Barney Sherman

Classical Music Host

Barney Sherman joined Iowa Public Radio member station KSUI in fall 2001 as Classical music host. In his role with Iowa Public Radio, Barney hosts weekday and Sunday afternoon Classical programs. He has written about music in books for Oxford and Cambridge University Presses and in articles for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Journal of the American Musicological Society, Early Music, and many other publications. Another topic he has written about is Iowa, for The Atlantic (and for Iowa Public Radio!).

Ways to Connect

Indiana University School of Music

Where can you hear a full hour of Baroque Christmas music by Manuel de Sumaya - the greatest Mexican composer of the era? And the St. Olaf Christmas Festival? And Handel's Messiah led by one America's foremost choral conductors, Betsy Burleigh? (That's her picture.) You got it - on IPR Classical! Here's our Christmas Day classical schedule:

Christoph Müller-Girod / via Flickr

After wcfso's Messiah and the live Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, IPR Classical's Christmas Eve programming continues all day and evening with everything from Brubeck to Whitacre - including some outstanding Iowa events!


Since 1918 - a month after the Armistice - King's College, Cambridge has celebrated Christmas Eve with "A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols." And since 1928  - even during World War II, when the stained glass windows had to be removed for safety - the event has been broadcast live. You can hear the 2014 Festival as it happens on (what for us is ) Wednesday at 9 AM on IPR Classical. The Festival was meant to be innovative, so every year , in addition to old favorites, the choir commissions a new choral piece.


IPR's Holiday programming continues with two homegrown Iowa classics: from Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Handel's Messiah with the wcfso and Metropolitan Choir (at 7 PM), and from Decorah, this year's "Christmas at Luther" broadcast, titled "And on Earth, Peace" (at 8 PM).  The Messiah excerpts were recorded at a community sing held at the Gallagher-Bluedorn last weekend - join us for the highlights at 7!


I was working on a post about a fascinating footnote to American cultural history: that half of our popular Christmas songs were written by my people, the Jews.  Before I'd made it through the first draft, I tuned to Iowa Public Radio and discovered that I'd been scooped by Here & Now, to which I can only say, "Phew!" Here is their "A Goyische Christmas to You," about a show done annually by pianist/vocal coach extraordinaire Steven Blier.

It was a good year for chamber music, orchestras, fusion and harmonies. That's according to two of IPR's music hosts who shared their favorite recordings of 2014.

Margareta Mitchell

In 2014, two American composers whose name begin with "John" and end with "Adams" were surprised to find themselves in front-page headlines. One of them,  John Luther Adams, says he never imagined that he'd win the Pulitzer Prize - but it was bestowed in April on his orchestral work Become Ocean (here's the All Things Considered story).


Recently I invited you to vote for the 3 classical works you wish everyone could experience at least once - the "Musts" you'd urge your friends to put on their bucket lists. The votes are in, and you can hear Iowa's Top 10 picks on my show Sunday from noon to 4 PM.  I'll tell you what won, and of course I'll play samples from outstanding recordings. (Later I'll post the list with links and information.) Join me - as you'll hear, Iowa's recommendations are awesome!

 Welcome to IPR's Classical CD Review Page! Check in weekly for new reviews by IPR staff and friends near and far.

public domain/ wikipedia

As promised, the classical Halloween countdown continues - thanks for your input!  Yesterday I posted eight picks; here are five more classical scares to bring my total Web count up to 13. [Updated Oct. 2015: Most of these pieces (and a few others) will get an airing Friday, either during my shift (1-5 pm) or before or after; meanwhile, ] Here are some youtube versions.


It's that time again! If you have any classical-music Halloween favorites, write to us at Here are a few possibilities just to get the conversation started; tomorrow I'll post a few more.  To start things off:

Steve Bowbrick via

His series on the 50 greatest symphonies is unsurpassed; his guide to contemporary music is unequaled; his book on conductors, Music as Alchemy, is the best of its genre. Tom Service is among the finest music writers

When the Folias Duo came to Iowa, the husband-wife pair's first stop was Cedar Falls, where they played a live set in IPR Classical's Studio Two. They'd been on the road for seven hours, but their zest was irresistible. Try it: here's a video of their IPR performance of Cumparsita Vals,  a waltz-time reimagining of the classic tango La Cumparsita by Argentine composer Pablo Aslan:

Sunday Baroque

Every Sunday morning  Suzanne Bona brings us gems from before Mozart on  Sunday Baroque and Barney Sherman follows with four hours of great music.

Sheila Rock for EMI Classics

Last year the Qatar Philharmonic made headlines when it hired Han-Na Chang to be its music director. The South Korean woman raised the ensemble to international standards, and its London debut earlier this month got rave reviews. Then, hours afterwards, Chang quit, citing “persistent administrative difficulties and irreconcilable artistic differences with the management.” You can hear the concert that won over London tonight at 7 on IPRClassical.

Iowa's orchestras, choirs, bands, & operas are awesome, but let's not forget our chamber music! Tune in 7AM Saturday or 8PM Sunday to hear two recent highlight from the Ames Town & Gown Chamber Music Association, now in its 65th season.

Stephen Danelian

Join Krista Tippett at this link to hear Yo-Yo Ma "share his philosophy of curiosity about life and of performance as hospitality." This episode of On Being is a must for every music lover!

Presidential hopefuls need to clear all kinds of hurdles. Some are unique to politics, but one is familiar to every Iowan: getting our state's place-names right. While some of them (like Atlantic) are clear from the spelling, others trip newbies up. Louisa County? Not like my cousin's first name. Madrid? Not like the city in Spain. Nevada? Not like that state out west. You can’t take anything for granted. But you're not on your own - Iowa Public Radio has you covered. Below is our handy audio guide to pronouncing Iowa place names.

Earlier this year I posted about "Iowa orchestras making music about Iowa " - and one work discussed was Rock Island Line by Jacob Bancks, commissioned and premiered by the Quad City Symphony Orchestra and broadcast on IPR's Symphonies of Iowa. Bancks, who teaches at Augustana College, told me that

In what ways could music relate to the human voice without Auto-Tune or even, necessarily, language - or, for that matter, even singing? New classical CDs are exploring a fascinating range of possibilities, and several are either by or about Iowans. In reverse chronological order, here are five standouts:

He would have cranked up his radio louder and louder as his hearing got worse, but there's no doubt that if public radio had existed, Beethoven would have been an addict. And according to Jan Swafford, "People who knew Beethoven said politics was his favorite subject." So in addition to IPR Classical, I'd bet LvB would have had a preset for IPR's News/Talk stream. Do you seriously think this man would have missed an episode of All Things Considered?

In May, Simon Estes came to IPR to talk about his life and work, and one hour seemed way too short! His history is extraordinary: his grandparents were slaves, his father was a miner in Centerville, IA , then a major coal town, and he grew up to become one of the world's greatest opera singers. He broke many color barriers, including becoming the first black man to sing lead roles at the Bayreuth Festival (founded by Richard Wagner to showcase his operas). Dr.

In my post Is Parity Time Here for the Classical Violin? I mention a list I put together of classical solo violinists born after 1970, which I said illustrates my thesis that the field has attained gender parity. I mentioned, however, that the list is provisional - the best I could come up with from my perch in northeast Iowa - and that I welcome your input. Let me know what I missed, but meanwhile, here's the list:

To paraphrase my previous post, if you think women have it bad in classical music, take a look at supposedly contemporary arts like film, literature, rock, jazz, blues, and country

Listen below to a podcast of a live set from our studio Monday featuring four stellar young musicians from ChamberFest Dubuque.  Dubuque native Michael Gilbertson founded the festival in 2009; since then his compositions have won the Israel Prize and major awards from ASCAP and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and have been performed by the Washington National Opera, the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, a

Join us Monday at 7 PM to hear the Quad City Symphony in Beethoven, Brahms, and ... Bancks. In March, the orchestra premiered a work by local composer Jacob Bancks specifically about the Quad Cities.

NPR’s Anastasia Tsioulcas just wrote a scathingly brilliant post about the “fat-shaming” of the gifted Irish mezzo Tara Erraught by a plague of British critics, who sounded like teenage boys as they dissed not Erraught's singing but the supposed flaws of her body.

Andrew Eccles

When sworn enemies shrug and say, “What was THAT about?” it’s worth noticing, especially when they add, “You know, you’re making some good points.”  Something like that may be happening in classical music performance.

Join us tonight at 7PM to hear the wcfsymphony premiere a work by Decorah-based composer Brooke Joyce and perform Mahler's First Symphony. Below are my impressions of the April concert (which I posted here on April 9th) - tune in and see what YOU think!

Yuri Vedenyapin

Before there was "Who's on first?" there was the similar routine, "Weinstein? Einstein!" by the Yiddish standup team Dzigan & Schumacher.