Isabel Pheifer—Staff Writer
“I just want everyone to realize the amazing ability that we all have to be creative,’’ Elaine Hagenburg said.
Hagenburg is a wife, mother, conductor, accompanist, and full-time composer from Des Moines, Iowa. She graduated from Drake University with a degree in music education in 2002. She then went on to become a full-time composer, and is now recognized around the world.
Her award-winning compositions are performed globally, with choirs in Australia, South America, and Europe giving life to her music.
Her name is also very recognizable in the U.S., with her works being performed in places such as All-State festivals, Carnegie Hall, and American Choral Directors Association conferences.
Although Hagenburg did not start her composing career until 28, music has always been a part of her life.
“Creating music has always been a part of me,” Hagenburg said.
From starting by creating tunes and recording them on a tape recorder as a young girl, to accompanying her high school choir on piano, and finally to pursuing music in college, music was always there.
For Hagenburg, music has been exactly what she has needed and given her ways to say something without having to come up with the words.
“It takes a while to find our creative voice, and when we do it can feel extremely vulnerable, but it is so worth the possible rejection,” she said.
Not every piece of music that Hagenburg has composed won a prize or made it out of her scribble-filled notebook. Each piece has its own unique purpose and gives her another way to use her voice. She has found a way to give a voice to her creativity through the music she composes.
At Dordt University, students were given the opportunity to learn from and work with Hagenburg. As many successful composers do, Hagenburg often gets asked to commission pieces for choirs, which is how she ended up writing a piece for the 2022 Dordt University High School Choir Festival.
“It is so special to be able to rehearse a commissioned piece with the choir because it is like they are breathing life into the piece for the first time,” Hagenburg said after hearing her piece sung for the first time during a Dordt Concert Choir rehearsal.
Hagenburg then got to hear it performed again, at a much higher volume, with the over 600 high school students that filled Dordt’s campus to participate in the festival.