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

Photo by Henryk Kotowski / Wikimedia

Iowa Public Radio’s staff has no idea whether Bob Dylan will show up to collect his Nobel Prize in Literature. (We realize he's been to Stockholm before - the photo is from a gig there in 1996 - and that he's accepted major awards, like this one in 2012, but this time?

Frans Jansen

Wednesday at 7PM is your chance to hear a concert featuring a great new South African soprano and a young woman who is the talk of the conducting profession. Lithuanian conductor Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla just took the reins of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; at 29, she is its first woman Music Director (a post previously held by Sir Simon Rattle and Andris Nelsons). Mirga.

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation / Wikimedia Commons

The long-running public radio program A Prairie Home Companion will sound much different beginning this Saturday, as new host Chris Thile takes the reins on a permanent basis.

Des Moines Metro Opera

"An ideal introduction to the art form.... the most cogent [Manon] in memory" - that's what Opera News said about Des Moines Metro Opera's "meticulously crafted" Massenet. Hear it Saturday at 8PM or Sunday at 3PM on IPR's "Operas in October" series, hosted and produced by Jacqueline Halbloom.

The Iowa floods of 2008 destroyed thousands of structures, including the University of Iowa's Voxman Music Building. The University decided to construct a new one, and - after eight years of work - it opened just this week. The new Voxman is better than its predecessor in every way. Its acoustics and aesthetics are both state-of-the art, its interior design makes collaboration easy, and its location couldn't be more convenient (it's at the corner of Clinton and Burlington in downtown Iowa City).

The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association

 When an international jury picked the world's 10 best orchestras, three American groups made the cut - and now you can hear one of them, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, every Wednesday at 7 on IPR Classical. The orchestra took a gamble in 2009 when it hired the youngest music director in its history - Venezuela's Gustavo Dudamel, then just 28 - and that bet more than paid off. Together Dudamel and the orchestra have won major music awards and enjoyed a chemistry so "right" that the contract was extended to 2022.  

John Frantzen

Tune in at 5PM to hear the Quad City Symphony premiere a work written for them by Maquoketa native John Frantzen  - broadcast on the nationally syndicated show, Performance Today with Fred Child. The piece is called "Beyond a Wild Dream," and Frantzen wrote it for the QCSO's 100th anniversary season; music director Mark Russell Smith conducted. Frantzen has won many awards for his music, has been performed at Carnegie Hall and by the Philadelphia Orchestra, and has written a piece you want to hear - tonight!

 When Martha Argerich plays piano, says Alex Ross, her “rivals become mere fans” and critics find their “well of superlatives running dry.” She combines qualities "seldom contained in one person":   "brain-teasing technical agility" meets "an unaffected interpreter whose native language is music....

Did the Tonys last night whet your appetite for more Broadway? Tune in at 1PM today when ChamberFest Dubuque comes to IPR Classical's studios to give a preview of this year's concerts - and that includes a "Sound of Broadway" gala tonight in Dubuque. Singer Sarah Ellis, a Tristate native now touring with a Tony-winning show, joins notable pianist Carlos Avila (who will also play Gershwin) and Dubuque native Bridget Pasker (who will play Dvorak on her cello for us).

Randy Darst

 How often in 2016 do you read a genuinely civil online disagreement between smart, informed people? Even better, about your own profession? This week, two notable composers,  Kurt Knecht  and Daniel Gilliam, had exactly such an exchange about classical radio. I regard composers as having inside knowledge of music, so I’m relieved to find that most of what they said seems completely right to me.

Janette Beckman (copyright Trio Settecento)

Violin superstar Rachel Barton Pine is in the headlines because a pilot refused to let her carry on her Guarneri -but that precious instrument is only the most famous of her fiddles. Rachel is also a master of its Baroque and Renaissance predecessors, and she brought one to Ames for a concert of Italian Baroque music with her Trio Settecento.  You can hear the result on this week's University Concert.

Simon Estes Foundation

  In the 1970s, Simon Estes - the son of an Iowa coal miner and grandson of slaves - was triumphing in Europe's most legendary opera houses. He starred at La Scala, Covent Garden, Salzburg, Glyndebourne, and the  Bayreuth Festival (where he was the first male of African descent to sing lead roles).  But here in his home country, top opera companies ignored him, and the reason was obvious: race. That slight could have embittered almost anyone, but not Estes. What saw him through was guidance from his mother - advice she had first given him when he was a child in Centerville, Iowa.

Phil Mauss

Red Cedar Chamber Music is marking its 20th anniversary with a first-ever passing of the baton. The founders of this unique cultural resource, Jan Boland and John Dowdall, will retire -  but only after they searched carefully for the right successors. They eventually settled on another husband/wife team, cellist Carey Bostian and violinist Meira Kim, and happily, the Iowa City couple accepted the offer.

When critics chose their favorite classical disks of 2015, they mentioned hundreds of albums at least once, several more than once, and a select few way more than that.  To get the details, my annual "mega-meta-list" tallied 67 best-of-year lists, which included over 160 writers from around the world.

copyright Marco Borggreve (

If you could use an extra Wade Goodwyn fix - or just want to hear an American orchestra that is thrilling critics worldwide - join us Wednesday nights at 7 for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in concert. The orchestra's extraordinary music director, Dutchman Jaap van Zweden, kicks off the series tonight with Mahler's First Symphony (including the extra "Flowers" movement), preceded by Ravel's sparkling, soulful Piano Concerto played the noted French-Sephardic pianist Helene Grimaud. And NPR's Dallas correspondent, Wade Goodwyn, hosts the weekly broadcasts. Tune in!

Today's output of classical albums is (pardon me while I scribble on the back of an envelope) something like triple what it was a generation ago.

Luther College

Our holiday offerings continue throughout Christmas Day with lovely specials from St. Olaf, the Rose Ensemble, Chanticleer, the Christmas Revels, Christmas at Luther, and a live performance of Handel's Messiah. Here's a complete list for Dec. 25th:

IPR Classical's holiday programming continues December 24th with specials that will add joy to your day.  (There's more to come on the 25th; we'll post those tomorrow.) Highlights include A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols live from the UK, the Spelman-Morehouse Christmas concert from Atlanta, the wfcsymphony from Cedar Falls, Amahl and the Night Visitors from Des Moines, Christmas at Luther, Doug Brown's classic reading of A Christmas Carol, and more. Here's the complete schedule:

So many exceptional classical albums came out in 2015 that reducing them to a "Top 10" came to seem counterproductive - and part of the solution was recognizing that Iowa-related classical musicians deserved a page of their own. Here it is! (The other part was to not limit myself to 10 - here's a link to what I came up with from outside of Iowa.) Below are 2015 releases by musicians who either live in Iowa or were trained here.

Every day, IPR’s sound-engineer extraordinaire Phil Maass solves knotty problems that demand thinking outside the box. So it's not surprising that when I was trying to whittle down my list of classical releases for Charity Nebbe’s year-end show, it was Phil who came up with the fix. Why, he asked, does it need to be the Top 10? Why not 15 or 17 or whatever number it comes out to? [UPDATE: I stopped at 21... see below.]

"Gallen-Kallela Symposium" by Akseli Gallen-Kallela - Licensed under Public Domain via Commons -

  Jean Sibelius was a father figure not only for Finnish music but for Finland's emergence as an independent nation. His music, with its references to Finnish lore and its awe at the power of nature, was considered old-fashioned by some in the mid 20th century - but today sounds especially relevant to many of our leading composer (and music lovers!).

Barney Sherman

Violinist Sarah Plum won a gold medal at the International Stulberg Competion (other medalists have included Joshua Bell and Jennifer Koh) and went on to become a great violinist - but less renowned than she deserves to be, because she usually focuses on new music, including a CD this year of two concertos composed for her.  But she also can play Vivaldi and Beethoven like a god, as she's de

Sunday, Suzanne Bona - host of Sunday Baroque - will join Barney Sherman on IPR Classical for a year-end pledge special. Suzanne will be heard as usual from 8AM; Barney will take over at 11; then the two of them join together from noon-2PM. (Barney will remain until 4pm). And from 11Am to 4PM, a special thank-you gift will be available at a reduced price: Stile Antico's beautiful new "Wondrous Mystery" CD.

George Kobreek at

Nicholas Roth - a professor of piano at Drake and a renowned recording artist - is performing Monday at 7:30PM at Sheslow Auditorium in Des Moines. You should definitely take the opportunity to hear this Yamaha Artist live! Meanwhile, you can hear his recent interview with Barney Sherman (and some samples of his playing) by clicking on the arrow below. The Monday-night recital is part of Drake's "Keys to Excellence" series; be there if you're nearby, but meanwhile, tune in to sample Roth's art!

Two renowned musicians - violinist Sarah Plum of Drake and pianist Francine Kay of Princeton - are giving a series of concerts in Iowa this week. You can hear them live in Des Moines Wednesday at noon at St. John's Lutheran Church and at 7:30 at Sheslow Auditorium at Drake - but you can get a live preview at 1 PM on IPR! Barney will host them live, as they perform Beethoven's Violin Sonata no. 10 and Bartok's Violin Sonata no. 2.

Grinnell College

 In 2008, Grinnell's Jennifer Williams Brown won a major award from the American Musicological Society for her edition of Francesco Cavalli's 1651 opera La Calisto. Want to hear a how performance sounds when it uses her discoveries? You're in luck! IPR will broadcast a recent performance from Simpson College Opera tonight (April 23) at 8 PM and again Sunday at 11 PM.  Brown, who chairs Grinnell's music department and directs its Collegium Musicum, served as scholar-in-residence, dramaturg, musicologist, and coach for this production.

Great news: Curt Snook's The Choral Tradition and Michael Barone's Pipedreams will return to our airwaves on Sunday, November 1st! Curt retired on June 30th (after three decades) and has been enjoying some time off - but we're delighted that he'll again be sharing his extraordinary knowledge and love of choral music with our state.

© Peter Serling

 The LA Philharmonic concert broadcasts return to IPR Wednesdays at 7PM -  and the first concert features a Pulitzer-winning composer trained in Iowa! David Lang won that Pulitzer (and a Grammy) for his incredibly moving little matchgirl passion, and has also been Musical America's Musician of the Year. along with other honors. But before all that, he came to Iowa to study composition at the University of Iowa. He  says "I was happy I did. It was really a kind of golden age. I really loved it." 

  The 2015 Black Hawk Chamber Music Festival culminates Monday night at 7:30 with a Renaissance / Baroque concert at Iowa City's Congregational United Church of Christ. Last Thursday, the soloists - flutist Jeffrey Cohan and plucked-string master Oleg Timofeyev - came into our Iowa City studio t0 give Iowa a live preview. They were interviewed by Barney, who hosted from Cedar Falls. (Listen by clicking the arrow below!)