Amy Phelps

Associate Principal Cello

Patricia K. McPherson Chair

Amy Phelps was born in Iowa City, Iowa. In 1989 she obtained a double-degree (B.A., B.M.) in Cello Performance and French Literature from Oberlin College and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. After her undergraduate education, Dr. Phelps’ multiple interests led her to continue her musical education in France, where she obtained unanimous Gold Medals in both cello performance and chamber music at the Conservatoire National de Région de Marseille in 1992. Dr. Phelps worked as a free-lance artist in Marseille for ten years where she frequently played with the Philharmonique de Marseille, was a founding member of the contemporary Ensemble Telemaque and performed with the baroque Ensemble Bezzozzi. After returning to the United Sates, she earned a Masters in Music from the University of Iowa in 2004, studying with Anthony Arnone and Hannah Holman. Amy Phelps has participated in numerous music festivals, such as Interlochen, Tanglewood, Aspen, Musicorda, the Lake District Music Festival (England) and Entrecasteaux (France). In addition to teaching at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Amy Phelps was Instructor of Cello at Bradley College in Peoria, Illinois for three years. Dr. Phelps is a member of both Orchestra Iowa (Assistant Principal) and the Quad Cities Symphonies. She also performs regularly with the Cedar Rapids Opera and freelances throughout the Midwest. In her free time she loves to cook, garden and has completed three triathlons. Amy lives in Iowa City with her son, Paul, a fabulous ballet dancer, her better half Aren Van Houzen and her dog, Rose.


Iowa City, IA

Year Joined Orchestra Iowa


Personal Website

BM & BA, Oberlin Conservatory & Oberlin College, 1989
Conservatoire Regional de Marseille, France, 1992 (Gold Medal in Cello Performance)
MA, University of Iowa, 2004
DMA, University of Iowa, 2010

Favorite Symphonic Piece:

Brahms Symphony No. 2

Favorite Memory With Orchestra Iowa:

About 11 years ago we were performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with a wonderful Serbian violinist who broke a string during the concert and didn’t miss a note. He improvised on another string and then grabbed the concertmaster’s violin and kept playing the rest of the movement.

How did you start playing your instrument?

I wanted to play harp, but my father thought it was too big to haul around and suggested cello so I could play chamber music with my siblings. I then started lessons at the Preucil School of Music.

Who are your musical inspirations?

Rostropovich, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Christophe Coin, Regina Spektor, Jacqueline du Pre.

If you weren’t a professional musician, what career would you have?

A writer or I would own a gluten free restaurant/bakery.

List three things always found in your refrigerator.

Lettuce, pickles, almond milk

Who would play you in a movie?

Definitely Meryl Streep, because she can make anyone look good and could probably fake the cello like no one’s business.