Our Staff


Barbara Sletto, Artistic Director

Barbara Sletto is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Heartland Youth Choir. Prior to her work with the Heartland Youth Choir, 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.

Barbara is an Assistant Professor at Drake University in Des Moines. She conducts the Drake Women's Chorale.

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 completed her Masters of Arts in Music Education 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.



Lori Blachford, Director of Marketing and Development

Lori Blachford is the Director of Marketing & Development for Heartland Youth Choir. She comes to HYC from Drake University, where she was chair of magazine journalism. Since 2015, her focus has been helping area non-profits navigate the ever-more-complicated communications landscape.

Lori's connection to the central Iowa media and business communities spans three decades. She worked for The Des Moines Register and Meredith Corporation before making the switch to full-time teaching. At Drake, she developed an absolute devotion to student success, which is something she aims to continue at HYC. In addition, Lori still teaches social media and reporting/writing courses for adult learners. 

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 at Grinnell College and takes bagpipe lessons in his spare time. 

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Kim Novy, Director of Business

Kim Novy is the Director of Business for Heartland Youth Choir. In addition to her work with Heartland Youth Choir, she is an independent consultant providing administrative services to another non-profit organization. 

Kim brings years of financial and administrative experience to Heartland Youth Choir. She worked in the banking industry for five years prior to becoming a full-time mother and homemaker. Kim also worked at Grace Church in Des Moines 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. She also spends many hours advocating for children with special health care needs; a cause that is near and dear to her heart.


Sandy Miller, Associate Conductor:  Sandy Miller is an elementary music specialist in the Johnston School District at Timber Ridge Elementary. She studied music education at the University of Northern Iowa, has received 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. She is on the board for Iowa Music Educators Association and has presented at the IMEA conference, ICDA, and has directed elementary honor choirs around Iowa. Working with children to lead them to a life with music and constant learning is Sandy's passion. 


Eve Thomas, Assistant Conductor:  Eve Thomas 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 May 2017 with a BME degree, and is certified in level one of the Kodaly Methodology. She also directs the children’s choir at West Des Moines United Methodist Church. 


Jim Cacciatore, Assistant Conductor:  Jim Cacciatore's experience working with young singers includes jobs as director of vocal music for Ankeny Community Schools and as director of vocal music for West Des Moines Valley High School. He's currently director of the adult choir at Windsor Heights Lutheran Church and a volunteer with the Des Moines Playhouse, where he recently served as pit orchestra conductor for "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and "Sister Act." Jim's education includes a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from both St. John's University and the College of Saint Benedict. He's also a graduate of Dowling Catholic High School.   

Kathy Gedler, Accompanist:  Kathy Gedler is a vocal music instructor at Stilwell Junior High School in West Des Moines. She has been teaching vocal music since 1987. 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 accompanied various levels of the Heartland Youth Choir since 2003, and plays for mass each week at St. Theresa's Church in Des Moines. Kathy has served as Middle School/Junior High Repertoire & Standards chair for ICDA.


Ruth Dorr, Accompanist:  Ruth Dorr teaches general music at Crestview School of Inquiry  in the West Des Moines Schools. She also conducts the 70-voice 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:  Cassie Carpenter 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.


Tom Sletto, Accompanist:  Tom Sletto is currently Professor of Music Education at Drake University. In addition, he is a Minister of Music at West Des Moines United Methodist Church. Tom received his B.A. in Music Education from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN and he completed the Master of Arts in Music Education from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. He has served on boards and committees of various professional organizations including the national Organization of American Kodály Educators, Iowa & Indiana Kodály Educators, and Iowa Choral Directors Association. In his over 30 years of music education experience, Tom has taught vocal, general, and instrumental music to students Pre-K through adult.



Sharon Parker-Lenihan, Vocal Coach Chamber/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.