Valentine’s on the Hilltop at Mount Mercy February 14

Mount Mercy University will host 'Valentine's on the Hilltop: Songs on the Seven Sides of Love' on Thursday, February 14, at 8:00 p.m. in the University Center Commons. The event is free and open to the public; seating may be limited.

This Valentine's evening will feature Cedar Rapids native Austin Kness, baritone; his wife, Susannah Biller-Kness, soprano; and Mount Mercy's music faculty member Tony Nickle, pianist. The trio will present art songs and arias that capture the many faces of love with works from Mozart, Monteverdi, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Bellini, Faure and Korngold.Austin Kness

Mr. Kness participated in San Francisco Opera's Adler Fellowship program in 2009 and 2010. He is an alumnus of Merola Opera Program. He has also performed in several fully-staged one act opera projects and two workshops of SFO commissioned works. He performed at the International Vocal Arts Academy in Tel Aviv, Israel, where he was awarded the IVAI's Silverman Prize Scholarship in 2010. He also performed with the San Francisco LINES Ballet in Lyon, France, as a soloist and dancer during the annual international tour. He is a graduate of The University of Iowa and Indiana University.

Susannah Biller-KnessHis wife, Mrs. Biller-Kness, is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and Northwestern University. The couple met while performing "Werther" at the San Francisco Opera. Mrs. Biller-Kness is also an Adler Fellow and alumna of the 2009 Merola Opera Program. She studied voice under George Bitzas at the University of Tennessee, and holds her master's degree in music. She made her professional debut singing Titania (A Midsummer Night's Dream) with Opera North in New Hampshire. She was chosen as a winner in the Metropolitan Opera Mid-South District auditions for 2008 – 2009.

Mr. Nickle has been part of the Mount Mercy faculty since 2005, teaching student piano and serving as a staff accompanist. Additionally, Nickle has served as a rehearsal accompanist and production manager for the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatres' mainstage productions and as a rehearsal and performance accompanist for their Young Artist Program productions since 2005. He has performed publicly on a regular basis since childhood.

For more information on this event, contact Tony Nickle at or call 319-363-1323 ext. 1021.

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