Iowa Orchestra Band US-Russia ISU Program Amid Ukraine Invasion


As arts organizations and communities across Iowa find ways to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, an association of Ames orchestras plans to move forward with its previous plan to promote cultural diplomacy between the United States and Russia.

Organizers said this work could be more important than ever.

“We become richer by knowing other people’s cultures and by knowing other people from those cultures,” said Jeff Prater, who serves on the board of the Ames International Orchestra Festival Association. “And when you know other people from those cultures, you’re probably much less likely to go to war with them.”

The association was created in 1971 to bring in classical orchestral musicians for performances and currently exists as a volunteer support organization, partnering with the Iowa State Center to ensure that orchestras around the world continue to play at Stephens Auditorium, according to the Iowa State Center.

For subscribers:Here’s how Iowa universities are responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Prater also wrote the state grant application the association received late last year — a $4,000 grant for the Iowa Humanities Project from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs to a project titled “Cultural Diplomacy: Building Bridges of Understanding between the United States and Russia.”

The association applied for and received the grant months before Russia launched a massive invasion of Ukraine and stoking political and military tensions with the United States and Europe in the process.

The group is aware of the historical circumstances they find themselves in, but Prater said this could end up being a particularly good time for a project like theirs, “because people are interested in Russia right now, and although cultural diplomacy seems to have probably failed, in the long run it’s what brings the citizens of both countries together, and in the long run I think we’re going to see it prevail.”

From Russia with Lvova — no more concerts, but still a conference on American-Russian cultural exchanges

The orchestra association’s original plan was to use the grant to pair performances and public lectures with the Russian String Orchestra’s previously scheduled concert at Stephens Auditorium.

However, Prater said the concert had to be canceled because the Russian-developed Sputnik V vaccines against COVID-19 that the guest orchestra had received were not acceptable to us authorities.

“We wanted this big package with a conference, with Russian musicians working with American students, etc., and then we wanted to have this concert as an example of what cultural diplomacy would do. We’re stuck without the concert, but the l’ money we got from the Iowa Humanities Project – it’s either use it or lose it,” Prater said.

The association continues with a two-day visit on April 11 and 12 of Maria Lvova to include lunch, an address, visits to political science classes and an official lecture. Lvova is program manager for the nonprofit US Russia Foundation for Education, Exchange, and Community Building.

Prater said he has been to Russia about 18 times since 2005 as a lecturer on American music and has worked there with Lvova five or six times during his lectures. He realized that Lvova’s background made her a perfect candidate to be included in the grant-funded project.

Maria Lvova, a Russian-American nonprofit worker, gives a talk April 12 at Iowa State University about how cultural diplomacy has broken down political barriers and stereotypes between the two countries.  His visit is funded by a state grant received by an Ames Orchestra Association.

She has lived in the United States for about five years and is in the process of becoming an American citizen, he said. Lvova previously worked for the US Embassy in Moscow for more than 20 years and was eligible through her job to apply for green cards for herself and her family.

The US Russia Foundation where she works is a nonprofit that since 2008 “supports programs that strengthen Russian innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and scientific expertise,” according to its website.

However, the non-profit board issued on March 1 a statement condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and sharing that the board voted unanimously to recommend to the U.S. government “that $100 million of escrowed funds under the management of the U.S. Russia Investment Fund be immediately redirected to the Western NIS Enterprise Fund , an organization dedicated to helping the people of Ukraine.”

Additionally, the board also said it supports and supports Russians who are speaking out against their government’s invasion of Ukraine and “seeking a different and peaceful future for their country.”

Prater said Lvova also has family ties to Ukraine. One of his sons, who had started a doctoral program at the Russian State University of Humanities in Moscow, also managed to get out of Russia even as direct flights were canceled due to economic sanctions adopted in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

“They know the score when it comes to the political scene,” Prater said.

Lvova’s talk scheduled for 6 p.m. April 12 in the Sun Room of Iowa State University’s Memorial Union is titled “From Jazz Ambassadors to the Simpsons: How Cultural Diplomacy Breaks Down Political Barriers and Stereotypes.” More information is available at

Cultural Diplomacy in the State of Iowa:

Prater said the state grant covers all expenses for Lvova’s visit, and since the conference is free, there will be no products to consider sending to Ukraine for humanitarian aid, for example. If something like this is possible within the parameters of the grant, Prater said, the university should give approval to seek contributions from conference attendees.

Some people don’t want anything to do with anything associated with Russia, and Prater said it’s not up to him to try to convince them otherwise. “I think it has to be their choice.”

He added: “I think what we need to do is just make things available.”

David Stuart, president of the association of orchestras, said he hopes events like theirs that promote shared experience can help ease tensions between the United States and Russia.

“When you’re wielding a sword and stomping up and down and yelling ‘Yes, we’, you don’t really consider the people you’re yelling at and who you are really no different from you. .uncontrollable, so people on both sides are jumping up and down and yelling ‘-or more than yelling-‘and it gets hard to go back a little bit,” Stuart said.

How did the arts in Iowa react to the Russian invasion of Ukraine?

While Russia’s murderous bombardment of Ukraine continues, Iowa artists, businesses, cultural institutions, musicians and others are finding ways to try to help and show solidarity, whether in person or on social media.

The Greater Des Moines Community Band — a group of central iowa volunteer musicians – shared where to download free sheet music for the Ukrainian national anthem. The download is available from the Association of Concert Bandswith music provided by the United States Army Band Library.

In Iowa City, Oleg Timofeyev – formerly of Moscow and who helped start the nonprofit International Academy of Russian Music, Arts and Culture — shared an earlier video of him singing the Ukrainian national anthem in Yiddish, the only version he knew.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs has already donated a total of $20,000 over two years, 2014 and 2015, to the Iowa City-based academy to highlight Russian and Ukrainian music in parties.

Timofeyev said he’s been at a pro-Ukrainian protest in Iowa City since the invasion and it’s time to learn the words to the Ukrainian anthem in Ukrainian.

Pro-Ukrainian protests in Iowa, around the world:

Joy Avenue Media, based in Bettendorf, is organizing a eight-hour free virtual benefit concert from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on March 31 featuring more than 24 groups, with all donations benefiting Ukrainian refugees across Razom for Ukrainea non-profit organization that helps provide refugees fleeing the country with food, medical supplies and clothing.

Dustin Cobb, owner of Joy Avenue Media, said in a press release that footage from the concert and the link will be live for several days after for anyone wishing to donate. Cobb said the goal was to raise at least $50,000. More information is available at

Sally’s Sewing Room in Clarion announced that it would donate 10% of the store’s sales from March 10-12 to the “Proem Ministries Assist Ukrainian Refugees fund” and match the amount raised. Proem is a Polish Christian organization that is, the mobilization of volunteers, supplies and transportation.

the Czech and Slovak National Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids organized a roundtable on March 11 on the war in Ukraine and its impact on the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The recorded discussion is available on the museum’s Facebook page.

Continued:Art unity for Ukraine: murals from around the world show their support in the face of the Russian invasion

Reporter Paris Barraza in Iowa City contributed to it.

Phillip Sitter covers education for the Ames Tribune, including Iowa State University and PreK-12 schools in Ames and elsewhere in Story County. Phillip can be contacted by email at He’s on Twitter @pslifeisabeauty.


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