The magazine for the Department of Music & Theatre at
Iowa State University

Bright lights, big city

When the Iowa State choir program performed in New York City at Carnegie Hall on April 21, choir member Elizabeth Farris (’21 animal science) recalled a special childhood trip to New York City during which she heard her father sing at Avery Fisher Hall, that has since been renamed David Geffen Hall.

“I remember walking in as a young girl and feeling so overwhelmed and being so proud of my father for singing with his choir in such a beautiful, impressive theater,” said Farris.

Now it was her father’s turn to be the overwhelmed and proud family member, as he listened intently in an opulent New York City theater while his daughter performed under the glow of the Carnegie Hall spotlights with her fellow Iowa State choir members.

250 Iowa State choir members, and 40 members of the Iowa State orchestra took to the Carnegie Hall stage to perform for family, friends and other guests at the famed location.

Musical memories

James Rodde, the Louise Moen Endowed Chair in Music and director of choral activities at Iowa State , directed the group and added this New York City trip to the 2019 roster of Iowa State choral activities.

Man in front of sign
James Rodde, professor of music and director of choral activities.
(Submitted photo)

“We wanted to offer this experience to our students and we hope they enjoyed the thrill of singing in a hall that has so much history floating around in that room,” said Rodde.

“We are confident that this was a musically fulfilling experience filled with memories they will never forget.”

Located two blocks south of Central Park on the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 56th Street, Carnegie Hall is one of the most widely recognized, historical and impressive venues in the world for musical performances.

“We are confident this was a musically fulfilling experience filled with memories that they will never forget.”

Many family members and friends flew to New York City from cities and towns across the country to watch their loved ones perform from this iconic stage. Nearly 300 Iowa State choir members rehearsed Saturday morning, performed Sunday evening and were treated to a reception at Planet Hollywood after their performance.

Beyond the music

Eighty percent of all ISU choir members are non-music majors. Each year, around 400 students who study fields from engineering and design to journalism and chemistry participate in one of four Iowa State choirs and are treated to national travel adventures like the Carnegie Hall trip.

Iowa State Singers Bridget Brown, Odessa Vanderweide and Ashlynn Wiley visit Central Park.
Iowa State Singers Bridget Brown, Odessa Vanderweide and Ashlynn Wiley visit Central Park.
(Submitted photo)

“Students get involved with choir because they want to be a part of something bigger than they could ever do on their own,” said Rodde. “Music is intellectual, spiritual, emotional and physical and many find joy and friendships as they express themselves through music and singing.”

Farris echoes Rodde’s thoughts. “Music is something I have to be involved with. I just knew that when I came to college I had to be involved in choir somehow and Iowa State has an incredible program.”

Two performers in Carnegie Hall.
Chad Sonka, lecturer in music, and Beth Deutmeyer ('06 music).
(Submitted photo)

Rodde notes that music is a great social outlet and students in the ISU choir programs don’t just sing; they also process the music as a group and discuss how the pieces impact them.

“Students get involved with choir because they want to be a part of something bigger than they could ever do on their own.”

“The students will often share deep and meaningful moments, memories and feelings about how the music affected them,” said Rodde. “It’s a terrific social outlet for these students who are connected by a mutual affinity for music.”

Practice, practice, practice

The old joke still stands: A New York City pedestrian emerges from a cab and asks a musician how to get to Carnegie Hall and the musician replies, “Practice, practice, practice.” That adage holds true for the Iowa State musicians.

The choir and orchestra members began practicing for their Carnegie Hall performance months before they stood on that stage. Focused and rigorous rehearsals prepared them for their performance. Their Carnegie Hall program included:


Give Me Hunger
Jake Runestad (b. 1986)
Carl Sandburg, poet
Eriks Esenvalds (b. 1977)
Rabindranath Tagore, poet
Iowa State Singers

Crossing the Bar
Gwyneth Walker (b. 1947)
Alfred Lord Tennyson, poet
Iowa Statesmen

I Thank You God
Gwyneth Walker
E. E. Cummings, poet
Cantamus and Lyrica


Symphonic Dance, No. 4
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)
ISU Symphony Orchestra


Dona Nobis Pacem
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
Walt Whitman, poet
I. Agnus Dei
II. Beat! Beat! Drums!
III. Reconciliation
IV. Dirge for Two Veterans
V. The angel of death has been abroad
VI. O man greatly beloved, fear not
Beth Deutmeyer, soprano
Chad Sonka, baritone

Let Peace Then Still the Strife
Mack Wilberg (b. 1955)
Iowa State Choirs and ISU Symphony Orchestra