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Our Mission

Rapson Collaborative is a non-profit arts organization supporting original musical projects that explore critical social issues. Rapson Collaborative fosters collaboration between artists and audiences with an emphasis on projects that tell marginalized histories, support underrepresented artists and engage diverse communities.

Our Story

Rapson Collaborative began as “Hot Tamale Louie” Iowa City (HTLIC) Media, which was founded by composer and educator John Rapson and named for one of his multimedia musical endeavors. In partnership with the University of Iowa and the Iowa Arts council among others, HTLIC Media supported collaborative musical productions and performances directed by Rapson. 

By the time he was working on the exercise in collective collaboration and stylistic combination that became “Esteban and The Children of the Sun” in 2021, Rapson and his advisory board began thinking about HTLIC Media’s potential to support other artists doing similar work going forward.

When Rapson died in July, 2021, the assembled board brought the “Esteban” project to completion as a recording and performance, and then took up the question of the organization’s future and mission.

With a focus on performing arts and a special love for musicians, and with a new name attuned to his example of collaborative artistic work that uplifts and educates, Rapson Collaborative makes a commitment to invite and support new projects and to join with community partners in support of the arts. We are excited to be part of the rich tapestry and long history of arts non-profits in the Iowa City area.

Ira John Rapson (1953-2021)

Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies, University of Iowa
Composer, musician, teacher, father and friend
“Every act of making is an act of hope…”

About John Rapson

John Rapson was a renowned jazz trombonist and composer, and a gifted teacher who helped lead the University of Iowa School of Music Jazz Program for 26 years. He conducted the Johnson County Landmark orchestra and established both BA and MA degrees in jazz during his tenure at the university. His inclination toward working together with diverse groups of musicians, artists and styles throughout his career, was exemplified in recordings and productions such as Crescendo and Hot Tamale Louie.

He attended Trinity Episcopal Church for many years, where he composed and arranged liturgical music for Vespers and also wrote a Mass. He hosted a popular local radio show called “As Night Falls” on KSUI. His final recording project, Esteban and The Children of the Sun, was recorded in his daughter Hannah’s basement at Rose Hill weeks prior to his passing.

John was a life enthusiast, community-builder and storyteller – he had a way of making the mundane seem marvelous and delighting in the littlest things. A devoted friend who believed in the dreams of others, he encouraged and inspired fellow musicians and students to experiment and to commit themselves, to the music and to one another.


Esteban and the Children of the Sun is a suite of 14 songs that tell the story of Esteban, the first African to travel across North America.

Hot Tamale Louie tells the story of Zarif Khan, an immigrant from Afghanistan to the United States at the turn of the 20th Century.

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