QCSYEs Music Director
Youth Symphony Orchestra and Youth Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor
Dedicated to engaging audiences and performers of all ages with the transforming power of orchestral music, Benjamin Klemme leads an active career as a conductor and educator. As Associate Conductor of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, he conducts pops and family concerts, serves as cover conductor for all Masterworks programs, and designs education initiatives to inspire listeners and musicians of all ages. He also conducts the Youth Symphony and Youth Philharmonic Orchestras as Music Director of the Quad City Symphony Youth Ensembles, a program of which he is an alumnus. In addition to his work in the Quad Cities, Klemme serves the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies as Concert Orchestra Conductor. Previously, he has held conducting posts at the National Repertory and Cleveland Pops Orchestras, University of Minnesota, Santa Fe Youth Symphony Association, and MacPhail Center for Music.
Klemme earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting from the University of Minnesota. There he was a James Sample Conducting Fellow, led the Campus Orchestra program, and served as Assistant Conductor of the University Opera Theatre. He holds a Master of Music degree in orchestral conducting from the Cleveland Institute of Music and Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Northern Iowa. He studied conducting with Mark Russell Smith, Carl Topilow, Louis Lane, Rebecca Burkhardt, and Ronald Johnson.
Klemme's passion for and commitment to music education is displayed through his work both on and off the podium. He is currently involved in designing music education initiatives that connect community members throughout the Iowa and Illinois Quad Cities with opportunities to hear, perform, and engage with orchestral music in both traditional and innovative contexts. In New Mexico, he helped bring classical music to life for elementary and middle school students as Artistic Adviser and Outreach Concert Host for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival's "Music In Our Schools" program, and chaired the music department at New Mexico School for the Arts, a statewide, public, boarding high school for the arts. In Ohio he co-founded the Scordatura Chamber Orchestra, a Cleveland-based ensemble designed to support classroom learning objectives in language arts, math, science, and social studies through interactive orchestral performances.
Youth String Ensemble Conductor
Michele Ottesen is currently in her ninth year as the orchestra director at Davenport North High School and Wood Intermediate School. A native of Davenport, Ms. Ottesen spent seven years as a member of the Quad City Youth Symphony Orchestra under the direction of James Dixon and Daniel Culver. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Carnegie Mellon University, and a Master of Music degree from the University of Michigan. Her principal violin teachers include Doris Preucil, Andrés Cárdenes, and Stephen Shipps. Prior to returning to the Quad Cities, Ms. Ottesen was a member of the Dakota String Quartet, and served as principal second violin in the South Dakota Symphony. She has been a member of the Quad City Symphony since 1998.
Prelude Strings Conductor
Dortha DeWit was born in Anchorage, Alaska and grew up in Michigan. Her early violin studies were with her mother, violinist, teacher, and conductor Jean Manning. Mrs. DeWit's later teachers included Romeo Tata, Roland and Almita Vamos, Richard Young, and Josef Gingold. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree in violin performance from Oberlin Conservatory of Music and a Master of Music degree from Indiana University. In addition to maintaining a private violin and viola studio, Mrs. DeWit teaches at Augustana College and is an active performer throughout the Midwest. She has taught at St. Ambrose University and has given lessons and led workshops for public school programs in Iowa and Michigan. Mrs. DeWit is a thirty-year member of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, where she is currently assistant principal second violin, and performs with the Serenata String Trio and a clarinet, violin and piano trio at Augustana College. In addition to her work with the Quad City Symphony, Mrs. DeWit's orchestral experience includes playing for the West Shore, Grand Rapids, and Clinton Symphonies, as well as orchestras in Quincy and Galesburg, Illinois, and Evansville, Indiana. She helped found the Quad City Symphony Youth String Ensemble and was its principal conductor for twenty-two years. She was also instrumental in forming the Quad City Symphony's Prelude Strings. In 2014, Mrs. DeWit conducted the SEISTA Junior Honors Orchestra.
Youth Choir Conductor
Mary Tallitsch is the founding director of the Quad City Symphony Youth Choir, and recently retired from the Moline Public Schools, where she was an award-winning general music, band, and orchestra teacher. 2016 marks her twenty-first year preparing and directing the youth choir for Holiday Pops. She also prepared and conducted a select group of choristers for a special Carnegie Hall performance in May 2010. She earned her music education degree from North Central College. In addition to her work with the QCSYEs, Ms. Tallitsch performs with Flutes Unlimited of the Quad Cities and directs the Handbell Choir at Hope United Church of Christ in Moline.