Finding love in music

Jonathan Sturm is one of the best violinists at Oberlin College. There’s only one student who keeps besting him; Laura McGinnis. Jonathan doesn’t know it yet, but more than a decade later he will marry Laura’s sister, Julie. He certainly never suspected that they would both teach at Iowa State, either.

After graduating from Oberlin College, the Eastman School of Music and Indiana University, Jonathan had earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in music. He taught music for three years in Providence, R.I., before taking a job at Des Moines’ Drake University.

It was while he was working for Drake University that he first met Julie. Functioning as part of a committee, Jonathan hired her to work at Drake. There, Julie taught cello and music theory for more than five years.

Though they worked at Drake together, Jonathan and Julie didn’t see much of each other. In fact, Jonathan left Drake for a position at Iowa State shortly after hiring her. It was their ties to the Des Moines Symphony that brought them closer together.

“I was here, she was there, but we both were in the Des Moines Symphony,” Jonathan said. “We got to know each other from across the orchestra.”

Julie had earned a position as the principal cellist for the symphony eight years after Jonathan first joined. Today, Jonathan and Julie have devoted more than 30 years combined to the symphony, and Jonathan is the concertmaster.

Julie’s career as a musician is no less extensive. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, a master’s degree from Indiana University and a doctorate from the University of Arizona. Before her position at Drake, Julie had been a faculty member of the Walnut Hill School for the Arts and the New England Conservatory of Music pre-college division.

They’ve been married for nine years. Jonathan is an associate professor of music for Iowa State and violist for the Ames Piano Quartet, while Julie is a part-time music theory lecturer. They both participate regularly as a part of the Des Moines Symphony, and in a variety of group and solo performances where their skills as musicians shine.

They enjoy traveling together, and once performed together in Albania. They’ve also been on several international jaunts with the Ames Piano Quartet.

“We’ve had some interesting trips getting to know the world a bit,” Julie said.

Their life is more than the professional work they do together, the shared interest has been a help though. Jonathan said some might be offended when he has to spend time practicing, instead of being with them. For Julie, this isn’t a problem. After all, she said, “It takes a musician to understand a musician.”