchestra, and chorus, in 3 acts. His most recent undertaking was a new sonata for violin and piano, subtitled “the roar of the lion and other fine children’s stories,” which was premiered in March, 2014 by conductor/violinist Erik Rohde and pianist Mark Bilyeu at SIU’s Outside the Box festival of contemporary music, and presented subsequently at recitals in Minnesota, Indiana, and Iowa. Upcoming projects include a new Christmas-themed suite for flute choir and bell choir, an orchestral overture, and a work for brass quintet. In addition to his compositions, he has found some success as an arranger, with one of his string charts performed on the Emmy-winning PBS special: “Starry Night,” featuring guitarist Billy McLaughlin with Orchestra Nova of San Diego.
When not teaching, rehearsing, performing, or composing music, Tews enjoys spending time outdoors with his family, is learning the pleasures of distance running, plays tennis well and golf poorly, and continues his pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee. He currently lives in Waverly, Iowa with his wife, Leith, and their six wonderful young children, Eliana, Quinton, Micaiah, Milo, Orly, and Ida.