The Des Moines Symphony’s Sophia Ahmad said the organization aimed to put together a season full of “big, monumental concerts.” Photo by Duane Tinkey
The Des Moines Symphony’s Sophia Ahmad said the organization aimed to put together a season full of “big, monumental concerts.” Photo by Duane Tinkey


For more than seven decades, the Des Moines Symphony has brought classical concerts and instrumental artistry to the city. Begun in 1937 as the Drake/Des Moines Symphony, the organization has grown to be the state’s largest and most active performing arts producing organization.

“You get to hear Des Moines’ take on original artwork,” said Sophia Ahmad, the symphony’s director of marketing and public relations. “Hearing 70-plus musicians on stage, all contributing to one sound, is incredible.”

To celebrate 75 years, the Des Moines Symphony has put together a “bucket list” set of pieces.

“We really aimed to put together a season full of big, monumental concerts,” Ahmad said. “These are pieces you’d be lucky enough to hear in a lifetime, let alone all in one season.”

The organization worked hard to compile a list of works that celebrate its history as well as its future and to bring in world-renowned guest musicians.

To kick the season off, the symphony will premiere a new piece written by a Midwestern composer and inspired by the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. It also will perform pieces from its inaugural 1937 season and continue its “beyond the score” presentation, which incorporates multimedia into the performance to give the audience a behind-the-scenes story of the work.

Outside of the symphony’s Masterworks concert series, which runs from September to May, the orchestra performs family concerts and the seasonal shows New Year’s Eve Pops and Yankee Doodle Pops.

The symphony recently relocated its administration offices from the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines to The Temple for Performing Arts, where it has always housed its academy, which teaches 450 people each week through private lessons, adult classes and youth classes.

Ahmad said the symphony has made a conscious effort to keep ticket prices affordable, including discounted student tickets, and to remove the intimidation factor. Regular tickets start at $15; student tickets are half price.

“We want people from all ages and all walks of life to enjoy the symphony,” she said. “We don’t want it to be a hoity-toity place.”