This tribute was added by John Stumpff on November 19, 2020
I met Jonathan in 1999 and began studying voice with him in the fall of that year at Cornell College. Looking back, I'm amazed how patient and supportive he was to me and to all his students, he instilled a love of all music, but especially classical and helped me bridge my musical life from undergrad to grad school and the professional world. 
Over my four years at Cornell, Jonathan was a mentor and more importantly a friend, he was someone I could confide in and I knew genuinely cared about my well being. He was also there for me during some of the most difficult moments of my life, including coming out and the death of my father, being the quiet supportive presence in the midst of my chaos. 
As a professional teacher and singer, Jonathan is the model of person I strive to be, loving, caring, and non judgemental. He touched so many lives and I know the world is better because of him.
Rest well my friend! Thank you for everything!
This tribute was added by Kamille Zbanek on November 10, 2020
“’re signing up for voice lessons right?”

We had just wrapped up the freshman year musical at Cornell College and the tall, bearded, slightly quirky music director had confronted me at the cast pastry.

Truth? I had NO plans to take voice lessons in college. I told him so.

“Nonsense. You’re too good to not be studying. I’ll find some room in my schedule...”

And that is the story of how I started 4 years of vocal study with Jonathon Thull. He taught “ the theater kids”. He had such a heart for us big dramatic souls because he was one himself. Lessons were filled with as much laughter as they were frustration and my hopeless mimicry of his French pronunciation. He even had the grace to only tease me a little when I completely massacred the Habanera in a voice jury.

He empowered me and enabled me to do more with my vocal abilities than I ever thought I was capable of. He even insisted and got clearance for me to do an unofficial senior recital because non-music majors technically weren’t supposed to do them. He was his students constant advocate.

More than that though, he cared about us as people. He clapped his hands in delight when he found out John and I were dating, exclaiming-“you’re PERFECT together !” And- although I promised I would never tell, he snuck me a shot of whiskey on the loading dock to calm my nerves before I took the stage in my first leading role. “It’ll help with the low notes” he said.

I am gutted that we lost this mentor, professor, performer, artist, and friend. My thoughts are with Nancy, and his family.

I am also incredibly grateful to have been among his students. I can almost hear that big baritone laugh now.

Thank you Thull. I will think of you whenever I sing.
This tribute was added by Jennifer Andrews on November 8, 2020
Jonathon was so many things to so many people. I remember first meeting him when he came to the U of I. So handsome, big booming laugh, bright smile, and the life of the party. 

I helped him move into that little house/bachelor pad that he and Nancy transformed into an oasis. He had 2 forks, a couple of plates and tons of opera scores. He returned the favor by helping me move...almost every single year, LOL! 

If you had a flat tire, repair work in the apartment, no matter what the task, JT got it done. After an especially hard break up Jonathon sat up with me letting me cry all night, and bringing me food and drink every day until I snapped out of it.

I haven't even gotten to how talented this wonderful man was! There was nothing he couldn't do in the musical world. He had that heart and soul that completes a performance. His heart and soul completed pretty much all of our college experiences.

We can all learn a lesson from his incredible positivity, and not backing down without a fight.

Jonathon, you are terribly missed, but are living on in all of hearts. We love you and Nancy to the moon and back.
This tribute was added by Terri Crumley on November 7, 2020
Jonathon- You are a beautiful, talented soul and will be so greatly missed. I feel very blessed to have known you. Your voice and spirit will always be with us. Hugs to Nancy and all your family. Love!
This tribute was added by Solveig Olsen on November 6, 2020
Jonathan gave me my first opera role ever! My freshman year at Iowa, Jonathan was a grad student directing Amelia Goes to the Ball, and I had a couple lines as a maid...26 years later, I’m still going strong. I have have him to thank for that first boost of confidence!
This tribute was added by Joel Foreman on November 6, 2020
19 years ago I walked into a college voice studio for the first time. As a high school student (and colossal fool) I had searched high and low for a college where I could major in music Ed and not take voice lessons. After all, I was a choir guy and we’re ensemble singers! Who needs solo voice lessons? Leave that to the performance snobs! But inside I knew the real reason...I didn’t want to sing because I didn’t think I could. Like REALLY could. I was insecure, embarrassed, and felt like I could never measure up to those around me. So I scoffed at it instead.
I was, nevertheless, unsuccessful in my quest, and having loved everything about Cornell College I was determined to keep an open mind and positive attitude. I walked in and was greeted by the warmest smile, biggest handshake, and most contagious belly laugh I’d ever heard! A gentle giant in a mock turtle neck, jeans and a blazer as he so often wore. It was only after a short time and Doc’s gentle guidance, encouragement and belief in me that I experienced a confidence in my voice and in myself that I had never felt before. He took me under his wing, a nobody from Washington State without a lick of classical voice experience and helped me grow with phrases like “Foreman, you have the perfect Tenor physique...barrel chested and no neck!” and “let’s try some vocal Tai Chi”!
I can’t tell you all the songs we sang or the exercises we employed, but I can clearly recall the laughs, the love and the feeling that I belonged in his studio. I WAS a singer and I COULD measure up. I wasn’t embarrassed by my voice and I was proud to call myself a singer.
Once hired after college as a high school choral director, I couldn’t wait to introduce Doc to my students. I wanted them to know what I knew and experience the man that had such a profound impact on my life. I wanted them to hear, first hand, all the weird singing analogies we grew to love, to see the same excitement and joy in Doc’s face, to see his big grin, when they had a breakthrough! We brought Doc in as many times as we could for solo festivals and clinics. He was the consummate professional and was so giving of himself to his students, even when his health began to fade.
The last time we talked I had the joy of sitting with him on his front porch. We laughed through our Covid masks about fond memories and new experiences with my students. And our last topic: how we could have a singing clinic this fall, outside of course, so he could work with my students again! He never stopped serving and he never stopped dreaming of ways to serve. We had hoped for something this October and agreed to play it by ear. With that, I walked down his driveway, looked back and told him I loved him. He replied, “Love you, brother!”, and smiled...
I am a better husband, father, teacher, mentor and friend because of the four incredible years I spent in Dr Thull’s studio. I am filled with joy recalling the many accomplishments we had together and the memories we made as colleagues in the vocal world. And though sad at today’s news, I am encouraged in my belief that Doc is now whole, free from pain, and in the presence of his Father in heaven.
Students and former students, if any of you experienced anything in my program that was good and honest and pure and even remotely impacted you in a positive way, know that it was in large part due to the significant role Doc played in my life. You and I are better because we knew him.
So tonight, tomorrow and in the countless interactions with others I hope to have in the future, I will smile more, I will laugh more, I will encourage more and I will make sure my students always know vocal Tai Chi.
Love you, brother!
This tribute was added by Lindsay Bachman on November 6, 2020
I’m usually pretty good with words, but I’ve erased and rewritten this ten times now and it still doesn’t feel like enough.
I came to Cornell with a love of singing and music, but no confidence in my abilities to perform. After a toxic 4 years of High School theatre, I was so anxious that I almost didn’t sign up for voice lessons. Thank goodness I did!
Jonathon was more than a coach: he saw the best in me, saw what I was capable of, and more than anything else, made music fun for me again. He helped me find the joy in every aria and to have the courage to take risks and make mistakes. He pulled me out of my perfectionistic- shell, helping me to connect emotionally with music again, after many years of only engaging intellectually and technically. He transformed the way I practiced, performed, and experienced music.
My senior year of college, I found myself at a crossroads: I had been accepted into 2 Masters programs- Northwestern’s Music Performance program and DU’s Musicology program. I didn’t know what to do. When JT asked if I’d made up my mind, I burst into tears in his office and told him I was scared of choosing the wrong one. He told me there was no wrong choice and asked me what I loved most about connecting with music? He helped me to realize that my favorite part was studying it, finding the nuances of a piece and figuring out why they were there.
Great teachers are so hard to find and even harder to describe: I can’t put into words what made JT great. He was caring. He knew when to challenge and when to support. He knew when to be serious and when to tell me to lighten up. He was transformative.
Rest well, JT. Thank you for being you.
(Copied from earlier Facebook post)
This tribute was added by John Zbanek Hill on November 6, 2020
(Copied from an earlier Facebook post)
In the two years that I studied voice with Dr. Jonathon Thull at Cornell College we began work on the song cycle “Six Songs from A Shropshire Lad.” The lyrics are from A. E. Housman’s larger collection of poems, but the poems selected for the cycle deal with the beauty of life and foolishness of war and meaningless death. Music was written by George Butterworth, who himself was killed during the First World War. Because of the nature of my degree, I was only required perform a half recital (about 25 minutes of music). I only learned half the cycle.

When I returned to college to complete my music degree (and gain an education degree) I insisted on including the full cycle in my senior recital. On a whim, I invited Dr. Thull (and honestly very few others) because I so desperately wanted him to be present for the full work. He happened to be feeling well enough to attend with his wife, Nancy Ann Hagen. Here is one of the poems in the cycle:

“Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.”

I already miss you, JT, but I am beyond grateful for you, your work in me, and this memory in particular. If I can be half the mentor you were to me for even one of my own music students, my career will have been a success.
This tribute was added by John Pemble on November 4, 2020
I met Jonathan as the spouse of my colleague Nancy. Long ago, Nancy and I put in long hours together and when I needed be in Iowa City I would stay at their house. This is where I got to know Jonathan. Nancy and I were tired and punchy but Jonathan had a way about him that made the stress of our day evaporate. He was funny, deep, accommodating, a good listener, and his presence always made me feel better. I won’t ever forget that and I hope I can be more like he was. -John Pemble
This tribute was added by Charity Nebbe on November 4, 2020
Nancy, It's so wonderful to hear Jonathon's voice and to look through so many beautiful and joyful pictures. Sending so much love to you. -Charity

Leave a Tribute