Music News

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We are about halfway through 2020, as remarkable as that might seem. Here are some of Karen Impola's favorite new folk releases so far this year. 

nicoleleec / Flickr

We've reached the halfway point of 2020.  It's been a tumultuous year, but we have plenty of good music to encourage and inspire us.  Here are some of our favorites!

Broadway shows will remain closed until at least Jan. 3, 2021 according to an announcement from the Broadway League, an organization representing theater producers and owners, which said that ticket holders will be able to get refunds or exchanges for a future date.

How can it be possible that we're only halfway through the year? On its relentless whiplash toward the middle, the first six months of 2020 have reframed, redefined, shocked, torn down, confounded and crumbled our expectations, our priorities, our concepts of distance and closeness, of responsibility, of tragedy, of joy. They changed how we listened to music, too: so often alone, through wires and screens and glitches and delays. But in six full months packed with moments where we needed music to cope with challenges new and old, there was so much to see us through.

sorenly / Flickr

One unfortunate side effect of the pandemic is that group singing is not recommended, as it seems to be a very effective way to spread the virus. Like many others, my place of worship is now meeting on Zoom. Instead of singing together, we get to listen to solos from our choir director. I can sing along from the privacy of my couch and even experiment with inventing harmony parts, but it’s not the same.

I’ve been digging around YouTube looking for interesting examples of traditional group singing to enjoy vicariously. The world has an amazing variety of singing styles, and here are just a few to tide you over until we can sing together in person again.

A week before President Trump held his controversial campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., was when Viviana Dark, a K-pop fan from Wisconsin (who has requested pseudonymity over concerns of online harassment), first heard of plans to "sabotage" the event. Users on TikTok, the exceptionally popular social-video platform, were urging others to reserve tickets to the rally, with no intention of actually going. "You know how a TikTok challenge happens? It was kind of like that. 'Everybody go do this!' And it spread like wildfire," Dark, 19, tells NPR Music.

AP Photo / FILE

Even 50 years after their breakup, the Beatles still hold the distinction of "greatest band ever" for IPR's Mark Simmet. Here's why. 

Alyssa Leicht / Des Moines Music Coalition

The Des Moines Music Coalition (DMMC), the nonprofit organization behind 80/35 and other area music festivals, has taken their annual summer music camps online this year. Registration is now open for their virtual hip-hop and rock band camps for students across Iowa ages 11-18.

On Tuesday, the National Endowment for the Arts announced its newest class of National Heritage fellows: 10 artists, ensembles and cultural workers who represent the richness and breadth of America's traditional arts. They range from one of the pioneers of the Memphis sound of Southern soul to an Ojibwe birchbark canoe builder.

kjbax / Flickr

This Sunday is Father’s Day. In honor of that fact, here are five videos of musical fathers and their grown children performing together.

Penn State / Flickr

Classical music can feel daunting to dig into if you’ve not had a lot of exposure to the genre. There are lots of terms, styles, composers, and performers, and if you are unfamiliar, it can feel tough to break in. Since schools adjourned due to the pandemic, we’ve been working to create resources for learners of all ages. This summer, we’re going to dig into classical music for the non-classical listener.

There are many composers who have written amazing music, and this is by no means a definitive list. But if you’re just wondering where to start, these incredible writers serve as a great jumping off point and each have enough repertoire to keep you busy for a while.

Duane Tinkey / DMMO

For close to 50 summers, the Des Moines Metro Opera has been presenting knock-your-socks-off performances in Indianola. The DMMO, considered one of the major American summer opera festivals, produces more than 100 performances annually and receives rave reviews from the nationally acclaimed “Opera News” and “Opera Today.”

Since 2011, IPR Classical has traveled to Indianola to interview artists, produce and broadcast The Des Moines Metro Opera’s nationally-recognized mainstage performances.

Due to COVID-19, it was with a heavy heart the company had to cancel its live summer festival season. Instead, the opera is presenting a virtual festival. 

Judi Blum

Fred Love lives by the phrase “DIY for life!” It’s served him well over the last few months. Like all of us, he and his family are getting by as best they can, and now Love has documented his experiences on his new EP “Nine Days.”

Steven Pisano / Flickr

Classical music can feel daunting to dig into if you’ve not had a lot of exposure to the genre or didn’t grow up playing an instrument. There are lots of terms, styles, composers, and performers, and if you are unfamiliar, it can feel tough to break in. Since schools adjourned due to the pandemic, we’ve been working to create resources for learners of all ages. This summer, we’re going to dig into classical music for the non-classical listener. 

Iowa Juneteenth Celebration Goes Virtual

Jun 10, 2020
Madeleine King / IPR File

On June 19, people across the nation will celebrate the 155th anniversary of the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved black Americans in Texas, the final state to announce the end of slavery. The holiday is referred to as Juneteenth.


In observance of the holiday and in light of recent worldwide attention for the Black Lives Matter movement, music distribution website Bandcamp will be donating their share of sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Iowans can also celebrate the 30th anniversary of Iowa Juneteenth by attending this year’s three-day virtual festival, streaming via DSMTV Live June 18–20.

Justin Kamstra

Noah Deist, a young singer-songwriter from South Dakota, is hoping to spread his message of hope and positivity through his new song, “Lay It Out.”

Based in Sioux Falls, Deist is a student at Dordt University in Sioux Center. Due to circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s currently living with his family in Washington, D.C. He began playing music at an early age and has gotten more serious about his songwriting within the last year.


Decorah composer Ben Hippen studied music at Harvard in the 1980s, then programmed music software, then went in the 1990s to work on a feature film in Eritrea. The country touched something in him deeply and he stayed, teaching music and immersing himself in Eritrea's languages, songs and culture. What drove him away at the turn of the century was the Eritrean-Ethiopian War.

Janine Robinson / Unsplash

Jazz musicians have always faced systems of discrimination in America. One insidious example was the cabaret card, a form of identification required for any musician to work in a New York nightclub from 1940 to 1967. The New York Police Department administered these licenses and revoked them for any minor infraction. 

Erik Brown / Courtesy of Lefty's Live Music

Iowa’s live music community has suffered greatly due to government-forced closures that were intended to slow the spread of COVID-19, but as venues are allowed to reopen, there are mixed feelings among musicians, venue owners and concert promoters. With social distancing and capacity-limiting regulation, live music in Iowa will look and feel different for the foreseeable future. 

Madeleine King / IPR File

The sixth annual Hinterland Music Festival, originally scheduled for July 31–August 2, 2020, has been postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. The festival has been rescheduled to August 6–8, 2021, at its usual location at the Avenue of the Saints Amphitheater in St. Charles.

Nick Rohlman / Special to IPR

Pandemic or not, musicians and songwriters want their music to be heard.  Iowa City's Jordan Sellergren released her new album "Sweet, Bitter Tears" on May 1.

Mollie Ryan

EleanorGrace never imagined she’d be releasing a new song in the midst of a global pandemic. But that’s what happened, and she’s actually pretty excited about it.

Orchestra Iowa / Facebook

Orchestra Iowa, situated in Cedar Rapids and under the direction of Tim Hankewich, has announced its 2020-2021 season, which includes a yearlong celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday with a twist. They’re taking a unique focus and plan to pay tribute to Iowa’s Czech heritage and explore Beethoven’s works supported by his Czech patron, Prince Joseph Franz von Lobkowicz. 

The first in-person concerts of the season are currently scheduled for mid-September. 

Jason Bell

This Memorial Day weekend, renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma will perform Bach's six cello suites in memory of those lost during the pandemic and in honor of those serving on the front lines of the battle against coronavirus. 

"A Musical Memorial and Tribute: Yo-Yo Ma Plays Bach's Cello Suites Live" will take place live in the studios of WGBH (Boston).

Adi Goldstein / Unsplash

Remember that old recorder, band or orchestra instrument tucked away in the closet? Now is your chance to dust off your talents, get lessons, and dive back in. Some of Iowa’s top-notch classical musicians and music schools are teaching online music lessons right now using Facetime, Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts to keep music education alive during the pandemic.

Courtesy of MarKaus / Facebook

Des Moines hip-hop artist Markaus has shared the music video for “Essence,” the first single  from his new EP, “Burn The Boats.” The EP shares its name with a limited edition whiskey produced under Markaus’ Ziyad Rye brand.

Chad Elliott / Facebook

Here’s a collection of five newly-written songs by midwestern folk musicians.

Lydia Mann / Flickr

Sunday is Mother’s Day. Music, especially Folk music, is often passed down in families. Here are five examples of mothers making music with their grown children.

Photo Courtesy of Ben Loeb

Music buffs usually associate the “Three B’s” as the trio of the classical geniuses Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. This Friday, IPR’s Steinway Cafe is honoring at least one of those. 

IPR Classical's Steinway Cafe series hosts live, in-studio performance on our renovated 1918 Steinway piano over the noon hour. Due to social distancing measures and ongoing health concerns surrounding COVID-19, we’re hosting the first virtual Steinway Cafe performance on Friday, May 8 on Facebook and streaming at 

Dallas Tuttle / IPR File

There is one thing all musicians rely on – the alchemy of songwriting. Without it, there is no performance; there is no product. There is no recording; there is no live stream. There is no way to reach an audience. The song is also the most mysterious thing about an artist’s craft. 

Even in the new COVID-19 reality, artists have adapted and found ways to share their work. While venues remain closed, many artists and bands have replaced the live, in-person experience, with online performances. But what, if anything, has changed about songwriting itself?