Our Story (History)

We’ve been making beautiful music since 1981. Eugene Wilson and Millie Haynie founded the Des Moines Children’s Chorus in 1981 with the vision of creating a community organization that would cultivate musical greatness in children. The first choir formed was Youth Chorale. This choir was for singers 14 to 19 years old, and in the following two years a Children’s Chorus and Preparatory Choir were added.

During the 1980’s and 90’s the choirs continued to grow and the organization expanded its geographical scope by adding satellite choirs in other central Iowa communities. In 2000, we changed the name to Iowa Youth Chorus to better reflect our broader scope.

In our 40 seasons we’ve touched the lives of over 10,000 children. Every child is invited to sing with Iowa Youth Chorus -- we will turn no child away. We have three choir levels by age: Primary, 1st – 2nd grade; Children’s Chorus, 3rd – 6th grade; and Chorale, 6th – 12th grade. If you ask our alumni, current choristers, board, and staff you may hear that we are unique. Iowa Youth Chorus’ quality, variety of music taught, touring history, experience with conductors, and other experiences set us apart from other children’s community choirs.

As a community choral program, we bring together the traditions, techniques, and benefits of a choral music education with the influence and the beauty of today’s culture. We build partnerships with schools and other organizations to meet kids in the classroom after school and provide them with our enriching experience. Our choristers are instilled with skills, attitudes and habits that will benefit them for life -- music that will change their world.

The Des Moines Children’s Chorus and Iowa Youth Chorus have participated in many national and international festivals and tours. What began as Sunday afternoon rehearsals in a downtown auditorium has touched the lives of thousands of children, youth, and adults in Central Iowa but around the world.

Iowa Youth Chorus Highlights include:

  • IYC Songburst! Workshop held in Pella Iowa. There the kids spent the day working with Dr. Sarah Van Waardhuizen of Central College, toured the Pella Historical Village, and experienced the rhythms and culture of Pella.
  • Invited to perform the finale for the World Food Prize in collaboration with world-renowned opera star and Iowa Native Simon Estes.
  • Collaborated with Wartburg College Castle Singers; performed at a  Read Across America March 2nd and the CelebrAsian celebrations; participated in Master Class with Dr. Jennaya Robison, Professor of Music at Luther College.
  • Sang the National Anthem at Drake Men’s and Women’s Basketball games and the Principal Charity Classic.
  • Toured and participated in Choir festivals in Italy, Quebec, British Columbia, and multiple U.S. locations including Denver and Chicago.