Lorraine Klaasen teaches ageless lessons

By Lindajoy Fenley

Everyone in Forest City, Iowa—from at least one toddler to elementary, high school, and university students as well as senior citizens—let Lorraine Klaasen know her music not only touched their hearts but also taught them important lessons.

The Forest City audience dances to the South African beat.

“I learned things I didn’t know I wanted to learn,” said Jacquelyn Imsande, one of the Waldorf University students who helped the musicians load out their equipment after the Thursday night concert at Forest City’s Immanuel Lutheran Church. When the South African musicians spoke at her world music class the day before the concert, the music education major found out about South Africa’s apartheid history and the continent’s geography, two fields in which she previously thought she had no interest.

Following the concert, Jacquelyn told Lorraine she was also surprised how much of an impression the singer left on young elementary students with whom she works. When she went to the elementary school after the musicians visited earlier in the week, Jacquelyn reported that kindergarteners and second graders repeatedly said, “She cared about me.” The students were so excited about the visiting musician who asked about their passions and what they wanted to be. “That is so cool,” Jacquelyn said.

Lorraine Klaasen performs in Forest City, IA.

Lorraine nodded, recalling how she once encountered a young woman in the Montreal metro who told Lorraine that she never forgot the time when she was six years old and the singer had asked about her dreams for the future. The young woman grew up to be a nurse.

On Thursday, non-verbal, post-concert feedback came from two-year-old Evelyn Arlene Slater. The toddler was with her father in the hallway when she left his arms and ran to Lorraine to give her a long, tight hug. A couple hours before the concert, little Evelyn’s mom had stopped by to tell the singer that Evelyn loved the song “Pata Pata,” a traditional song made famous decades ago by the legendary singer Miriam Makeba. Evelyn’s mother wasn’t sure her two-year-old would come to the concert, but the girl sat in the front row and never lost interest.

Lorraine invites a Jamaican resident of Forest City to join her onstage during the concert.

People of all ages danced to the South African rhythms and sang short phrases they learned during the performance.

Jana Robson sings along with Lorraine Klaasen during the concert.

Jana Robson was one who needed no prompting. The Forest City High School junior and choir member sang along with nearly every song. The music had apparently captivated her when she heard it at the ensemble’s school presentation two days earlier.

Enthusiasm blossomed in people of all ages.

Backstage after the concert, visiting audience members included Polish and Nigerian students plus two retired teachers who once worked in Tanzania.

Laurel Yost, 68, said that although she had never heard the South African songs before, they all made a lot of sense. Commentary by Lorraine as well as guitarist Mongezi Ntaka provided the context she needed. “I understood the African words when she sang them,” Yost said after the concert, noting that the singer’s movements also added meaning.

Both Mongezi Ntaka and Lorraine provided context for the songs.

3M Plant Manager John Roisen, one of the Arts Midwest World Fest sponsors, also showed his appreciation with smiles, laughter, and enthusiastic applause throughout the concert.

3M’s John Roisen and wife Dianne meet musicians just before concert.

From start to finish, the people of Forest City showed enthusiastic appreciation for the third of the four Arts Midwest World Fest ensembles visiting them over the two-year cycle that will end next spring.

“Did you like the other groups?” Lorraine asked after the audience applauded her. And she beamed when they answered affirmatively. It’s no wonder that the city, its local school district, and Waldorf University have banded together to build a fine arts center in the near future. Groundbreaking is set for next spring.


We have loved having Lorraine and her band in Forest City. I am proud of the kids in our schools who embraced them with love. I am proud of the people in our town who came to see this band from the other side of the world and hear their ethnic music. Lorraine’s music, her dancing and her story touched all of us! Thank you, Arts Midwest World Fest!

My 10-year-old granddaughter, Isabelle Hadacek, loved Lorraine and her band. She wrote on my program during the concert, “It’s almost as if she has South Africa in her voice! She inspires so many people. She is my favorite of all the groups!”

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