Our Staff

Barbara Sletto, Artistic Program Director

Barbara founded Heartland Youth Choir in 2003. Prior to that she was the Artistic Director of the Iowa Youth Chorus, the Des Moines Children's Choruses, the Anderson Area Children's Choir of Anderson, Indiana, and the Lakes Treble Choir of Minnesota.

As a specialist in the voices of youth, Barbara frequently serves as a guest conductor for high school and elementary festival choirs and all-state honor choirs. Under her direction, choirs have performed for national and regional conferences in Alabama, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas.

In addition, Barbara has guest conducted at various summer choir camps throughout the United States, including the International Music Camp, the Wisconsin Summer Music Clinic, the Indiana Choral Director's Summer Music Institute, the Virginia Kodaly Summer Music Camp, the Drake School of Music Summer Camp, the Heartland Choral Camp, and the International Music Institute.

Barbara has a Masters of Arts in Music Education degree with a Kodaly emphasis from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is also trained in Orff and Dalcroze methodology. She is a frequent clinician for music educators throughout the United States.

Barbara has fulfilled twelve commissioned works for treble choirs including commissions for Iowa and Indiana All-State choirs. Her compositions are published with Plymouth Music Company, Colla Voce Publishing, and Alliance Publishing Company.


Kim Novy, Director of Business

Kim brings years of financial and administrative experience to Heartland Youth Choir. She worked in the banking industry prior to becoming a full-time mother and homemaker.  In addition to her work with HYC, Kim works as an Administrative Consultant for another non-profit organization. Kim also worked in a local church as a Ministry Assistant in both the Membership and Children/Youth Ministries.

Kim possesses years of volunteer experience in both her church and children’s schools as well as serving on the Advisory Board of the Epilepsy Foundation Iowa. She spends many hours advocating for children with special health-care needs, a cause that is near and dear to her heart.


Lori Blachford, Director of Marketing and Development

Lori's connection to the central Iowa media and business communities spans three decades. She worked as a writer and editor for The Des Moines Register and Meredith Corporation before making the switch to full-time teaching in the Drake University School of Journalism.

Lori left Drake to start her own consulting business, devoted to helping area non-profits tell their stories and reach a larger audience of supporters. She’s on the board at the Iowa Radio Reading Information Service, and an eager participant in the Power Read program with Everybody Wins! Iowa and the United Way.

She says her greatest contribution to music in Iowa are her two sons. One sang in a choir directed by Barbara and Tom Sletto in the late 1990s; the other is a jazz musician who studies math at CUNY.


Sharon Parker-Lenihan, Vocal Coach (Chante and Cantemus Choirs)

Sharon's career spans 45 years in Des Moines as a music educator, soloist, and choir director and voice coach for the Des Moines Children’s Choruses. She attended Drake University and the University of Southern California.

Sharon spent many years serving Plymouth Congregational UCC as director in the Plymouth Children's Choir Program and most recently as the Director of Music and Fine Arts. She was a featured soloist with the Des Moines Symphony, the Des Moines Choral Society, and Plymouth Fine Arts Series. 




Sandy Miller, Artistic Director

Sandy studied music education at the University of Northern Iowa.  Passionate about education and music, She went on to receive her mastery in the Kodaly levels, and has taken classes in Orff for her level II certification. In 2017 Sandy received her Masters Degree in Educational Leadership and Curriculum from Drake University. 

Currently, she is also an adjunct professor at Grand View College, teaching elementary music methods. Sandy has taught elementary music for the past 20 years at Des Moines Public Schools, St. Augustin, and most recently in the Johnston Community School District. She has presented at the IMEA conference, ICDA, and has directed elementary honor choirs around Iowa. 

In addition to overseeing all of Heartland Youth Choir, she is the primary conductor for Cantilena, Chante, and Cantemus choirs. Working with children and adults to lead them to a life with music and constant learning is her passion.


Jim Cacciatore, Associate Conductor (Chamber Choir)

Jim’s experience as a choral director has ranged from boys’ choirs, to high school choirs, to church choirs, and everything in between.

A Des Moines native, Jim has taught in the West Des Moines and Ankeny school systems. He is a graduate of Dowling Catholic High School and received his Bachelor of Arts degree from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, and a Master of Music degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

He has served as the High School Repertoire and Standards Chair as well as the Jazz Choir and All-State Jazz Choir Chair for the Iowa Choral Directors’ Association. And he has directed the adult choir at Windsor Heights Lutheran Church since 1999.

In addition, Jim has been involved in productions at the Des Moines Playhouse as pit orchestra conductor and stage manager. His three children were choristers in HYC and his involvement in the organization dates back to its inception.


Kathy Gedler, Accompanist (Cantemus and Chamber choirs)

Kathy is a vocal music instructor at Stilwell Junior High School in West Des Moines. She has been teaching vocal music since 1987, specializing in the area of middle school choirs.

Kathy received her Bachelor of Music Education with an emphasis in piano from Simpson College in Indianola, and her Masters of Arts in Education from Viterbo University. She has served as Middle School/Junior High Repertoire & Standards chair for ICDA.

Kathy has accompanied various levels of the Heartland Youth Choir since 2003, plays for services at St. Theresa's Church in Des Moines, and enjoys accompanying at solo festivals. She and her husband, Tim, are parents of three musicians and two cats.


Eve Thomas, Assistant Conductor (Canto and Cantilena choirs)

Eve teaches music at Fisher and Woodbury Elementary Schools in Marshalltown. She joined Heartland Youth Choir in 2016 as an intern with the Cantemus Choir.

Eve graduated from Drake University in 2017 with a BME degree and is certified in level one of both the Kodaly and Orff Methodologies.


Ruth Dorr, Accompanist (Chante Choir)

Ruth teaches general music at Crestview School of Inquiry in the West Des Moines Schools. She also conducts a choir of 5th- and 6th-grade students. Under her direction, the choir has performed at festivals, conventions, and many community events. Dorr is trained in the Kodaly and Orff approaches to music education and is active as a conductor, clinician, and adjudicator throughout Iowa. 


Cassie Carpenter, Accompanist (Canto and Cantilena choirs)

Cassie is a vocal music instructor at Indian Hills Junior High in the West Des Moines school district. She has a Bachelor of Music Education from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Cassie has been teaching vocal music since 2006. In addition to teaching, she has been a clinician and accompanist at solo and ensemble festivals and enjoys playing and singing for weddings.