Formed decades ago by Ralph E. Hartzell, and presently under the direction of Dr. Stephen Town, the Northwest Tower Choir has a rich and varied history of outstanding choral performance and musical perfection marked by invitational appearances at a number of high respected conventions; for example this appearance is the fifth at the MMEA State Conventions (1973 and 1978 with Byron Mitchell, 1996 with Richard Weymuth, and 2003 and 2010 with Stephen Town). Since 1999-2000, when Dr. Town began his tenure as director, the ensemble has performed more than 100 concerts for high schools, colleges, universities, churches, institutions, and organizations in the states of Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas; Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma; Ohio, Maryland, Washington, DC, and Indiana. There have been nine peer-reviewed/invited concerts for learned societies/regional and state conventions, meetings, and symposia: Washington National Cathedral (2006-2007/Spring 2007), Nebraska Choral Directors Association Collegiate Choral Festival (at Nebraska Wesleyan University) (2005-2006/Fall 2005), Iowa Choral Directors Association State Symposium (at Drake University) (2004-2005/Fall 2004), The College Music Society Regional Convention (at Nebraska Wesleyan University) (2003-2004/Spring 2004), Missouri Music Educators Association State Convention (Tan-Tar-A resort) (2002-2003/Spring 2003), Missouri Choral Directors Association State Symposium (Northwest Missouri State University) (2001-2002/Fall 2001), and Missouri Choral Directors Association State Symposium (UMKC) (2000-2001/Fall 2000). The 2009-2010 academic year brought invitations to sing at the Missouri Music Educators Association (MMEA) State Convention and at the Mid-American Medieval Association (MAMA) Regional Convention in March 2010. In addition to these venues, the Tower Choir has appeared on the campuses of Westminster Choir College (NJ) (2007), Rhodes College (TN) (2003), University of Mississippi-Oxford (2003), University of Nebraska-Omaha (2002, 2000) and William Jewell College (2003).
The ensemble has been invited to present concerts on several performing arts series: Conception Seminary College Performing Arts Series (Basilica of Conception Abbey) (2003-2004/Fall 2003), St. Joseph Symphony Concert Series (St. Joseph and NWMSU) (2000-2001/Spring 2001), and Community of Christ "Dome and Spire Concert Series" (Independence, MO Temple) (1999-2000/Spring 2000).
Dr. Town has arranged for the Tower Choir to work with twelve nationally-known choral conductors: Dr. Richard Bjella, Director of Choral Activities at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas (2010), Prof. Bruce Rogers, Director of Choral Activities at Mt. San Antonio College, Walnut, California (2008), Dr. Joe Miller, Director of Choral Activities at the Westminster Choir College (2007), Dr. David Brunner, Director of Choral Activities at the University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida (2006), Dr. Charles Bruffy, Conductor of the Kansas City Chorale/Phoenix Bach Chorale (2004), Prof. Mary Alice Stollak, Director of Choral Activities, Community School, Michigan State University (2004), Dr. Arnold Epley, Professor of Music, William Jewell College (2003), Dr. Timothy Sharp, Director of Choral Activities, Rhodes College (TN) (2003), Dr. Donald Brinegar, Professor of Music, Pasadena City College/California State University and director of The Donald Brinegar Singers (2002, 2001), Dr. Jameson Marvin, Senior Lecturer, Harvard University (2000), Dr. John Silantien, Professor of Music, University of Texas-San Antonio (2000), and Prof. Simon Carrington, Professor of Music, Yale University and founding member of the King's Singers (1999).
The ensemble has produced one CD, titled "Caritas et Amor: The Best of the Tower Choir 1999-2003," featuring the award-winning work (Caritas et Amor) by Dr. Randall Stroope, commissioned by Dr. Town for the Tower Choir (2003). The rendition by the Tower Choir of Caritas et Amor has been included on a second CD, titled "Passages: The Choral Works of Z. Randall Stroope, Volume 2" (2004).
Innovations by Dr. Town for the Tower Choir and the choral department have included: Northwest Guest Choral Ensembles Concert Series (initiated 2004-2005), which has featured extraordinary ensembles in concert with the Tower Choir: Platte County (MO) High School Concert Choir, conducted by Joyce Hisel (Fall 2004), Liberty (MO) High School Concert Choir, conducted by Debra Burnett (Spring 2005), Missouri Western State University Concert Chorale, conducted by Prof. Frank Thomas (Fall 2005), Willard (MO) High School Chamber Choir, conducted by Mark Lawley (Spring 2006), Benton (St. Joseph, MO) High School Singers, conducted by Amber Welter (Fall 2006), the Iowa Western Community College (Council Bluffs, IA) Concert Choir, conducted Arla Clausen, and the Kansas City Fine Arts Chorale (Overland Park, KS), conducted by Dr. Teri Teal (Spring 2007), the Fort Scott (KS) High School Concert Choir, conducted by Pat Harry, and the Gardner-Edgerton (KS) High School Choir, conducted by Todd Burd (Fall 2007), the Bonner Springs (KS) High School A Cappella Choir, conducted by Brian White, and the Louisburg (KS) High School Select Choir, conducted by Jason Sickel (Spring 2008), the Hiawatha (KS) High School Concert Choir, conducted by Sarah Kleopfer, and the Eudora (KS) High School Cantorei, conducted by Angela Yarnell (Fall 2008), the Cameron (MO) High School Jazz Choir, conducted by Brian Von Glahn (Spring 2009), the Liberty (MO) Community Chorus, conducted by Bryan Taylor; the Northwest Missouri State University Biannual Choral Composition Competition (initiated 2004-2005), which in its two contests received numerous entries from many states in the United States and countries in the European Union (e.g. England, France, Italy, and Germany), and featured the winning composers on campus at the Four-State Honor Music Festival (2005 and 2007); American Choral Directors Association Northwest Student Chapter (initiated 2004-2005); and the Byron F. Mitchell Conducting Fellowship (initiated 2002-2003 and named after the long-time conductor of the Tower Choir).
The Tower Choir takes an extended tour over Spring Break every four years. During the 2005-2006 academic year, it traveled to the East Coast (Washington, DC, Annapolis, MD, and Manhattan, NY) on March 15-24; during the tour, it performed concerts at churches and high schools, as well as a peer-reviewed concert at Washington National Cathedral.
The ensemble meets three times weekly (MWF) at 11-11.50 a.m. Auditions are held the week before the beginning of the fall and spring semester for any interested student. Membership is based upon musical and vocal skills, rather than area of study, though most of the choristers are music majors/minors and receive vocal performance awards.