Giles couple finds connection through music

“What’s that on the wall?” Mike asked nervously, lying in bed.

“I don’t know, looks like moonlight or something,” Sonja responded, tiredly from beside him.

“Well look at it! It’s kinda pretty,” Mike said.

To Mike, the words “Will you marry me?” written on the wall in glow-in-the-dark paint are obvious. The ring in his pocket feels like it weighs a hundred pounds. Sonja, however, can only see a blur; she’s not wearing her glasses. Mike’s starting to worry that maybe she’s ignoring the proposal to save his feelings. He urged to come to the edge of the bed.

“Read the wall!” he said, “I think it says something!”

Sonja finally got his message, and they’ve been married for eight years.

Today, Michael and Sonja Giles teach their students at Iowa State with the same passion for music that brought them together. Mike teaches saxophone and jazz studies, while Sonja is an assistant professor of flute.

Their mutual love of contemporary music brought them together for the first time at the University of Iowa. Mike was working towards his bachelor’s degree in music when Sonja transferred from the University of New Mexico. Working on her master’s degree, Sonja decided to follow her flute instructor to his new position in Iowa.

“You work one-on-one in music,” Sonja said. “If I’m going to work with a professor for eight semesters, it’s imperative that I like him.”

In retrospect, Giles said she’s glad she decided to move to Iowa. If she hadn’t, she never would have known Mike or given him flute lessons.

“I needed flute lessons as a saxophonist for jazz band,” Mike said. “It turns out I’m a terrible flutist, and we got distracted during those lessons.”

“He’s a terrible student,” Sonja said.

When Sonja moved to Minneapolis in pursuit of her doctorate, Mike quit his job at the University of Wyoming to follow.

“I couldn’t bear to be without Sonja, to see her on a regular basis,” Mike said.

They’ve been keeping each other busy ever since.

“We go to all of our children’s sporting events; that would probably constitute our entire lives right now. We’re either doing stuff with our students here to get them ready for performances and competitions, doing our regular teaching or performing ourselves,” Sonja said. “It’s very encompassing.”

Mike said he’s interested in photography and he likes to exercise. Sonja is an avid reader. Both agree that music is essentially their life. It has formed a deep connection between them, Mike said.

“It’s something that you feel deep in your heart you’re connected to, artistically. And you have it in common.”