About Us

All about the Des Moines Choral Society


About Us

The Des Moines Choral Society, under the direction of Artistic Director Dr. James Rodde, is made up of auditioned volunteer singers from throughout Central Iowa. With a 40-year tradition in the community, the Des Moines Choral Society is a major force for the promotion of quality choral music in Iowa. Read more below, or follow links at right.   [RETURN]

Mission Statement: The Des Moines Choral Society seeks to enrich Iowa’s cultural landscape by offering inspiring choral music programs to the public. Our hallmarks will be vocal excellence, diverse and innovative programs that explore both musical and cultural themes, and engaging collaborations with arts and community organizations. The Des Moines Choral Society aspires to be recognized as one of Iowa’s artistic treasures. 

Brief History

In 1979 Marion A. Hall assembled a 250-member chorus to perform with the Des Moines Symphony at its inaugural concert in the new Civic Center of Greater Des Moines. Growing out of that ad hoc chorus, the Des Moines Choral Society, an auditioned choir of volunteer singers from throughout Central Iowa, has become a vital part of the Des Moines arts community. Now under the artistic direction of Dr. James Rodde, the Society continues its 40-year tradition of musical excellence, repertoire development, educational outreach, and collaborative community involvement.

Composer-in-residence Elaine Hagenberg has been creating original music and arrangements for the Des Moines Choral Society audiences since 2014. ( http://www.elainehagenberg.com ).

Commissioned works make a permanent contribution to choral literature through the commissioning of new choral works from diverse composers including Milan Kaderavek, Ben Allaway, Alf Houkom, Stacey Gibbs, Elaine Hagenberg, and Eric Whitacre.

Sponsored visiting composers (Mack Wilberg, Stacey Gibbs, Erik Esenvalds, Kim Sueoka) have provided master classes for local composers and local high school students.

Choral music outreach programs over the years have served over 3000 students in Des Moines and surrounding areas.

Meaningful collaborations with other arts organizations in our community have included at least 22 occasions with the Des Moines Symphony to stage major works, collaborations with Des Moines Youth Choruses, the Heartland Youth Choir and a variety of metro high school choirs, performances with the Java Jews and the Ames Chamber Artists, as well as being a featured artist for the Fine Arts Series at various metro churches.

Special Choral Society performances have included 

  • Two appearances at Carnegie Hall, New York City

  • Premiere of Cathy Lesser Mansfield’s opera The Sparks Fly Upward

  • Performance of Brahms’ Requiem for the 2011 American Guild of Organists convention

  • Iowa Public Television’s Studio III Presents

  • Featured ensemble at the 2013 World Food Prize Ceremony

Named Iowa Arts Council 2000 Best Artist/Performing Group through the Arts Build Communities Awards Program.

The Choral Society created a new art form using choral music supplemented by commissioned scripts and accomplished actors to dramatically explore topics relevant to Iowa. The Iowa Heritage Series launched in May 2003 with Battle Cry of Freedom featured Academy Award nominee Hal Holbrook, illuminating the contribution that Iowa made during the Civil War (edited and rebroadcast on IPTV). Subsequent productions in this series from 2005 to 2008 highlighted Iowa-focused topics: civil rights, motherhood, the environment, and immigration.

Throughout our 40 years as part of Central Iowa’s music scene,  the Des Moines Choral Society has continued to be  “Something to sing about!”

Our Artistic Director: Dr. James Rodde

Dr. James Rodde, the Louise Moen Endowed Chair in Music and Director of Choral Activities at Iowa State University, became the Artistic Director of the Des Moines Choral Society in January, 2003. Dr. Rodde's choirs have been honored with performances at distinguished events, including four national and four divisional ACDA conventions. An active clinician, Dr. Rodde has conducted several All-State Honor Choirs, most recently in Wisconsin, Texas, South Dakota, Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, and Nebraska.

Our Accompanist: Michael Gookin


Michael Gookin is Director of Choral Activities, West Central Valley School District. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Teacher Education from the University of Northern Iowa. Michael was a singing member of the Des Moines Choral Society for several years before accepting the position as DMCS Accompanist in 2019.

Composer-in-Residence: Elaine Hagenberg


Elaine Hagenberg’s music “soars with eloquence and ingenuity” (ACDA Choral Journal). Her compositions have been performed by universities, community choirs, schools, and church choirs throughout the United States and abroad. Her music has been featured at All-State festivals, national and regional American Choral Directors Association Conferences, the National Youth Choir at Carnegie Hall, the Melbourne International Choral Festival in Australia, and the International Children’s Choir Festivals in Canterbury and London. With over forty commissioned works, she has composed new music for the American Choral Directors Association Women's Choir Consortium, colleges and universities, community choirs, and churches.

Elaine has been a singer with the Des Moines Choral Society for a number of years, and she has been our Composer-In-Residence since 2017. Each season, the Choral Society features one or more of Elaine’s compositions in its concert series.

Des Moines Choral Society Board of Directors, 2019-2020

(Effective September 29, 2019)

Executive Committee

Aaron Collmann, President
Jon Duvick, Secretary
Lee Henderson, Treasurer
Jane Rider, VP for Community Outreach
Elyse Morris, VP for Marketing & Communication
Steven Genheimer, VP for Member and Concert Services
Emily Stork, VP for Development

Board Members

Sue Breen-Held
Beth Ann Edwards
Wayne Gieselman
Eric Greenley
Courtney Ihnen
Melissa Krumm
Wendy Poush

Ex officio

Dr. James Rodde, Artistic Director
Vivente! (Megan Barrett & Meisha Sible), Office Administrators


Community Events

In December 2009, the Des Moines Choral Society was invited to perform Christmas carols for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the Iowa State Capitol Rotunda. Governor Chet Culver, Lt. Governor Patty Judge, and other state officials were present for the tree lighting and kick off to the annual Toys for Tots toy drive. In October 2013, the Choral Society was invited to perform at the World Food Prize ceremony in Des Moines [top].


The Des Moines Choral Society has a long history of outreach to the larger community, helping to insure that future generations will participate in and enjoy choral music performance.

In 1999, the Des Moines Choral Society inaugurated an educational outreach program, bringing singers of the Choral Society to fourth and fifth grade students in the schools. The first program, Fascinatin' Rhythm, demonstrated the varieties of rhythm found in choral music and gave children the opportunity to join the adult singers in performing several selections. This exciting program served over 900 students in the Des Moines metropolitan area in 1999 and over 950 students in the Des Moines inner-city schools and the community of Pella in 2000.

The educational outreach program continued with Animalia in 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 season, again targeting fourth and fifth graders. In March 2002, the Choral Society singers visited five Des Moines schools they had not visited the prior year, including Smouse Elementary, where the singers worked with kids with developmental disorders. The Animalia program demonstrated how composers write music in different ways in the melody, the rhythm, the words using animals as the main theme. Imagine the sight of over 100 fourth and fifth grade students in class, cheering wildly after singing along with the Choral Society singers. Imagine the thrill of nine- and ten-year-old boys joining along in song with adult tenors and basses!

In early May, 2015 the Choral Society sponsored a 3-day visit by Mack Wilberg, renowned choral composer and director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The visit was in celebration of the choir's 35th season and provided a great opportunity for outreach. During his visit, Dr. Wilberg conducted two workshops: one for area high school choirs held at St. John's Lutheran Church, and one for choral conductors and choir singers, held at Plymouth Congregational Church. Capping the weekend was a performance of Dr. Wilberg's music by the Choral Society at First Christian Church, with Dr. Wilberg conducting the choir, chamber orchestra, and organ. The 'Wilberg Weekend' was a great success, attracting over 800 visitors to the workshops and concert.

The Choral Society could not offer these exciting, in-demand educational programs without the financial support of corporations in central Iowa. Their support demonstrates their commitment to the importance of music in the future of our community. To contribute to this exceptional cause, visit our Donate page. [top


(515) 273-5255

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 13449, Des Moines, IA 50310