February 23, 2023

AHS Choirs Celebrate Former Directors

Choir Directors 1

Every Ames High choir director since 1987 was in attendance Monday night at the Winter Choral Concert. AHS choir groups performing included the freshmen choir, concert choir (10th through 12th grade), concert chorale (auditioned choir for freshmen through seniors), and the Ames Chamber Artists.

The freshmen choir performed “Song of the Sea” featuring David Lee on flute, “Music in the Night” and “The Cuckoo” with Samantha Berg on percussion. Concert choir sang “Bist du bei mir”, “December’s Keep” and “Bird’s Courting Song” featuring Lee and Johanna Sulc on tuba.

The concert chorale sang the following arrangements: “Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind”, “I Wish You Love”, and “Wangol”. “Wangol” is sung in Haitian Creole, and AHS world languages teacher Anne Deam, who speaks the language, helped with pronunciation.

The Ames Chamber Artists, founded in 1988 by Dr. Gary Schwartzhoff who was also the director of choral music at AHS from 1987-1991, performed “Hold On!” They then joined voices with the concert chorale to sing “Let my Love be Heard.”

Steven Linn, the director of choral music at Ames High from 1991 to 2017, had a bittersweet outlook on the new building during his homecoming.

“It’s kind of sad seeing the old building come down, but it’s fun to see this community move forward and build this beautiful facility,” he said. “I’m so thrilled for the students and faculty that get to enjoy this space for years to come. Acoustically, it’s just absolutely top notch.”

Peggy Dieter, an assistant director from 2005 to 2017 and director from 2017 until her retirement in 2021, echoed Linn’s thoughts.

“It was delightful to see the new building,” she said. “It’s been delightful for me to hear this auditorium that we dreamed of for so long.”

Karen Stewart, the assistant director of choral activities from 1997 to 2005 also performed Monday night.

“I’m honored to be here,” she said. “The power of music. So many unique individuals can come together, collaborate, and enjoy each other’s company. I’m speechless, it’s wonderful.”

Second year choir director, Joe Strong. was excited for all the connections brought about by the night.

“It’s such a cool thing to be connected with the groups before me,” he said. “I’m hearing different stories about how this building came to be and what the program was like before I got here. Connecting that story all together means a lot.”

The highlight of the night was Schwartzhoff conducting “To Music” with 200 voices in all of the choirs present that night. The song was arranged by Alice Jordan (1916-2012), a piece commissioned for the Concert Chorale while Schwartzhoff was the director in 1990.

Schwartzhoff was visibly moved by the warm welcome, both by the students and the full crowd in the auditorium. Like the others, he too is very excited about the new auditorium.

“I congratulate the taxpayers, this is phenomenal. I’m glad the community stepped up to support education,” Schwartzhoff said. “The auditorium here seems lovely.”

When Schwartzhoff came to Ames, there were about 70 students in the choir, and by the time he left in 1991, the program had over 270 students. The tradition of student interest in AHS choirs continues to this day. 

“When the phone rang, I was really taken by– first of all that someone thought enough of the experience to invite us back,” Schwartzhoff said. “I have been in this business for 52 years, the four years we were at Ames High were unlike any other years of my life.”