History of the

In five years, the Des Moines Gamer Symphony Orchestra (DSMGSO) has gone from a dream to a central Iowa sensation. Founder Aaron Barker had performed in two other video game music ensembles, and he knew that he had to forge a similar orchestra right here in Des Moines. In 2019, we had two wildly successful concerts, first led by Des Moines Community Orchestra conductor Carl Johnson and then by Drake University Symphony Orchestra conductor Akira Mori. As pandemic restrictions began to loosen, we returned to do an outdoor performance in 2021 at the Jamie Hurd Amphitheater led by Mori.

Every step of the way, our ensemble has been building connections and launching new successful ventures. In 2020, we launched virtual performances to keep our sound heard. In 2021, we formalized as a nonprofit with our inaugural board and gave virtual presentations on the wondrous “super-genre” of video game music at libraries across the state. In the summer of 2022, we created our first Gamer Jazz season under the direction of Simpson College jazz professor Brian Rodesch, performing both indoors and outdoors across the metro. In the fall of 2022, we joined forces with the Iowa State University Symphony Orchestra to produce a veritable “mega-orchestra” of over 100 instrumentalists accompanied by our debut choir, performing to over 1,000 attendees between two concerts in West Des Moines and Ames.


In 2023, we were thrilled to welcome retired Valley High School orchestra conductor Phil Peters to serve as our musical leader. That June, we also inaugurated our first partnership with the Des Moines Diversity Chorus under the direction of Brandon Record, performing to hundreds of attendees in our two concert series. Peters led us for our June concert and then returned to conduct us for a rousing fall concert in October, building on our momentum as we entered our fifth year. We created our very first small ensemble showcase concert in the spring of 2024 in partnership with the Des Moines Concert Handbells, the 515 Brass Collective, and NOLA Jazz. And now we are poised to celebrate our fifth anniversary concert on Sunday, June 23.

With accomplishment after win, with new venture after new partnership, the first five years of our ensemble is only the beginning. We want to keep making each and every concert more exciting, more epic, and more inspiring than the last. Subscribe to us on YouTube, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, come to our concerts, donate to our organization, and help us show the world just how majestic video game music can be!


Contact Us: desmoinesgso@gmail.com