Founded in 1937, the internationally acclaimed Wartburg Choir performs sacred music from all historical periods and styles and often collaborates with contemporary composers, including Elaine Hagenberg, Stacey V. Gibbs, Ēriks Ešenvalds, Abbie Betinis, Jake Runestad, Ola Gjeilo, and Kyle Pederson. Choir members are chosen by audition and represent various academic disciplines on campus. Wartburg Choir is a story of dedicated service and learning, told by scores of choir members who have truly learned what it means to be a servant leader. Their experiences create a rich testimony of the choir’s ongoing purpose and passion over the past 85 years.

Following the foundation started by F. Melius Christiansen and Dr. Edwin Liemohn, the Wartburg Choir honors America’s Lutheran choral tradition. The Wartburg Choir celebrates the unaccompanied performance style, annual tours, and maintains the importance of tradition by intentionally performing historical and modern masterworks, all while paving the way for the future of choral music through the performance of new compositions and uplifting emerging composers. The choir performs concert tours throughout the United States annually and travels abroad every three years during the college’s one-month May Term. At Wartburg, we believe music can embrace, heal, and connect people, uniquely inspiring individuals and the world around them. Ensemble tours are an important aspect of a Wartburg education. For more than 85 years, the choir has toured domestically and internationally, touring through United States, the District of Columbia, European countries, Scandinavia, South Africa, and three Canadian provinces. The Wartburg Choir represents one of the five vibrant choral ensembles offered through the music department.

The Wartburg Choir has received many honors in its 85-year history.  The choir most recently was selected to perform at the 2022 Midwestern American Choral Directors Association conference. The Wartburg Choir was named winner of The American Prize in Choral Performance (college/university division) in 2017. The choir has received several invitations to perform at the National ACDA conference, most recently in 2017, and the regional ACDA conferences. In January 2014, the Wartburg Choir worked with composer Morten Lauridsen, who lauded their performance of his O Magnum Mysterium as being “in the top echelon of any performance of that piece by any choir that I have ever heard.” In 2011, the choir was invited to perform at the White House for the “Holiday Concert Series” and at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

The Wartburg Choir has appeared in many prestigious concert halls throughout the United States. The choir performed with opera star Simon Estes at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis; Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.; and Lincoln Center, New York. and Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center in Chicago. Estes and the choir also performed two concerts with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in Prague. The Wartburg Choir has performed solo concerts at Carnegie Hall on two different occasions.

A 1999 Iowa Public Television production of the Wartburg Choir at the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, Germany, was broadcast on public television stations throughout the United States. It marked the first performance ever taped for television at the historic castle, where Martin Luther took refuge for 10 months during the stormy days of the Protestant Reformation. In May of 2017, a new television production was taped in Wittenberg, Eisenach, Erfurt, Leipzig and Neuendettelsau, Germany as the choir followed the path of Martin Luther and the Reformation. “The Wartburg Choir in Germany: Celebrating 500 years of Reformation” is available for viewing online and has been viewed worldwide. 

Wartburg College has recently celebrated 75 years of Christmas with Wartburg. Thousands come from all over the US to witness the full splendor of Christmas with Wartburg. This award-winning concert combines music, art, poetry, scripture, and congregational singing to create an experience that invites all to welcome in the Advent and Christmas seasons.

Lee Nelson

Professor of Music / Zahn Chair in Choral Conducting

The Wartburg Choir worked with composer Morten Lauridsen who lauded their performance of his O Magnum Mysterium as being “in the top echelon of any performance of that piece by any choir that I have ever heard.” In this video the Wartburg Choir performs Morten Lauridsen’s “Prayer” with him at the piano.

Name Hometown Major(s)
Rebekah Bruck Harlan Music Education (K-12), Music Performance
Tessa Burger Oregon, Ill. Music Ed. (K-12)/Music Therapy
Brianna Carroll Lakeville, Minn. Music Therapy
Kaitlyn Hall Kenosha, Wis. Social Work
Erica Knupp Indianola Social Work
Gwen McQuaig Wenatchee, Wash. Music Education (K-12), Religion
Katheryn Opperman Mount Vernon Biology
Kate Tomson Jesup Music Therapy
Amber Sweeney Walcott Music Education (K-12)
Britta Williams Mora, Minn. Journalism & Communication, Music Performance
Annette Baker Davenport Music Performance
Maddie Ellingson Waukon Accounting
Lizzie Hobby Fort Wayne, Ind. Biology
Megan McGuigan Story City Music Education (K-12)
Amelia Ouverson Mason City Music Education (K-12), Religion
Savanna Richardson Waukee Biochemistry, Neuroscience
Holly Rubin Oelwein Music Therapy
Emersen Smith Kenosha, Wis. Music Therapy
Lydia Weippert Grand Forks, N.D. Music Ed. (K-12)/Music Therapy
Kjirsten Zahn Farmington Hills, Mich. Music Education (K-12)
ALTO 1    
Lizzi Barrett Jewell Art (Studio), Music Education (K-12)
Carrie Harper Coralville History
Ella Hayden Blairstown Music Ed. (K-12)/Music Therapy
Alex Holden Fairfield Elementary Education
Jacoba Jacobs Indianola Music Education (K-12)
Katelyn Kluver Portsmouth Music Education (K-12)
Mallory Leisure Clear Lake Biochemistry
Emma Nelson Waverly Elementary Education
Abi O’Dell Johnsburg, Ill. Religion
Anya Poggenklass Cedar Rapids Communication Studies
ALTO 2    
Stephanie Allen Cedar Rapids Business Administration
Keziah Ambundo Hopkinton Journalism & Communication
Arinda Barthel St. Michael, Minn. Music Therapy
Gianna Borer Webster City Music Education (K-12)
Hannah Dutcher Ogden Journalism & Communication
Alexis Klug Cedar Falls Music Education (K-12)
Madison Martindale Story City Music Education (K-12)
Olivia Ramaekers Des Moines Music Education (K-12), Music Performance
Delaney Sorem Zearing Psychology, Sociology
Olivia Walsh Belgrade, Minn. Political Science, Social Work
Erin Wisecup Ankeny Music Education (K-12)
TENOR 1    
Micah Decker Monona Elementary Education
Benjamin Edwards Holly Springs, N.C. Music, Social Work
Gordy Field Eldridge Physics
Jack McInnis Le Mars Music Education (K-12)
Max Miller Spirit Lake Elementary Education
Grant Olson Story City Exercise Science
Lennon Schriever Ogden Music Performance
Drew Stalzer Story City Music
Hayden Stone Woodland Park, Colo. Music Education (K-12)
Parker watts Story city Accounting
TENOR 2    
Isaac Becker Waverly Music Education (K-12)
Braeden Blake Coon Rapids, Minn. Music Therapy
DaQuevion Burke Waterloo Music Education (K-12)
Liam Candib Colorado Springs, Colo. Music Education (K-12)
James Cheaye St.michael, Minn. Journalism & Communication
Ty Fall Mount Vernon Music Education (K-12)
Joseph Gutzmann Fond du Lac, Wis. Music Education (K-12)
Brenden Hinspeter Waukee Engineering (B.S.)
Stephen Krcma Stoughton, Wis. Music Therapy
James Mossman Winthrop Journalism & Communication
Nate Schindler Welch, Minn. Music Education (K-12)
BASS 1    
Samson Buck Waukee Music Education (K-12)
Tony Cadena Mason City Business Administration
Brock Hanna Marion Music Education (K-12)
Carter Hayden Blairstown Music Education (K-12)
Jonathan Francisco Pascual Ottumwa Music Education (K-12)
Derrik Probasco Indianola Music Education (K-12)
Benjamin Revier Owatonna, Minn. Journalism & Communication
Nathan Shultz Charles City Biology
Rece Vining Bettendorf Business Administration
Sam Yoon Albert Lea, Minn. Music Education (K-12)
BASS 2    
Noah Cross Whitten Biology
Eric Dowe Story City Actuarial Science, Business Administration
Gavin Godwin Des Moines Biochemistry
Nathan Hickox-Young Reno, Nev. Music
Derek Jordan Mount Vernon Music Education (K-12), Music Performance
Riordan Lujano Washington Music Education (K-12)
Tony Roe Johnston Music Education (K-12)
Henry Scherer Guttenberg Music Education (K-12)
Grant Schnieders Delhi Music Education (K-12)
Joshua Ward Grimes Biochemistry

The Wartburg Choir was founded in 1937 by Dr. Edwin Liemohn, a student of F. Melius Christiansen. During his tenure, he set a high standard of choral excellence, initiated the first Christmas with Wartburg festival, began the tradition of national concert tours, and coordinated the choir’s first international tour. Dr. James Fritschel, a student of Liemohn’s, put his own stamp on the choir beginning in 1968. His singers toured Europe and began the tradition of performing at the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, Germany. A prolific composer, Fritschel left a lasting mark on the Lutheran choral tradition. In 1984, Dr. Paul Torkelson, a student of Fritschel’s, became the third director of the Wartburg Choir. His choirs gained international acclaim for their versatility and precision. In 2009, Dr. Lee Nelson became the choir’s fourth director. Under his leadership, the Wartburg Choir is in high demand for premieres of new compositions and is known for establishing and empowering collaboration. The Wartburg Choir performs regularly at churches of all dominations and numerous prestigious concert halls.

The AMERICAN LUTHERAN CHOIR TRADITION is deeply tied to the central role of choral performance in educational institutions of the Midwest, a region often described as the “choral belt.” F. Melius Christiansen (1871-1955), founder of the St. Olaf Choir and mentor to Dr. Edwin Liemohn, founder of the Wartburg Choir, was seminal in shaping the aesthetic of the Lutheran choral sound in the early 20th century. By basing the sound of the choir on the sonority of the string quartet, he created a highly unified ensemble known for its tuning, technical abilities, and musical discipline.

Preferring an unaccompanied performance style, Christiansen ensured that the choir would never be limited by the resources of each performance venue. Thus, he was able to extend the performance outreach of his ensemble to any congregation. The latter defined another key aspect of the Lutheran choir tradition through the emphasis on the touring ensemble. Directors of the choir stress the continuing importance of the tradition, explaining that the Wartburg Choir’s central goal is to sing the music historically and pedagogically as appropriately as possible while still honoring the legacy of the tradition.

Come with the Wartburg Choir as they tour through Germany, following the path of Martin Luther and the Reformation. This documentary was filmed in May 2017 on the Wartburg Choir’s international tour in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.


The Wartburg Choir has appeared in many prestigious concert halls throughout the world. The group tours the U.S. each spring and abroad every three years.