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Get to Know Joe

Meet our Music Director & Conductor,
Joseph Giunta.



The Des Moines Symphony Orchestra, celebrating its 81st season in 2018-2019, is Central Iowa’s largest and most active year-round professional performing arts producing organization. The mission of the Des Moines Symphony Association is to enrich, educate and inspire our community by performing great orchestral music.

Led by Music Director Joseph Giunta for the past 29 years, the Orchestra has established an outstanding national reputation as one of the country’s leading regional orchestras, performing a regular series of Masterworks, Pops, Family, and Education Concerts, as well as performing for special events. With the establishment in 2003 of the Des Moines Symphony Academy, the organization is one of only four American orchestras to sponsor an Academy of Music as an integral part of its core mission and the Symphony & Academy together are now the largest employer of professional artists in Iowa.

Meet our Orchestra musicians
Meet our Academy faculty

The Symphony is the principal resident company of the 36 year old, acoustically acclaimed 2,662 seat Des Moines Civic Center. Performances there on its regular season of seven pairs of Masterworks concerts have included the major works of the orchestral repertoire and collaborations with some of the music world’s most prominent soloists including John Browning, Van Cliburn, Alicia De Larrocha, Simon Estes, Sherrill Milnes, Itzhak Perlman, and Yo-Yo Ma and in 2011, the Martha Graham Dance Company in a special Des Moines Performing Arts presentation.

Under the leadership of Joseph Giunta, the Orchestra has offered a well-received, highly creative and diverse mix of programming and has commissioned and given the world premieres of 22 new works over the last 26 years, including the new groundbreaking work, Symphony In Sculpture, a 30-minute work inspired by the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. The Symphony and Joseph Giunta together received the League of American Orchestras prestigious ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming in recognition of their commitment to contemporary music.

In addition, the Orchestra regularly performs Pops concert specials including its annual New Year’s Eve Pops at the Civic Center and also produces and performs the Des Moines Symphony’s much anticipated annual, free Yankee Doodle Pops concert in July on the grounds of the Iowa State Capitol; which attracts more than 100,000 listeners, the largest single day attendance of any concert event in the State.

All of the Orchestra’s Masterworks programs are broadcast statewide on IPR Classical, the radio home of the Des Moines Symphony.


1937: Drake University professor Frank Noyes conducts the first concert of the Des Moines Civic Orchestra, a joint effort between university and community musicians, Nov. 21 at Hoyt Sherman Place. The event follows more than a decade of earlier efforts to form a permanent group, which eventually would change its name to the Des Moines Symphony. Noyes would conduct the Des Moines Symphony for 30 seasons.

1938: The orchestra moves its concerts to Roosevelt High School. Season tickets cost $1.

1944: Margaret Davis chosen as first permanent concertmaster, a position she will hold for 20 seasons until she retires (as Margaret Davis Kew) in May 1964.

1946: The orchestra’s first out-of-town concert is held at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Ottumwa.

1948: Concerts move to the now defunct KRNT Theater in Des Moines.

1951: For the first time, advertisements appear in printed programs.

1953: DMSO Women’s Committee (later DMSO Guild) is officially established.

1954: Concerts return to Hoyt Sherman Place for three years before moving to North High School in 1957.

1967:  Frank Noyes retires, and the baton is passed to a series of conductors, who each lead for two or three years. Wilfred Biel becomes DMSO concertmaster, holding the position for 23 seasons until his death in Sep 1990.

1967-68:  DMSO expands its classical season from four to five concerts per season.

1969: The DMSO Association adopts by-laws, elects a board and drafts a plan to dissolve its official ties with Drake University, which would happen by 1974.

1972: Concerts return again to Hoyt Sherman Place.

1974: Yuri Krasnapolsky becomes the conductor and leads for the next 13 seasons.

1977-78: DMSO more than doubles its classical season from five concerts to six concert-pairs. 

1979: The orchestra moves to its current home at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines. On Oct. 13, Krasnapolsky conducts the first Des Moines Symphony concert, featuring Beethoven’s Consecration of the House and his Ninth Symphony.

1982: The orchestra performs its first New Year’s Eve concert.

1982-83: DMSO expands classical season from six concert-pairs to seven concert-pairs.

1989: Living History Farms hosts the first of ten annual Popcorn Pops concerts. Later that year, Joseph Giunta becomes music director and conductor.

1991: Jonathan Sturm becomes concertmaster.

1994: The first Yankee Doodle Pops concert takes place on the steps of the State Capitol, starting an annual tradition that attracts an audience estimated as high as 100,000.

2003: The Des Moines Symphony Academy opens in The Temple for Performing Arts.

2012: The Des Moines Symphony moves its administrative offices from the Civic Center to The Temple for Performing Arts.

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