Iowa State Choirs: Iowa State Singers performs with talent


Iowa State Singers

Cj Eilers

It is 12:13 p.m. in 130 Music Hall, during Friday rehearsal for the Iowa State Singers. From his podium, James Rodde, the ensemble’s director of 13 years, motions for his students to rise out of their seats and congregate. With a few graceful waves of Rodde’s hands, the choir begins to fill the room with the music of David Dickau. A piece, entitled “If Music Could Be the Food of Love,” is to be sung at Friday’s presidential installation.

This is a typical day for the men and women of the Iowa State Singers, the university’s only mixed choir. The ensemble consists of 73 members, 37 men and 36 women, from a variety of different majors, and meets daily from 12:10 to 1 p.m. for rehearsal. The singers perform pieces ranging from classic Renaissance to more contemporary works.

“I want my students to touch the mind scripture of the music,” Rodde said. “My goal is they can have a full musical experience with each other. To experience on a mental, emotional and physical level with music.”

Students who wish to join the choir must do so through an audition with Rodde at the beginning of the academic year. First, anyone interest must bring in a solo as an audition piece. After performing the solo, Rodde provides a sight reading piece for the auditionee and focuses on tonal memory, the ability to remember and sing pitches in key after hearing them.

Clarissa Adams, sophomore in open option, described her experience auditioning last year as a freshman as scary but well worth it.

“I was very nervous,” Adams said. “But, I would tell anyone that would like to join any ISU choir to do it.”

The choir, along with having a director/conductor, has student sectional leaders. Each vocal part (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) has two section leaders, chosen by Rodde.

“Each leader must have the ability to lead and have the ear to hear mistakes,” Rodde said.

Alex Longnecker, senior in vocal music and one of the section leaders of the tenors, admits that while the choir is a large time commitment and only a single college credit, it is all worth it.

“Rehearsing with Rodde has given me direction on how to rehearse with a choir,” Longnecker said. “He picks up things we would never hear.”

Nick Prenger, another senior in vocal music and a bass section leader, also said the choir has made a positive impact on him, saying the choir “made me more conscious to blend with a musically mature group.”

A choir cabinet for the Iowa State Singers is also another way students are involved. The cabinet consists of a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and two social chairs. All members are selected by the choir, as opposed to being selected by Rodde like the section leaders.

Along with performing locally for the ISU and Ames communities, the group has performed in other countries including Scandinavia, China, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the Baltics. In addition, the Iowa State Singers performed at the 2009 American Choral Directors Association National Convention, in Oklahoma. Being only one of four mixed choirs to be invited to the convention shows how successful the program is, Rodde said.

“We are very fortunate to be invited to such events,” Rodde said. “The people in Ames need to know that our choirs are being nationally recognized.”

Traditionally, the students sing “Bells of Iowa State,” as do other ensembles in the music department. The mixed choir also performs an annual madrigal concert in January. A madrigal is a vocal music composition that comes from Renaissance Italy and has become popular in some high school and college music programs in the United States. Students in the Iowa States Singers, like Adams, take pride in being part of the group.

“I really enjoy all the people who surround me,” Adams said. “Not only are they extremely gifted and talented, they are some of the greatest people I have met. True friends can really be made through this program.”

When asked what his favorite memory after being the director of Iowa State Singers for 13 years, Rodde at first didn’t think he had one.

“There is no one moment, but lots of memories like the National Convention in ‘09 in Oklahoma,” Rodde said. He later noted “some of the faces” he has seen during his time here.

While the performances themselves are important to him, Rodde enjoys the rehearsals as well, hoping that the students in his class can “walk away changed, a foot taller than when they walked in.”

The Iowa State Singers will have their first official concert Oct. 7 in West Des Moines, joining with Waukee High School’s choir. On Oct. 14, the choir will have a combined fall concert with the other ISU choirs in Stephens Auditorium, and then a stand alone concert on Oct. 21 in Music Hall.

To learn more about the Iowa State Singers, James Rodde, a schedule of events or about the other choirs at Iowa State, check out the music department’s choir page at: