JOhn Michael KOch, Baritone
La bohème, conductor
In 1997, John Michael Koch, baritone, began teaching at the College of Fine Arts at Illinois State University's School of Music in Normal, Illinois, where he has been nominated to Who’s Who in America in 2008 and 2009, and three times to Who's Who Among America's Teachers and has served as Voice Area Coordinator in the School of Music since 2009.
Koch has performed over 35 operatic and 45 oratorio roles throughout the world. He is the Artistic Director and co-founder of the Midwest Institute of Opera that had its premiere season in 2011 with Die Zauberflöte. The subsequent seasons included Don Giovanni in 2012, Le nozze di Figaro in 2013 Bizet’s Carmen and Dan Shore’s The Beautiful Bridegroom in 2014, La Cenerentola in 2015 and Hansel and Gretel, Falstaff and The dialogues of the Carmelites in 2016, and Les contes d’Hoffmann and Pirates of Penzance in 2018. This summer opera program at Illinois State was created to give young emerging singers locally and from all over the world the opportunity to stage and perform a complete operatic role. The program is growing rapidly and has hired opera professionals such as Maestro Joshua Greene from the Metropolitan Opera, Lucy Arner of the Mannes School of Music, Liora Maurer of the Metropolitan Opera and James Marvel, Director of Opera at UT-Knoxville to lead our participants in fully-staged productions. 2014 also brought the premiere of “MIOperatunities,” a matinée version of Carmen that filled our performance hall with young camp students, special needs students, and older community members at no cost to them, offering a “highlights” opera that has included interpretive signers, Flamencan dancing by the USA Ballet, information on Spanish culture in the 19th century, French opera and a “Meet and greet the artists” session post-performance. The Midwest Institute of Opera and MIOperatunities have received several generous grants from the Town of Normal Harmon Arts Grants Fund and the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation Mirza Arts and Culture Fund and was proud to offer this unique opportunity under the auspices of the Illinois State University College of Fine Arts and School of Music.
As a soloist, Mr. Koch is noted for his interpretation of Orff's Carmina burana that he debuted at Chicago's Orchestra Hall with the Chicago Sinfonietta. Noted performances of the Orff include the Caracas Contemporary Ballet (Venezuela), Karmi'el Dance Festival in Israel (Tel Aviv Opera and Jerusalem), Chautauqua Institution, Cincinnati Ballet, Princeton University Symphony and Glee Clubs, the Southwest Michigan and Green Bay Symphony Orchestras, the Montreal Philharmonic, and the Canadian Ballet and Illinois State University. Other abroad performances include the title role in Mendelssohn’s Elijah in Cairo, Egypt. His world premieres of David Maslanka’s A Carl Sandburg Reader and his Symphony No. 9 have been released on CD by Albany Records. Another world premiere presented a Daron Hagen work based on the famous Civil War letter of Major Sullivan Ballou to his wife Sarah entitled: The Banner of my Purpose. Performances of the work were given at Illinois State University, Western Illinois University and Pacific Lutheran University with Mr. Koch as featured soloist with military band. Local solo performances have included Verdi’s Requiem, Elgar’s The dream of Gerontius, Britten’s War requiem, Rossini’s Stabat mater, Haydn’s Creation, Mendelssohn’s Elijah and several Carmina buranas at Illinois State University. Mr. Koch maintains a full voice studio in addition to conducting the ISU Civic Chorale since 2010.
Tracy Marie Koch, soprano
La bohème and Die Fledermaus, stage director
Tracy Marie Koch, spinto soprano, has been hailed as possessing a “beautiful, penetrating dramatic sound with exceptional beauty”. Ms. Koch was recently heard as Santuzza in Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana with the Midwest Institute of Opera in Bloomington, Illinois, where she also performed title roles of Puccini’s Suor Angelica (2014) and Verdi’s Aïda (2013). In 2014, she was invited by the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s opera guild to perform a recital that showcased arias and duets from their 2014-2015 season. Ms. Koch’s other recent engagements include Vì in Gershwin’s Blue Monday with Marble City Opera and as featured soloist at The Music by the Lake Festival where she performed scenes from Aïda and Puccini’s La bohème. Ms. Koch made her international debut as soprano soloist in Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the Cairo Choral Society in Egypt and her New York City debut as the title role in Madama Butterfly with Martina Arroyo’s Prelude to Performance Program after making her Chicago Opera Theater debut in Britten's Death in Venice. She participated in the Opera Santa Barbara Young Artist program performing as Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello and Alice Ford in Verdi’s Falstaff. Ms. Koch was a winner of the 2003 Bel Canto Foundation of Chicago. She made her recording debut as soprano soloist on David Maslanka’s world premiere of A Carl Sandburg Reader released by Albany Records in November 2009. She has also performed the roles of Mimì in La bohème (Music by the Lake Festival) and in the title role of Tosca with the New York Summer Opera Scenes. Ms. Koch’s talents extend far beyond the stage. Her directing style has been described as “imaginative, fresh and intriguing”. Ms. Koch uses her extensive background as a singer, actress and dancer to bring new perspectives to the opera genre. She is currently staff director for the Midwest Institute of Opera where she has directed operas for the last 6 seasons. Ms. Koch is the artistic director, and and director of the dynamic all girl a cappella group “Beauties and the Beat”. She is also the owner and teacher of the thriving Koch Private Studio of Voice and Piano in Bloomington, Illinois. Ms. Koch earned her M.M. in Vocal Performance and Literature from Northwestern University.
Timothy Semanik, conductor
Die Fledermaus, conductor
Timothy Semanik, returns for his second summer with the Midwest Institute of Opera. Mr. Semanik’s operatic credits include productions with Winter Opera St. Louis, Festival Opera, Light Opera Works, Great Lakes Lyric Opera, Ann Arbor Opera, Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, Comic Opera Guild, Ann Arbor Civic Theater, Opera in the Ozarks, Salt Creek Summer Concert Opera, Northwestern University, the University of Michigan, California State University, Fullerton, and Bradley University. In addition, he recently completed his tenth season as music director for the Savoyaires of Evanston, IL. Mr. Semanik currently serves as the music director for the Bradley Symphony Orchestra and the Salt Creek Chamber Orchestra and was previously music director for the Carleton College Orchestra, the University of Chicago Chamber Orchestra and the Northern Illinois University Philharmonic. He recently served as assistant conductor for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and has guest conducted the Chicago Youth Symphony, the Windsor Symphony, the Elmhurst Symphony, the Pacific Chorale, the Pacific Symphony Institute and Youth Orchestra, and the orchestras at Northwestern University and the University of Michigan. Mr. Semanik holds a doctoral degree in orchestral conducting from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in orchestral conducting from the University of Michigan. He has participated in numerous festivals including Tanglewood and the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.
Dennis Gotkowski, Assistant Conductor
La bohème, assistant conductor
Dennis Gotkowski, tenor, serves as assistant conductor for MIOpera (La Bohème, I Pagliacci, Les contes d’Hoffmann), while also providing vocal coachings and performing as a collaborative pianist. He served as the music director for Illinois State University’s recent productions of Così fan tutte and A Light in the Piazza, and previous conducting credits include H.M.S. Pinafore and A Little Night Music with Prairie Fire Theatre and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee with both Illinois State and Community Players. In recent years, Dennis has performed as a soloist with Concordia University Wisconsin (Haydn’s Creation), the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings), Madison Savoyards (The Mikado), UW Opera, Prairie Fire Theatre, and Dramatic Crossroads. His roles include Ferrando (Così fan tutte), Mayor Upfold (Albert Herring), Little Bat (Susannah), Basilio (Le nozze di Figaro), and Rumpelstiltskin/Wonderful Musician (Conrad Susa’s Transformations), a role he sang on the premiere commercial recording of the work, with conductor Kyle Knox. In addition to singing and conducting, Dennis is an active performer as a collaborative pianist, harpsichordist, and organist; he plays as Organist at First United Methodist Church in Normal, Illinois. He has also served on the voice faculty of Illinois State University, teaching voice and diction. Dennis has passionately worked to bring the music of female composers to modern audiences, performing recitals featuring the works of Clara Wieck Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Florence Price, Rebecca Clarke, Pauline Viardot-Garcia, and Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, among others. This passion inspired him to prepare an edition of Maria Margherita Grimani’s 1713 operatic work Pallade e Marte as his dissertation. Dennis received his doctorate in voice performance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he studied voice with James Doing and collaborative piano with Martha Fischer. He holds a master’s degree in voice performance and choral conducting from Illinois State University and a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Illinois Wesleyan University.
La bohème and Die Fledermaus, chorus master
Kristyn Szwajka, soprano, is thrilled to return to MIOpera as Chorus Master for Puccini’s La bohème and Strauss’ Die Fledermaus. Szwajka made her opera debut in 2013 in Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe at North Central College and in 2014 she performed in ISU’s production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Szwajka began as MIOpera Chorus master in 2018 which included Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance and Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann. Szwajka is an active member of the ISU Civic Chorale. Most recently, Szwajka was featured as a soloist during Civic Chorale 50th Anniversary Concert where she performed in Rutter’s Magnificat. Szwajka is a proud public school educator and received her BME from Illinois State University in 2015. She currently teaches in McLean County Unit 5 where she has taught general music, choir, and most recently 5th grade orchestra.