Jere Torkelsen, a baritone, has enjoyed a career in opera, and as a soloist on the concert stage and in Broadway productions. A prize-winning singer while a student, following graduation he has worked as a music educator at the high school and college level, teaching voice, conducting choirs, and serving as a musical director of musicals staged in schools.
Jere was born in Denver, Colorado, one of two sons of Arlee John and Ivy Jo Larsen Torkelsen. From his earliest years he and his brother, Jon, were immersed in music as their father pursued a career in music education in the Seventh-day Adventist school system. Both sons started lessons at an early age and played and sang in school ensembles under their father's direction throughout through their grade school and academy years.
Jere, inspired by his father's example, decided to pursue a career in music during his high school years and, following graduation in 1972 from Platte Valley Academy in Nebraska, enrolled as a tuba major at Union College. He then switched to voice, pursuing B.Mus. degrees in both music education and vocal performance. While at UC, he was part of the Unionaires, the select choral ensemble, and a member of a ten-member ensemble that promoted the college throughout the Midwest in the summers.
He was a recipient of the Barbara Ehlert Mossman Scholarship Award in 1979. In autumn of that same year, Torkelsen placed first in his division in the Nebraska state National Association of Singers (NATS) competition for college singers. He and three other UC students won four of the six first places in that event, which included a total of ninety singers from five other schools.
Following graduation from UC in 1981, he accepted a music teaching position at Chisholm Trail Academy in Texas. While there he also taught as an adjunct voice instructor at nearby Southwestern Adventist College, now University. In 1983 he returned to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he completed an M.Mus. in vocal performance in 1987 at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
Torkelsen then moved to California. He became a participant in the San Francisco Opera program, where he has been a soloist and a member of the chorus, and established a private studio. A partial listing of his solo roles at SFO includes the Imperial Commissioner in Madame Butterfly, the Steersman in Tristan and Isolde, Un Uissier in a video production of L' Africaine, the Jornalist in Lulu, Melisso in Alcina,and General John Rawlins in Appomattox by Philip Glass.
He has also been active in other productions on the West Coast, including playing the Villains in The Tales of Hoffmann, the Count in The Marriage of Figaro, Sharpless in Madame Butterfly, Gregorio in Romeo and Juliette, and Mother in the Seven Deadly Sins.
Torkelsen's interest in Broadway productions led to an enjoyable experience performing with the national company of The Phantom of the Opera in 1994. He has since worked as a musical director in productions of middle and high school musicals.
Other singing activities have included appearing on the concert stage as soloist in Haydn's Creation, Brahms' Vier Ernst Gesange, Mozart's Requiem, Verdi's Requiem, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, Copland's Old American Songs, and Serenade to Music by Ralph Vaughn Williams. He has also given recitals in California, Idaho, Oregon, and Nebraska.
Torkelsen married LaNelle Randall, a student he met at UNL, in January 1989. They have two sons, Evan and Colin. Both are orchestral string players and active in music.
Sources: Information provided by Jere Torkelsen, September and December 2011; Central Union Reaper, 14 May 1974, 4; 17 May 1979, 7; 15 November 1979, 5; Online sources; personal knowledge.