Ken Berg Returns to Meet the Composer Festival


Ken Berg will bring more than four decades of experience in music education, choir conducting, and song writing to Des Moines this April as the visiting artist for the Meet the Composer Festival.

The two-day choral festival, organized by Heartland Youth Choir, will take place April 7 – 8 at First Christian Church. More than 300 Iowa singers in grades 4 – 12 are registered to participate in the event, which will include a public concert each day of the festival.

Choirs from Ames, Des Moines, Grinnell, Sioux City, Waukee, and West Des Moines, as well as a large group of singers from Perry, will participate. Students will work with Berg during the day. Then choirs will perform individually and as part of a large festival choir during concerts Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Different choirs and different music will be featured each day. 

The singers are preparing music by Berg for the festival, and the choices are plentiful. Berg, music director and resident composer for the Birmingham (Ala.) Boys Choir, has published more than 150 original works in his career. He has written music for choirs of all ages, but he’s especially skilled at developing young voices.

Berg was director of choirs at John Carroll Catholic High School in Birmingham for 28 years. He has served as an officer with the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) and has also served on the Training Courses Committee of the Royal School of Church Music in America. Additionally, he is an adjunct instructor at his alma mater, Samford University.

He was also the guest artist for the first Meet the Composer Festival in 2007. Barbara Sletto, artistic director for Heartland Youth Choir and a composer herself, developed the festival as a way for young singers in her own choir and across Iowa to have a unique learning experience.

“When the students sing,” says Sletto, “I want them to feel a connection, not only to the notes and the words, but to why a piece was written, why it’s important, and how it can continue to live forever.”

As a celebration of a living artist and his work, the festival is the only one of its kind in Iowa. The concerts will include 21 songs by Berg, who will also share information about the motivation and inspiration behind his songs with audience members.

The concerts will take place at First Christian Church in Des Moines, 2500 University Avenue. Tickets are just $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors and will be available at the door.

For more information about Heartland Youth Choir, please visit or call 515-221-3922. Email:

This is the 10th Meet the Composer Festival organized by Heartland Youth Choir. Previous Meet the Composer clinicians include Ken Berg, Jim Papoulis, Mark Sirrett, Z. Randall Stroope, Stephen Hatfield, Paul Caldwell, Sean Ivory, Jay Broeker, Rollo Dilworth, and Andrea Ramsey.

Ken Berg at the first Meet the Composer Festival in 2007. 

Ken Berg at the first Meet the Composer Festival in 2007. 

Posted on March 14, 2017 .