In September 1988, Ames High School choral director Gary Schwartzhoff auditioned the first members of his new adult choral ensemble, the Ames Chamber Artists. The first concert was held December 17, 1988, at the First Baptist Church in Ames. Since that time, nearly 150 people have been members of ACA, including ten accompanists. As we enter our 2021-2022 season, we still have two of the original members singing with us: Louis Banitt and Barbara Schendel.
Schwartzhoff directed for three seasons before becoming director of choral activities at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. Everett Johnson led the group for the next seven seasons. Marin Jacobson led the group from 1998 to 2006. James Rodde, director of choral activities at Iowa State University, was selected as musical director and conductor for the 2006-2007 concert season. David Johnson took the reins as musical director in 2016 and remains our musical director today.
ACA has commissioned 16 pieces by 15 different composers, and has performed over 350 choral works. In 1995, the Iowa Choral Directors Association invited ACA to perform as guest artists at their summer symposium in Mason City. Collaborations with the music department at Iowa State University include the Ames International Orchestra Festival Chorus performance with the Warsaw Philharmonic in 1997, the Holiday Festival of Music on two occasions, the ISU Celebrity Series in 2003, and for the residency of composer Libby Larsen in April 2006. ACA has joined forces with the Central Iowa Symphony twice, in 1998 and again in March 2003.
In keeping with our mission of enlightening and educating audiences, ACA members have shared their love of choral music with numerous student groups. In addition to performing with choirs at ISU, ACA has sung with the Central College Choir, the Ames Children’s Choirs and high school choirs from Ames, Gilbert, and Boone. This mission has also taken us to 12 different communities in central Iowa.
Below is a video produced for our 25th anniversary season.