The musicians

Musica Universalis Members

Laura Kuhlman

Woodwinds, rebec, voice

A resident of Portland, Oregon since 2014, Laura was previously active in Chicago, where she spent many years as a freelance musician. She has enjoyed partnerships with several early music ensembles including the Burgundian Ensemble, Masqued Phoenix, and the Too Early Consort. Laura founded and led the Milwaukee Renaissance Band from 2009–2014.

Laura is currently music director for the Portland Recorder Society and the Recorder Orchestra of Oregon and is past president of the American Recorder Society.

She teaches flute, saxophone, recorder, early double reeds, and Renaissance bagpipes both at her home studio in Portland and at workshops around the country. If there is not an instrument in her hands, she can be found roaming the hills and dales of Oregon on her beloved bicycle.

Esther Saulle

Woodwinds, viola da gamba, voice

Esther started playing the recorder at the age of seven in her native Switzerland. Since then she has performed with many music ensembles and groups, including the Oregon Renaissance Band, the Cassis Ensemble, the Orchestra of the Moon, and the Portland and Puget Sound Christmas Revels.

In addition to the recorder, Esther plays various Renaissance instruments including the krummhorn,  viola da gamba, and others.

Apart from playing various gigs and continuing to take variety of music classes and attending music workshops, she has been giving private recorder lessons to children and adults in her Northeast Portland home for the past twenty years.

Elizabeth O’Connor

Bowed strings

Elizabeth (Tizzy) O’Connor was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She started her musical career at Mrs. Anderson’s Musical Kindergarten, then continued through local schools all the way to Portland State University, where she studied cello with Hamilton Cheifetz. She picked up the violin somewhere along the way and studies with Betsy Branch (fiddle) and Virgie Daigle (classical violin).

Elizabeth currently plays in a number of chamber and small ensemble groups, including Musica Universalis, the Fireside Social Orchestra, Cassis, and the Two Rivers Céilí Band.

In her spare time she is the associate director of Kaiser Permanente’s Evidence-Based Practice Center and enjoys birdwatching, board games, and bread baking. She lives with her husband, two young adult children, two cats, and a lively sourdough starter.

Paul Beck

Cimbalom, percussion

Paul began his musical studies hitting tuned water glasses in Mrs. Ristad’s preschool music class, then eventually worked his way up to hitting percussion instruments for a music degree at the University of Colorado.

Paul saw a cimbalom for the first time on a family trip to Hungary, but it was more than 30 years before he got to hit one. In Musica Universalis Paul plays a small version of this normally gargantuan species of hammered dulcimer.

In addition to Musica Universalis, Paul is a member of the Portland ensembles Trio Tsuica, the Krebsić Orkestar, and Padam Padam.

Demand for cimbalom players being what it is, he makes his living as an author of nonfiction children’s books.

Musica Universalis Collaborators

Štĕpán Šimek

In the United States since 1987, Prof. Šimek received his MFA in Directing at the University of Washington in 1995. He has directed more than 40 productions both professionally and in college settings in both the United States (Seattle, San Francisco, New York, and Portland) and in Europe. Fluent and literate in five languages, he translated number of contemporary and classical plays from Czech, German, French, and Russian into English, and adapted several novels for the theatre including Oscar Wilde’s “Picture of Dorian Gray,” Franz Kafka’s early “Amerika,” François Villon’s “The Testament,” and others. His work as a director was honored by the Drama League of New York with the “Drama League Directing Fellowship,” and his translations of two contemporary Czech plays earned him the “PEN America Translation Award,” and the 2018 “Eurodram translation Prize.” As one of the authorized translators of the body of work of the former Czech President and playwright Vaclav Havel, Prof. Simek continues working on creating new American translations of contemporary European plays, and recently he has completed a set of new, modern American translations of Anton Chekhov’s major plays. In addition to teaching, directing in professional and college settings, translating, and adapting, Professor Šimek has published numerous articles on contemporary Czech theatre in the journal of international performance, “TheatreForum,” and the journal of “Slavic and East European Performance” and his translations appeared in a number of anthologies.

Together with his wife, Esther, he is a proud owner and operator of a small theatre and creative space, THE 2509 that fosters a new community-based, locally focused, and human-centric model of theatre, music, and art making in an intimate and welcoming setting.